In doing so, the Netherlands is leveraging its leading position in the field and taking the initiative in calling for new solutions from European startups. FoodNexus, a partnership of more than 50 parties in Europe, with members from the industry as well as research institutes, is a founder of the European Agri-Food Startup of the Year Challenge. The State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Martijn van Dam, announced this on 17 May at the opening of the second Agri-Food startup festival, “F&A Next”, in Wageningen. The Ministry of Economic Affairs will contribute 200,000 euros to the challenge.
European startups in the agri-food sector will be invited by regional incubator and accelerator organisations to participate in the national preliminary rounds. The winners will compete for the title of “European Agri-Food Startup of the Year”. The winner will receive a monetary prize and a support programme of high-level mentors and prominent European food businesses.
With this competition, the agri-food sector hopes to track startups and support them in realising their revolutionary ideas. This should stimulate the transition to a sustainable and economically viable food sector.
The annual competition will bring innovative startups to the attention of investors, businesses, universities, and other research institutions in the sector. The challenge will yield new networks, within which startups, businesses, and investors can collaborate and learn from each other.
Startups need established players
StartLife, located on Wageningen Campus, will coordinate the European startup challenge in close collaboration with FoodNexus. "It has been discovered that startups need established players in order to grow,” says Jan Meiling, Managing Director of StartLife. “This competition is not only intended to find new initiatives, but also to offer startups support programmes in the form of boot camps, mentor programmes, and corporate-startup engagement sessions. Corporate-startup engagement is the common thread in this competition. By organising this at the national and European level, a good development route and a view of the European stage is created for these startups. This allows a best practice to be developed in which initiatives and ideas from startups can be raised to a higher plane.”
In 2017, the preliminary rounds will take place in seven countries (Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Italy, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands). The European finale is on 7 December at Wageningen Campus.
FoodNexus partners include Unilever, Friesland Campina, Heineken, Barilla, Eurofins, Danone, INRA, Achmea, Kerry Ingredients, Arla Foods, Novozymes, Chr. Hansen. Dutch research institutes associated with FoodNexus: WUR, UU, RUG, Maastricht University, TNO. Oost NV is a regional partner.
StartLife helps new entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector in the creation of opportunities and work and, in doing so, contributes to the development and application of sustainable technological innovations. Stichting StartLife is the national incubator for agri-food startups with its headquarters on Wageningen Campus.