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A chance to join EIT Food’s entrepreneurship powerhouse

The 2023 Entrepreneurship Programmes provide targeted support to European startups at all stages of the innovation journey

20 Mar 2023
4 min reading time

Europe’s food system is built on centuries of innovation. The way food is produced and distributed has always been improved by creative thinking, the flow of knowledge, and support networks. Today – in the face of climate threats and economic pressures – we need to rethink all stages of the food supply chain, from farm to fork.

For new companies in the agrifood space, the first challenge is to navigate the “valley of death” in taking a product from an idea to a viable product. Fortunately, EIT Food has a series of specialised programmes to support startups at all stages of their innovation journey.

The 2023 Entrepreneurship Programmes are now open, with applications accepted until 26 March 2023. Startups can access equity-free funding opportunities, as well as tapping into expert networks and external funding opportunities from EIT Food’s investor community.

Successful applicants will be in good hands. EIT Food is the world's largest and most dynamic food innovation community. It brings together hundreds of startups, leading corporations, investors, universities and research centres – to accelerate change in the food system.

Members of EIT’s Entrepreneurship Programmes have gone on to great things. Here are examples from each of the three programmes.

SEEDBED INCUBATOR – helping companies to launch

Even today’s most ubiquitous products began life as a scribbled idea on a page or in someone’s head. The Seedbed Incubator programme supports researchers and entrepreneurs in taking their first steps in transforming a promising idea into a real-world product.

One company going through this process right now is Paltech, which participated in the 2021 Seedbed Incubator programme and won that year’s award for best pitch. Founded by members of a family-based farm in Germany, Paltech has developed an automated solution for controlling weeds on grassland. Its robots mechanically remove stubborn taproot weeds without the need for herbicides, thereby reducing the environmental impact and replacing manual labour, which can be a burden for older farmers.

Co-founder Felix Schiegg, a robotics student-turned-farmer, says the support from EIT Food’s Seedbed programme helped to think differently about their processes. “We were able to understand our customers better and therefore also make some adjustments in the product roadmap and the value proposition,” says Schiegg.

Food Accelerator Network (FAN) – accelerating through the valley of death

Once a company is up and running, its next task is to further improve its product(s) and find its audience. Here is where things can get tough. An individual or team with a neat idea is suddenly faced with a slew of technical, commercial and regulatory obstacles, often while taking on new employees and seeing overheads increase. This is where the Food Accelerator Network (FAN) can help startups to accelerate tech innovations and fast-track their businesses.

One company that has skillfully found its niche is Kaffe Bueno, a Denmark-based B-Corp that develops novel applications from coffee by-products. Kaffe Bueno joined EIT Food’s FAN programme in 2017 and has since partnered with Swiss chemicals company Givaudan to create Koffee’Up, an upcycled coffee oil. In 2020 the company raised €2.1M in a seed round with four investors, and received a €2.5M grant from the European Innovation Council (EIC) to build the world’s first coffee refinery.

“We are going to change the perception from only seeing coffee as a beverage to being a bio-based resource,” said Juan Medina, CEO and Co-Founder of Kaffe Bueno, speaking in last week’s episode of the EIT Food Fight podcast. “In the future I see a lot of coffee biorefineries around the world making different bio-based and chemical products.”

The RisingFoodStars (RFS) Network – scaling up

Scaling up is a crucial aspect of business growth. EIT Food’s RisingFoodStars (RFS) network is a three-year programme to help established startups develop their commercial capabilities. Companies receive support in making commercial deals with corporate members of the EIT Food network, and expert advice in how to pitch to leading industry corporations. The goal is to assist promising agrifood startups on their way to becoming important players at national and international levels.

UK-based startup Mimica is a great example of a company with a transformative product that is good for people and planet. Mimica Touch is a food expiry cap or label that experiences decay at the same rate as food, providing a real-time indication of a product’s freshness with a tactile interface. It’s a much-needed solution given that an estimated 60% of the food thrown away by European households is still edible while in the wholesale and retail sector that figure increases to 83%.

Mimica joined the RFS network in 2019 and was recently named as one of London’s 101 Fastest Growing Food and Beverage Startups. “EIT Food has funding opportunities, so we are able to partner up with bigger corporates like retailers and food producers,” said Alex Hemsley, a project manager at Mimica, speaking at last year’s EIT Food Venture Summit.

Whatever stage you are at in the innovation journey, EIT Food’s Entrepreneurship Programmes provide tailored support to help you reach your goals. Don’t wait! Join our entrepreneurship powerhouse to maximise your chances of becoming a game changer in the European agrifood sector.

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