INCREASE – Intelligent Collections of Food Legumes Genetic Resources for European Agrofood Systems

Universidade Catolica Portuguesa

Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) is a research university characterised by a humanist vision committed to contribute to knowledge and to the well-being of society. In addition to the commitment to fundamental research, the UCP is recognised for the social impact of its research agenda and for its contribution to the formulation of policy. UCP hosts the research unit CBQF - Centre for Biotechnology and Fine Chemistry, rated as Excellent by an international panel in the 2019 evaluation by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). Over the past five years, the research activities led to the publication of over 630 papers in international peer reviewed journals (86% of which in Q1+Q2), 44 book chapters and 40 patents submitted.

CBQF-UCP is strongly active in national and international R&D+I and educational projects: in the past 5 years, it has collaborated with ca. 130 higher education institutions and international R&D centres from 50 countries through more than 100 projects, 50% of which in collaboration with industry (collaborations with approx. 150 national and 27 foreign companies. The track record of CBQF-UCP includes about 35 business projects in the area of biotechnology (startups) developed in the framework of pre-incubation and incubation activities. Outreach activities are a priority at CBQF, with about 2,500,000 citizens reached in the last 5 years (via 4,000 high school visiting students/year, science communication in 80-120/year media (TV, radio, online, press).

CBQF has been an active partner in 35 international education and research networks (e.g., ISEKI_Food, DIETS, EULAFF, SPESS, Erasmus Mundus, Erasmus+, TrueFood, REAL, INOVAR) and plays an important part in national Competitiveness Poles and Clusters (Board Member of Portugal Foods, participating in the Sea Cluster, Wine Cluster and InovaRural). It is also members and/or part of the executive committee of international organisations in the field of biotechnology (e.g. EFFoST; SAFE CONSORTIUM; IFA; ETP Food for Life; International Association for Engineering and Food; IUFoST-education committee; European Sensory; FOODforce, being the only Portuguese member). CBQF-ESB has relocated in 2019 to a purpose-built, state of the art facility that includes research dedicated laboratories to house its research groups and its seven Scientific Platforms: Analytical Chemistry; Tissue Culture; Molecular Biology; Packaging & Materials; Consumer & Sensory Science; Bioactives; Biophysics and Technology Hall and a Kitchen Lab all coordinated by highly qualified technicians.

Role within INCREASE

In INCREASE, UCP contributes to the Task 4.3 on Molecular Phenotyping and in task 4.4 on nutritional and technological quality. UCP will analyse several compounds that affect crop taste and nutritional value. It also contributes to the understanding of the biochemical basis of nutrient uptake, transport and storage to design better breeding programmes aimed at higher quality products and healthier plant foods. The nutritional and technological quality will be done for protein, amino acid, starch, and mineral quality in seeds of the H-CORE collection. These nutritional quality traits then complement data relating to the different metabolomics traits (Task 4.3), such as organic acid and sugars, free amino acids, flavonoids and anthocyanins.

CBQF-UCP develops a citizen-science pilot experiment in the scope of work package 6 activities. This experiment then contributes to the dissemination of the project results by stakeholders and citizens and tests the feasibility of a citizen science-approach to promote, complement and maximise the germplasm conservation work being developed by the genebank facilities. This decentralised, participatory approach to germplasm conservation contributes to increase citizen awareness towards the importance of biodiversity and create a strong bridge between germplasm banks, citizens, and other stakeholders. The work focuses on the common bean, and it involves a strong cooperation with the project dissemination activities, the development of a section of the INCREASE website, and a promotion of the historical importance of common bean for human consumption, sustainability and for the environment, its role in ecological diets and in agro ecological systems. The citizen science initiative will be broadcasted widely, and after implementation its impact towards decentralised seed multiplication and conservation will be evaluated. The multi-actor approach will be ensured in this activity by engaging participants from all levels of the germplasm resource value chain, from farmers to consumers.

CBQF-UCP participates actively in the dissemination and communication of project activities and results via social media, scientific publications, presence in workshops, conferences, seminars, and other specialised events, participate in project meetings and engaging stakeholders in the corresponding project activities through a bottom up approach.

Main contacts

Photo of Prof. Marta Vasconcelos
Prof. Marta Vasconcelos
Assistant Professor
Photo of Dr Carla Santos
Dr Carla Santos
Postdoctoral researcher
Photo of Prof. Elisabete Pinto
Prof. Elisabete Pinto
Assistant Professor
Photo of Dr César Ferreira
Dr César Ferreira
Senior Scientist