7th International Conference on Sustainable Development ICSD

Dr. Vera Tekken: 'Crosscutting research for a sustainable food system transformation – a solution-oriented approach'

17.10.2019 · FV Lebensmittel & Ernährung

Contribution of the coordinator of the Leibniz Research Alliance ‘Sustainable Food Production and Healthy Nutrition’ – Dr. Vera Tekken - at the 7. International Conference on Sustainable Development ICSD at Columbia University, New York: ‘Crosscutting research for a sustainable food system transformation – a solution-oriented approach’.


Initiated in 2012 the Leibniz Research Alliance 'Food & Nutrition' bundles the competencies of 14 Leibniz research institutes in Germany under inclusion of further network partners such as universities, the FAO, and the OECD. The Alliance serves as an application-oriented partnership structure to stimulate and strengthen trans- and interdisciplinary cooperation, and to generate innovative research synergies to tackle two societal challenges that are closely interlinked: sustainable and sufficient food production, and healthy and adequate nutrition. Achieving global food security poses high challenges for socio-ecological systems, e.g. adaptation to shifts and disruptions, integration of productivity and environmental integrity, social equality, or resilience to climate change. How could interdisciplinary research address these societal challenges without diluting disciplinary competencies? Research is often very disciplinary and exempted from the needs of the 'outside' world, which makes results hardly practicable or directly implementable in response to complex problems. Therefore, solution-oriented research requires new and proactive cooperation of scientists but must as well include comprehensive partnerships with multiple societal stakeholders, in response to growing societal problems. The Research Alliance has identified crosscutting research topics that have the potential to foster efficient interdisciplinary collaboration for innovativeness and the development of concrete realisable, applicable solutions by carrying out activities from basic to applied research. One of these topics is the realignment of future protein production, protein supply and demand towards ‘a safe operating space for food systems’ (Willett et al. 2019). Scientists work together in new constellations to develop an interdisciplinary framework for protein research under the objective to align research agendas towards SDG fulfilment. The SDGs and their indicators can be very useful for scientists to put their research in an application context. So far, the interdisciplinary cooperation of the Alliance has resulted in manifold research and solution approaches for concrete problems, e.g. identifying the biological value of proteins, ensuring food safety, optimised resource efficiency, as well as the development of alternative location-independent production systems. However, international acknowledgement of research achievements needs active mediation to increase the transfer from science to practice and vice versa. Many obstacles need to be overcome in the communication of the academic and the business world in order to jointly achieve rapid progress towards a sustainable world food system. In this context and for the effectiveness of research science management, and science communication, respectively, provide essential support for scientists, since knowledge generation alone does not automatically lead to action and application. From the beginning, the solution-oriented approach included a strong networking element to improve the transfer of knowledge and experience in order to have sustainable effects. This contribution discusses working methods as well as first results, and gives an outlook to an important next step, the internationalisation strategy of the Alliances’ network.

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Dr. Vera Tekken

Scientific Coordination

Tel.: +49 (0)331 5699 -854

E-mail:   vtekken(at)atb-potsdam.de