Long-term Living Lab Support towards Food System Transformation

WP4 CRFS ALLIANCE: cities’ empowerment and synergies

Long-term Living Lab Support towards Food System Transformation


This policy briefing offers recommendations for policy-makers to ensure the impact achieved by the Food System Living Labs (FSLL) continues beyond the EU Horizon 2020 (H2020) funded project´s lifetime. This briefing a joint initiative from the EU FOOD 2030 Project Family, a collaboration of five H2020 projects: FoodSHIFT 2030, FoodE, Cities 2030, Food Trails and Fusilli. Our multi-actor collaboration involves over 140 organisations operating in 26 countries, aligned with the European Commission’s FOOD 2030 and Farm to Fork Strategy. We have played a crucial role in establishing Food System Living Labs in over 50 city-regions across 21 countries, which have become essential structures for extending EU funds and initiatives to local communities and governments in a targeted and impactful manner. Through this approach, we are helping integrate EU projects into the process of transitioning towards a more sustainable European food system. These labs bring together local stakeholders involved in food system innovation, offering place-based solutions to national and global challenges in our food system. These challenges include the nature and climate crisis, food insecurity, and declining incomes among farmers. Across Europe, Food System Living Labs have developed local food strategies, implemented innovative food policies, influenced national policies, supported food system innovation and new pilot projects and boosted short supply chains and local economies. They are creating a positive impact across all stages of the food chain, including production, processing, distribution, consumption, food loss and waste, and governance. Food System Living Labs (FSLLs) operate in a dynamic environment and face various challenges including economic fluctuations, legislative changes, and political developments in their countries. To ensure they continue to be frontrunners in the transformation to more sustainable food and farming, we recommend the European Commission, national governments and municipal leaders priortise long term funding of Food System Living Labs. Our recommendations for long-term funding of Food System Living Labs are centred on four key areas below with further details in section 3.

  • Establish match-funding mechanisms. A shift away from project-based initiatives to an institutional finance framework for upscaling and mainstreaming FSLL and their activities with co-funding support by municipalities and EU
  • Integrate Sustainable Food Systems into CAP reforms. Use CAP funding mechanisms to also reward actors of FSLLs as organisers and facilitators of innovation ecosystems at the interface between rural communities and urban stakeholders’
  • Utilise transitional funding in combination with public-private partnerships. Prioritise funding for salaries and key personnel time in recognition of the critical role of skilled personnel in driving the success and impact of FSLLs
  • Initiate a paradigm shift towards circular economic models. Better capture the environmental and societal externalities of food, moving closer to the true cost of food through waste avoidance/upcycling and circular business models. Setting the scene with a section ‘State of Affairs’, this Policy Brief highlights the role of FSLLs as unique and central points for a food system transition at the interface of cities/city regions and the wider countryside. This is followed the four key recommendations putting the emphasis on new funding mechanisms for FSLLs and a range of best practice guidelines for future implementation.

Deliverable leader and key authors

Wascher D.(*), Schafer L.(*), Eyre P.(*), Henriksen C. B.(*), Parente S.(*), Walthall B.(*), Beblek A., Bouillon C., De Cunto A., De Marchi M., Frühbeißer A., Plebani E., Riviou K., Steines A. K., Vaska S., Wehner R.

Contributors and authors

Akgul G., Alpagut B., Amarysti C., Dalcin G., Fernández Casal L., Jan Dahan A., Jikia N., Kennedy S., Kuban B., Lysak M., Musso V., Orsini F., Patrucco A., Perez G., Pinedo Gil J., Porreca E., Schmidt A., Weschke M.