STS - conferences, IST2012

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Comparing the European and US nutraceuticals innovation system
Ellen Moors, Jef Pennings

Last modified: 2012-03-20


In its health strategy to overcome the grand societal challenge of obesity, the European Union (EU) is committed to promote healthy lifestyles by stimulating healthy food choices (EU 2011).

Accordingly, during the last decades the role of dietary active components in human nutrition has become an important focus of research. It has increased the awareness of consumers about diet and proper nutrition. An important product innovation emerging from this focus on dietary active components in human nutrition and food are  so-called ‘nutraceuticals’.  Nutraceuticals are defined as “any substance that may be considered a food or part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease” (DeFelice, 1994;1).

Several studies showed that European food and life sciences firms encounter several problems due to regulations that might hamper market access of nutraceuticals. Other studies focused on consumer acceptance as a possible explanation of the low diffusion of nutraceuticals in the EU. Accordingly, this paper focuses on the weaknesses in the emerging nutraceuticals innovation system in Europe, compared to the US. By mapping the development of the European nutraceuticals innovation system over time using a technological innovation system (TIS) analysis (Hekkert et al 2007), this paper will give more insights in the barriers related to the low diffusion of nutraceuticals in the EU. Furthermore, by comparing the emerging European nutraceuticals innovation system with the more successful nutraceuticals system in the US, policy recommendations could be given to overcome these barriers and promote competitiveness of the European nutraceuticals industry on the global market.

Additionally, this paper contributes to the innovation and transition literature by introducing the TIS approach in the life-sciences field, which is characterized by long development times, rigid patenting laws, strict regulations and ethical issues.