Published 2019-05-21

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Call open for programme on sustainable food systems

Preventing hunger and offering food at an affordable cost are among the goals of Mistra’s new programme for a sustainable food system.
The call for proposals is now open and those who wish to apply can do so until 30 September.

The Swedish food system must undergo profound changes if we are to reach the global Sustainable Development Goals. Numerous analyses of how this should be done have been performed, but so far nobody has taken a holistic approach.

Mistra intends to do this in a research programme focusing on food supply and sustainable food systems. In total, the programme will have a budget of SEK 80 million over four years.

The call for proposals is now open and research groups, with their collaborative partners, wishing to apply can do so until 30 September.

There are several reasons why Mistra has chosen to start a programme in the area of food. One basic point of departure is the importance of a functioning food supply that first, provides us with a nutritious and safe diet produced in a sustainable way, and second, resists or can withstand changes, disruptions and interruptions of various kinds.

Another point of departure is the worryingly low profitability in the Swedish agricultural sector. Excessively low profits mean that the stakeholders cannot afford the investments needed to participate in the adaptation, meet new expectations and requirements, and boost capacity to withstand extreme weather conditions and a changed climate. Agriculture, aquaculture and fishing are also important preconditions for a living countryside.

Sweden has prospects of also taking a leading role internationally in terms of a sustainable and resilient food system. Awareness of the need for change is relatively extensive in Sweden and many stakeholders in the food system want to contribute to this change. An example of this is that Sweden has played a leading role in the EU to reduce the use of antibiotics and to raise requirements for animal welfare.

The food system comprises not only production but also, to a large extent, consumption and consumers. It is important to include consumers and make them a driving force in adaptation.

The climate will also have its place in the programme. The sector faces particular challenges owing to the emissions caused by animal husbandry, dairy production and manure management. Nevertheless, a goal of zero emissions in the agricultural sector would be an important driver for climate change adaptation of Swedish society and innovation in the food sector.

This call for proposals is based on a background paper, prepared by international experts, in which four research areas are stated. These are:

• future scenarios
• net zero emissions of greenhouse gases from the Swedish agricultural sector
• indicators for measuring the food system’s goal fulfilment
• strategies, measures and incentives that drive development towards a sustainable and resilient Swedish food system.

The main focus of the programme will be on the Swedish food system and Sweden’s food supply, but consideration must be given to the fact that much legislative work on food is done at EU level. The programme will also have a global outlook.

The programme should be planned for four years, but have an eight-year perspective.

Thomas Nilsson, Mistra

‘I hope that with this research initiative, we can have a greater focus on the role of food and the food sector in the big social transformation required to meet climate and sustainability goals. I also hope that with a new research programme we can strengthen the Swedish food industry, not least primary production,’ says Thomas Nilsson, Programmes Director at Mistra.

The whole call for proposals is available here.

Facts about the call

Expected programme budget:
A total of SEK 80 million over four years.

Mistra’s financial contribution:
Up to 80% of the total programme budget, subject to a maximum of SEK 64 million.

At least 20% of the total programme budget.

Length of application:
Up to 40 pages + appendices (CV and certificate from programme host).

Applications to reach Mistra no later than:
Monday 30 September 2019 at 4:00 pm.

The application must be sent to as a single pdf.

Contact person at Mistra:
Thomas Nilsson, tel. 070–629 88 12,