The food arm of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, set up by the EU in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, has just unveiled its latest search to find 100 agri-food businesses that it believes could transform the food system to be healthier, innovative and more sustainable.
In 2020 EIT Food has provided more than €10 million in direct financial support across its Business Creation programmes.
These funds have helped entrepreneurs to grow and scale their impact faster – from help with market testing new ideas, providing access to experts, connections to corporate partners across the food industry, and support with investors. Last year, successful EIT Food start-ups raised more than €91 million in external investments as a result of the programme.
As Europe seeks to make its food system more resilient and sustainable in order to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and adhere to the Paris Agreement climate targets, it will be vital for the region's agri-food sector to adapt and innovate its production models.
Yet, fewer than 4% of start-up’s in Europe are in the agri-food space, according to EIT, a fact that it believes is creating a huge market opportunity for innovators, investors and entrepreneurs alike.
EIT Food is therefore looking for ideas and businesses across European markets, designed to have the highest impact when shaping the future of food, and aligned with the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy. This could be from aspiring entrepreneurs with new business ideas across universities and education centres, to early stage start-ups and scale-ups wanting to expand internationally. The search focuses on new ideas across six key focus areas; sustainable agriculture, sustainable aquaculture, alternative proteins, digital traceability, circular food systems and targeted nutrition.
Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food, said: “Our purpose at EIT Food is to create a culture across Europe for entrepreneurship to thrive. Only a spirit of entrepreneurship will help Europe to make the transformation we need, creating a food system fit for the future, that is healthy, sustainable, and meets the needs of a growing population.
“Today we are calling for new ideas from experts, innovators and investors, right across the food system. We encourage anyone who has an idea or a business that can make a real difference, with potential to scale and grow, to apply for this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Successful applicant to the network benefit not only from easy-to-access funding and investment, but also access to world-leading agri-food entrepreneurs, corporates and partners, such as PepsiCo, Danone, Nestlé and Cambridge University.
Brij Sahi, Co-Founder and CEO of SwissDeCode, an EIT Food RisingFoodStar which helps farmers and food manufacturers to produce food that is safe and authentic by providing rapid, on-site food safety tests, said: “EIT Food has enabled us to tap into some of the largest corporations in the world and to establish proof of concepts with them. This opportunity means we can directly engage with corporates and discuss on a one-to-one basis what we could do together.”
Damien Jourdan, Open Innovation Manager at Danone, added: “The EIT Food Seedbed program’s focus on customer discovery is really interesting and distinctive – startups need to understand whether they will have customers to buy their product. As a key partner in the network, we’re here to bring value and to help entrepreneurs grow their venture faster with our expertise.”