Food Research Strategy for Finland to Promote Health and Sustainability


The time is now ripe for changes in the Finnish food system. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the universities of Helsinki, Turku and Eastern Finland, the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, and the Finnish Food Safety Authority set the direction for food research, which aims is to make Finland a key player in the transition to a healthy and sustainable global food system. At the same time, new opportunities for economic growth are being created in Finland.

The global food system is facing unprecedented challenges. Population growth, climate change, biodiversity loss and unsustainable food production methods are issues that need to be addressed through food research and innovation. 

Finland has the opportunity to take a pioneering role in the transition towards a healthy and sustainable global food system, and at the same time, benefit from the economic growth opportunities that will emerge during the changes. The future will be based on systematic research, genuine collaboration and new innovations.

– With the research organisations’ joint food research strategy, we are defining joint research entities that will lead to a sustainable food system in Finland by 2035, says Nesli Sözer, Research Professor at VTT, and head of the strategy working group. 

Finland’s Food Research Missions for 2035: 

  1. All Finnish citizens can follow a healthy, safe and sustainable diet. 
  2. The Finnish food system is based on sustainable, flexible, and competitive food and feed production.
  3. The food system is resource efficient and waste-free.
  4. Finland is a pioneer and runs pilots on research, innovations and new operating methods that aim for a sustainable food system.

The strategic plans include pathways for changes towards a healthy and sustainable food system, which leads to the well-being of society, economic growth, and offers growth opportunities for Finnish food producers and the food industry that are based on scientific knowledge and food innovations. There is a need to better combine the expertise of different scientific disciplines and to intensify cooperation between research organisations. Communication between the public administration and the research community also needs to be improved. 

– The new strategy has been completed in an extensive collaboration between research organizations. Food and nutrition researchers from the Faculties of Technology and Medicine as well as researchers from Turku School of Economics have been involved in the work from the University of Turku, emphasizes Professor Mari Sandell from the Universities of Helsinki and Turku.

Food Research Forum for Finland

The strategy working group proposes the establishment of the Finnish Food Research Forum to promote research and education to increase interdisciplinary discussion, to define common impact objectives and to create joint projects and research infrastructures. At the moment lack of a national research agenda, funding and interdisciplinary research have been recognized as weaknesses. It is important to emphasize trustful research communication and dialogue about role of policies and legislation in renewal of food system.

Furthermore, the forum would raise discussion about the importance of research and research coordination in changing the Finnish food system and to improve the dialogue among various actors. Innovations and new business are already being developed in the Food & Beyond Ecosystem, Viikki Food Innovation Lab, Ruokalaakso and Flavoria.

Several Ways towards Sustainable Food Production

The transition to sustainable and climate-wise food production means, for example, the development and large-scale introduction of new cultivation methods and innovative primary production methods, as well as introduction of circular economy solutions.  

Strong nutrition and food technology competence are also defined strengths for Finland. By developing healthy and sustainable foods from Finnish protein sources, we create new export products and improve Finland's protein self-sufficiency. Examples of good sources of protein are roach fish, several arable plants, insects and microbially produced protein. 

The University of Turku has a long research tradition in sustainable Nordic food resources and in the impact of the unique Nordic and subarctic climate on food composition and quality. The research also has a strong focus on innovation aiming for sustainable solutions for environmentally friendly and health promoting foods based on the resources from both the land and the sea.

– The food research and education belong to the University’s strategic profile Biodiversity and sustainability and they are based on a highly multi-disciplinary environment combining multiple fields, such as primary production, technological innovations, composition and health effects of food, and consumer behaviours, summarises Professor of Food Chemistry and Food Development Baoru Yang.

Active research on sustainable food systems is on-going in several faculties of University of Turku, including the Faculty of Technology, Faculty of Medicine, and Turku School of Economics. Cross-disciplinary research and cooperation crossing the faculty borders generate new knowledge and innovations supporting sustainable development.  

The Faculty of Technology educates experts in food science and technology. Currently, the University of Turku is the only Finnish university offering education in MScTech and DScTech in food disciplines.

Data and digital solutions are becoming increasingly important and can be used to monitor food safety, authenticity and traceability, and to meet the individual needs of consumers through food production. 

Verifying the sustainability and climate impact of foods and food processes will help consumers make more environmentally friendly and sustainable food choices. During the change phase, we need to understand the socio-economic impact of new production methods, i.e., how the changes will affect consumers, safety, the environment and business. 

Strategy working group members: 

  • Nesli Sözer, VTT, Research Professor and leader of the strategy working group
  • Marina Heinonen, University of Helsinki, Professor 
  • Marjukka Kolehmainen, University of Eastern Finland, Professor
  • Liisa Maunuksela, Finnish Food Safety Authority, Research Director
  • Emilia Nordlund, VTT, Research team leader
  • Kaisa Poutanen, VTT, Senior Advisor
  • Mari Sandell, University of Helsinki, Professor
  • Johanna Vilkki, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Research Professor
  • Suvi Virtanen, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, University of Tampere, Professor
  • Baoru Yang, University of Turku, Professor
  • Maria Åkerman, VTT, Principal Scientist

Further information: 

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Research Professor Nesli Sözer,, +358 40 1523875

University of Turku
Professor Baoru Yang,, +358 45 273 7988
Professor Mari Sandell,, +358 40 3524149

Created 17.03.2021 | Updated 17.03.2021