Reimagining food systems for a growing world.

Our focus is on meeting the protein needs of 10 billion people by 2050 — one-sixth of whom will be Indian. With factors such as increasing disposable income and upward social mobility, India will be one of the largest contributors to the rising demand for protein.

Conventional animal agriculture significantly contributes to the world’s most pressing problems:

Climate change and environmental degradation

Animal agriculture is a leading driver of ecosystem loss and environmental degradation worldwide:

Threats to public health and food safety

Human health is influenced more by food than by any other single factor. Farming animals for food exacerbates health and safety concerns:

  • Contamination in animal-derived food products can result in foodborne illnesses, at the cost of individual wellbeing and community health, and disproportionately affects low-to-middle-income communities.
  • Overuse of and reliance on antibiotics within animal agriculture threaten our ability to treat infectious and non-infectious diseases, as levels of antimicrobial drug resistance grow and we stop responding to antibiotics.
  • Meat and dairy producers remain vulnerable to several endemic, infectious animal diseases, including African Swine Fever (ASF), Swine flu, and Avian flu.

Global food insecurity and nutritional deficits

Animal-based protein is often unaffordable and difficult to access, resulting in severe repercussions on nutrition and food security:

  • When it comes to nutrition, India suffers from endemic deficits, performing poorly on a wide range of nutritional indicators, including stunting (38%) among children under the age of five and anemia (53%) among adult women. Combined with a large population, these rates mean that India bears the single largest burden of child and maternal undernutrition world-wide.
  • In addition to this, farming animals for food is inherently inefficient. For example, it takes nine calories of food fed to a chicken to produce one calorie of meat. Producing food in this manner diverts massive quantities of crops away from direct human consumption and toward animal feed. Ultimately, this drives up the price of grains and legumes for human consumption, displacing subsistence farmers, and compounding food insecurity in low-to-middle-income communities.

Smart protein offers a safe, nutritious, and sustainably-sourced solution.

Across the global food system, we’re seeing an evolution of alternatives to animal-sourced foods. Enter smart protein.

Smart protein is what we call alternative food products to animal-derived meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. These alternatives are focused on delivering the same cultural and sensory experiences to animal-derived foods — so that consumers and producers have alternatives that feel like a simple switch, not a sacrifice. Smart protein products can be produced using one or a combination of the following three modalities, from a product, cost, and infrastructure perspective:

ISPIC 2021 has an expanded focus beyond plant-based protein, training and directing hundreds of innovators toward the game-changing opportunities in fermentation-derived and cultivated proteins.


One of the most critical bottlenecks the rapid acceleration of the plant-based sector in India is faced with is the need for a robust, multidisciplinary talent pool across science and business. We need more biologists studying and optimizing plants for protein production, more engineers improving ingredients and processing techniques, and more food scientists combining these ingredients in novel ways to produce plant-based foods that offer consumers products they love, with superior taste at improved prices. The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge — ISPIC 2020 — was a one-of-its-kind, comprehensive, 5-month program aimed at addressing the talent bottleneck. In 2021, we’re doubling down on the plant-based category, training hundreds of new innovators, and accelerating go-to-market and scale strategies for dozens of new entrepreneurs.

Fermentation-derived & Cultivated

Innovation in cell culture, stem cell biology, tissue engineering, meat science, fermentation, and chemical and bioprocess engineering have laid the foundation for the use of animal cell culture and fermentation-enabled technology to produce alternative proteins. In India, the talent pool and infrastructure available for cultivated and fermentation-derived protein are well-established, owing to our strengths in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry. By promoting upstream strain and feedstock improvements with the established operational expertise required for swift integration into large-scale manufacturing environments, India has a significant role to play in potentially accelerating new product innovation and the path toward cost reduction.

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Focused tracks on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

ISPIC 2021 is divided into two new tracks focused separately on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, depending on the team’s strengths and interests. The Innovation track will focus on coming up with innovative, theoretical solutions to technologically advanced industry problem statements suited for students and researchers. The Entrepreneurship track will focus on building a potential commercial venture in the smart protein sector, suited for students, professionals, and entrepreneurs.

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Get smart about Smart Protein

Through our Smart Protein Digital Lab, access materials on the science, technology, and business of creating delicious alternatives to animal-derived meat, egg, and dairy products. Our newly updated educational videos, podcast episodes, panel discussions, market and industry reports, startup manual, and much more will prepare you to enter this sunrise sector. Test your understanding through quiz assessments and a live leadership board for participants across India, and get certified for your knowledge.

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Collaborate with the community, and access mentorship from world-leading experts

Bring your transformative ideas to life by co-creating solutions in team rounds and submitting well-rounded proposals rooted in science and business feasibility, specific to the Indian context. Incorporate feedback and suggestions from our experts through focused webinars and dedicated mentoring sessions from GFI India’s team and industry experts.

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Compete with the best — and win big

Finalists across plant-based, fermentation-derived, and cultivated technology areas will be chosen and invited to present to investors and advisors during a Demo Day. Impress our panel with your pitch, and you could secure mentorship opportunities and funding to launch your smart protein project into the world!

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Get ready to launch your smart protein company

The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge is a platform for you to dive into the world of entrepreneurship, as you strengthen and transform your smart protein idea into a capital-backed venture. Gain insights from leading industry experts to build a value proposition for your startup with the potential for collaboration and development opportunities.

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Get noticed and hired by exciting smart protein companies

Applicants will be added to The Good Food Institute’s Talent Database, viewed by smart protein companies in India and all over the world when it comes to recruiting. The Smart Protein Innovation Challenge will equip you to succeed in a sunrise sector poised to take off at a rapid pace.

Eligibility Criteria

  • This challenge has no application or entry fees. It is made possible due to the donors of The Good Food Institute India and the support of our key sponsors.
  • Participants who have already participated in ISPIC 2020 can also apply and take part in ISPIC 2021.
  • The challenge is focused on Indian Nationals, but we will allow participation on a case-by-case basis* from citizens of other countries if they have been working in India and understand the industry landscape.
  • The target audience for this challenge is students, early-to-mid stage professionals, and scientists and researchers with a background in applied and basic sciences, engineering, technology, business, innovation, or entrepreneurship.
  • For age restrictions from Phase 2, please refer to individual track requirements.

*More details are available in the application form. Go through our application guide too!

Challenge Sponsors

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Key Sponsors