Towards a sustainable and competitive food system

A strategic research agenda. Read the summary below or download the full report.

Lable: R2:2020
ISBN: 978-91-540-6122-8
Language: English

A strategic research agenda for food

In “A national food strategy for Sweden – more jobs and sustainable growth throughout the countryexternal link” (Govt. Bill 2016/17:104), the government stresses the need for an increase in domestic food production that is more competitive and sustainable. Growth, employment and sustainable development are to be promoted throughout the country and food security strengthened.

Despite a few successes in recent years and favourable Swedish conditions, such as robust environmental policies, a high level of animal welfare, low use of antibiotics and safe food production, several challenges remain to be addressed. In addition, the entire food system needs to undergo a transformation within a short time frame. This is not least because Sweden must step up its contributions to Agenda 2030, considering that the food area is so tightly integrated with several of the sustainable development goals.

Increased knowledge and innovation are major drivers behind the transformation. The national food strategy action plan includes several investments in the knowledge and innovation system, and among other measures the government has established a ten-year, interdisciplinary national research programme for food and a national committee for food research.

This strategic research agenda has been developed within the framework of these efforts. It has been developed by Formas in consultation with the national committee for food research and is based on broad dialogue with food stakeholders, written recommendations from higher education and research institutes, businesses and government agencies, and relevant analyses and reports. The agenda aims to help transform the food system by setting out a clearer direction for knowledge develop-
ment and innovation on the path towards a sustainable and competitive food system. It identifies a number of key perspectives and themes that the research and innovation system needs to address over the next ten years.

Perspectives and themes

The agenda’s perspectives are key drivers of research and innovation that help to accelerate the transformation to a sustainable and competitive food system.



The perspectives in focus are:

  • System perspective
  • Knowledge and skills development
  • Governance and leadership
  • Digitalisation and technology development
  • Regionally and globally
  • Gender equality and diversity

The agenda’s themes highlight areas that show the need and the potential for further development through new knowledge and innovation. They should be viewed as part of a whole, and they aim to provide guidance and direction for initiatives and activities under the national research programme for food.

The guiding themes are:

  • Sustainable production systems
  • Tasty food for healthy people and planet
  • The meal and the consumer
  • Innovative and safe food

Targets for the research programme

A number of targets for the research programme have been further developed from the targets and vision of the national food strategy in order to clarify the direction of the programme. The agenda and its implementation also integrate the government’s objectives and targets for the national research programmes, including the improvement of gender equality, an efficient use of infrastructure, and expanded international research and innovation partnerships.

These, together with the key perspectives and themes, form the framework for implementing activities and initiatives within the national research programme for food. The agenda can also serve as a basis for designing and coordinating other research and innovation efforts in the food area.

Activities characterised by collaboration and co-creation

The activities conducted within the national research programme for food will be characterised by collaboration and co-creation, needs-driven interdisciplinary research, and efforts to strengthen innovation capacity that contribute to impact and that create value for the society and for Swedish companies across the food system.

For the programme to be effective and achieve its objectives, the agenda is complemented by so-called programme logic that guides activities and follow-up. Dialogues and collaboration for implementing the agenda and prioritising actions will continue, and when relevant the agenda will be revised.

The food system involves a variety of stakeholders, and its challenges are both numerous and complex. The agenda’s implementation therefore requires a diversity of activities and innovation system and to help achieve a sustainable and competitive food system.


Updated:16 April 2020
Page manager: Erika Ax