EIT Food discovered: from bed bugs to business creation
This month CLC NW’s Business Creation Programme Manager, Lukxmi Balathasan, gives us her reflections on her role and why we should all live our objectives.
Hi Lukxmi! Could you tell us a bit about who you are and your background?
My background is in medical sciences and before joining EIT Food I spent the last 15 years in research and technology transfer roles. My last job was at a University spin-out utilising pheromones to develop commercial tools for the control of medically important insect pests such as bed bugs and mosquitoes. I really understand the pain-points of entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups and I love helping them transform their ‘cool’ ideas into a solid business proposition and finding them the resources they need to get themselves up and running.
Impressive. So what’s your role now at EIT Food?
Within the Business Creation pillar, I am responsible for the “EXPLORE” segment meaning I support pre and early-stage start-ups via Innovation Grants and incubation activities. I am also the point of contact across CLC NW for business creation activities, which means getting to know our partners and getting them as involved as possible in our network. Mentoring is a big topic at the moment so I’m looking at how we can engage our partners and their employees to offer mentoring to our own start-ups and entrepreneurs. I’m also keen to understand what our partners are doing in their own startup ecosystems outside of EIT Food to see how we can support and better integrate with our ecosystem.
We’ve just caught you at the end of the Staff Strategy & Ways of Working Day held at Leuven in July – how was it?
It was really helpful. My experience has mainly been UK-focused, so it was great to meet colleagues from across Europe and to understand their challenges to work out how Business Creation and CLCNW might be able to help. For me the best parts were the informal discussions with other new starters to get their perspectives on how our various pillars and themes overlap and how we might all work together to shape the company strategy.
Being able to impact company strategy to make a difference must be very empowering – is that why you joined EIT Food?
Absolutely. I have always been about how science can have an impact on wellbeing on a global scale. It’s also great to know that we are all here because we love food and want to help people get access to better food.
So what are you working on right now?
I am responsible for the Innovation Grants scheme so I’m currently working with partners to ensure that the 2018 grants are utilised efficiently. I have also just finalised the details for the 2019 Innovation Grant scheme: we have some fantastic events planned, which will really help to build a solid pipeline of future food and agritech entrepreneurs and start-ups. I’m also mapping out the startup ecosystem and programs that exist in CLCNW regions to understand where we can get involved and help accelerate innovations. I’m also starting to meet with our partners to understand what resources they can offer our startups, while also looking at how the Business Creation team can support their activities for 2019.
Looking forward, what would you like to achieve in the next 12 months?
I want to understand our organisation a lot better, to really get to grips with the challenges facing the food and agritech industries and to build strong relationships with colleagues and partners so that I can ensure that my role has real impact.
You’ve only been in EIT Food for 2 months so what has been your experience of our organisation so far?
I’ve liked the fact that we are properly structured and supported, whilst also being a young organisation where you are able to input into how it grows and develops. As with any startup there are challenges to overcome and I’m keen to make sure that we keep communicating so that we don’t become siloed in our own pillars. One of the great things about being part of a CLC is that all pillars are represented in one office, so you can share information and keep up-to-date with what’s going on.
If you could change one thing about the food sector, what would it be?
I think food waste is a huge issue, so I want to ensure that this stays on the agenda and isn’t just seen as something ‘trendy’. This is where I believe it’s important that we live our objectives and not just deliver our objectives; so when at events, for example, we always need to be thinking about food waste to make sure that we’re not actually part of the problem.
And finally, would you like to ‘nominate’ another employee to be interviewed for the next instalment of EIT Food Discovered?
I would like to nominate Anne-Marie Banescu from the Operations Team. Operations is so important and everyone in the team does such a great job, so I think it would be really nice if Anne-Marie gets to tell her story!