The life science industry is incredibly broad, encompassing many different scientific specialisations. Working in such a dynamic sector, I feel fortunate – over the 27 years that I have been in the industry – to have the continual opportunity to learn about new innovations and delve into emerging fields. Cultured meat – defined as meat that is produced by culturing animal cells in vitro – is an area that has particularly caught my eye.
Tackling sustainability and food security is one of the world’s greatest challenges and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2022 assessment report said that cultivated meat is an emerging food technology that could help substantially reduce global emissions from food production, because of its “lower land, water, and nutrient footprints.”
Alternative proteins offer exciting research opportunities with the potential to reduce the harmful climate impact of our food systems, decrease the risk of zoonotic disease & antibiotic resistance, and feed more people with fewer resources. But, before lab-grown meat becomes a mainstream food source, there are several scientific and technical hurdles that need to be overcome, requiring both more investment and open-access R&D. So how can we, as players in the life science sector, help to maximise the potential of rising business in the sustainable food sector?
A Culture for Growth
In 2020, the cultured meat market size was estimated to be around $103 Million; an impressive figure considering how new the sector is. Couple this with an expected market size of $248 Million by 2026 and we have a very exciting case on our hands. Why are we seeing such rapid growth? It comes down to an acceleration in technological advances alongside investors seeing the true value of the product – from both a profit and environmental perspective. Around $506 Million was invested into the sector in the first six months of 2021, promising news that ensured a secure end to the year and growth for 2022 and beyond. To keep this ball rolling, it will be crucial to attract and inspire new talent to the scene, as well as to invest in skills development to ensure we can continue improving these existing systems & tech.
Singapore was the first country to approve the sale of a cultured meat product; since then, we have seen other countries taking strides in the race to approve and invest in these products, making the dream of lab grown meat appearing on our supermarket shelves feel ever more attainable. 2021 saw the first cultivated meat companies launched in Mexico and Brazil, along with the first African cultivated seafood start-up. Countries across the globe are facing increasing pressure to achieve carbon neutrality, and with emissions – created by the digestive systems of livestock – weighing heavily on global environmental problems, cultivated meat’s global footprint will surely continue to expand.
The sustainable food sector is primed for growth and brimming with possibility. How can we nurture this momentum and ensure that we build businesses with strong foundations, allowing them to endure the inevitable twists and turns of a young industry? Financial investment is clearly crucial. But investing in people will be equally as important.
Growing meat in the lab is an extremely technical process, requiring careful selection of cell lines, cell culture media and bioprocessing design. For this reason, the sector needs highly skilled scientists, as well as regulatory experts to maintain protocol that complies with strict food laws and regulations. This is no mean feat, and companies will require a steady hand to guide and lead the process. The sustainable food sector needs leaders who are not afraid to push the boundaries and have a good appetite for risk.
As cultured meat companies mature, the skill requirements will start to change. At the beginning, the focus is on achieving proof of concepts and raising profiles to attract investment. The next stage is all about one thing: scale. Moving cultured meat from a scientific experiment to a product on the shelves is a serious challenge. This will require collaborations with key research, production, and distribution partners, demanding good negotiation skills and the ability to build strong relationships.
Following this, the next stage is all about commercialisation. Conveying the facts and benefits around these new product categories to key stakeholders including opinion leaders, food influencers, channels of sale as well as consumers will be vital. Companies will need to focus on hiring individuals with marketing and commercial expertise. People with experience in logistics and supply chains will also be in high demand.
In a new industry, the talent market is often competitive, and companies will need to offer attractive incentives to secure the best from across the globe. Finding people with such a niche skillset can be challenging. Working with a specialist executive search firm with in-depth knowledge of the industry such as RSA helps companies find people with the right knowledge, experience, and attitude to help these businesses sprout their wings. One of our key points of difference is our ability to identify individuals with transferable skillsets from related sectors within the life sciences – often a necessary approach for a fledgling industry.
In summary, investment in both businesses and talent are required to catapult the cultivated meat sector into a new phase of growth. I look forward to working with more companies in this exciting industry and I am proud that RSA can play a small part in helping the sustainable food sector to catalyse economic growth, improving both environmental and global health outcomes.
If you would like to talk to me about any of the information raised in this post, or find out more about how we can help with your executive search and interim needs, get in touch with me directly on Mark.Howard@theRSAgroup.com.
I will also be attending the GAIA (Global AgriTech Investment Assembly), on the 25th of October. It would be great to meet some of the inspiring leaders making this sector what it is and discuss how we can help shape the future of your business.