Food-related health problems are a grand challenge for European societies. Over the past decade, most EU Member States have identified food and health as key priorities. This is in response to increases in obesity and diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases amongst their populations. Also an insufficient nutrient supply in subgroups of the populations and special demands in ageing societies are identified as abiding challenges. Attempts to increase public awareness of appropriate ways to eat more healthily though do not seem to have led to significant changes in patterns of food purchase and consumption. It has become obvious that the development of effective measures for improvement is a demanding task and requires further systematic research and innovative approaches.

INPROFOOD is a three-year project funded by the European Union within the Seventh Framework Program. One main question that this project needs to tackle is the role that innovations in foods (e.g. improved nutrient preservation through the use of mild pathogen inactivation) and new basic research technologies (e.g. for gaining greater insight and understanding of the mechanisms underlying the effects of food intake on health) could play in counter-acting the alarming rise of food-related health problems.

Advocating and promoting the production of knowledge that is close to the concerns of European citizens, the European Commission (2009) has emphasized that simply inventing new technologies is not enough to overcome the pressing societal challenges in Europe. In the first place, it requires a purposeful communicative exchange between research, business, and civil society actors on the nature of the problem and the role that innovative products and technological approaches (besides or complementary with social measures) could play in tackling it.

The INPROFOOD Consortium is coordinated by the Life Science Center of the University of Hohenheim (Germany) and involves 18 research institutions from 14 European countries. Their aim is to foster dialogue and mutual learning between industry, academia and civil society already in the earliest stages of the research processes – directed towards developing innovative approaches (technical and social) for dealing with the food and health challenge. Observa Science in Society is the Italian partner of the project; other partners come from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom.

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