Climate tech venture capital fund, Icos Capital, held the “Accelerating Sustainability Food Systems Summit” at Bühler’s CUBIC Innovation Campus on February 14, 2023. The event brought together promising start-ups from the areas of decarbonization, precision fermentation, cell culture, and side stream valorization and alternate sustainable resources with top food corporations to accelerate the transition of sustainable food systems. The partners intend to grow their ecosystem of collaboration and innovation to enable start-ups to scale up their efforts in tackling some of the most urgent and complex challenges in the food sector.
“Our goal at Icos Capital is to identify and invest in next-level innovations to accelerate sustainability. Our model of collaborative venturing brings start-ups specialized in sustainable food, circular economy, sustainable industry, and decarbonization into win-win partnerships with corporates, supporting their growth,” says Nityen Lal, general partner, ICOS Capital. The start-ups Icos backed since 2006 have disrupted and led their respective markets and have benefited from the Icos approach of considering financial, social, and environmental returns in equal measure. “The event here at Bühler’s CUBIC Innovation Campus was everything we expected it to be: forward-thinking entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas to solve major problems, investors ready to identify the next start-up to push forward, and industry partners equipped with the know-how and technology to accelerate positive impact at scale,” adds Lal.
Accelerating impact at scale
Over 30 start-ups from across Europe, the UK, and Israel pitched their innovations and discussed collaborations with corporations, sparking mutually beneficial partnerships going forward. “We’re delighted to play a role in strengthening this collaborative venturing approach to scale impactful innovation,” says Ian Roberts, chief technology officer, Bühler. The leading solution partner for the food and mobility industries works with selected partners, such as ICOS, to build a global network of partnerships that support the transition to a sustainable food system and support industry adoption of new sustainable solutions and practices. “With established supply chains and market access, we believe that corporates in the room can play a crucial role in the journey of start-ups and enable them to scale both their business and their sustainable impact significantly faster,” adds Roberts.
Finding new ways
Icos and Bühler see technology readiness levels increasing and positive changes in the market in sidestream utilization and precision fermentation especially. NapiFeryn, one of the Icos portfolio companies, has developed a patented process to obtain rapeseed proteins from the sidestream of oil pressing. This process of extracting a high-value product from a low-cost raw material raised a lot of interest from a range of food companies in the room. “We’re looking forward to taking our business to the next level with the right partnerships. This event is a unique opportunity to connect with companies that can offer know-how and technology to scale up our production,” says Magdalena Kozlowska, chief executive officer, and founder, NapiFeryn.
Another example from the portfolio is Holiferm, who are bringing price-competitive biosurfactants to market, a key ingredient in cleaning and personal care products. Holiferm aims to improve the sustainability of its products even more and become carbon neutral. To do that they need bio-based resources such as oils and sugars as input for the fermentation process in their new commercial plant; something they discussed with companies who have access to sidestreams that may be used as raw materials for Holiferm. “The new connections we made here will help us accelerate our journey towards more sustainable and nature-friendly chemicals,” says Joana Pereira, business development manager, Holiferm.
The journey continues
The “Accelerating Sustainability Food Systems Summit” event was an early highlight for Icos in 2023. Their search together with Bühler for high-potential, sustainable start-ups continues.