The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge 2021
Major new educational and incubation future-of-food initiative to fight climate change and future pandemics: The Good Food Institute India and a host of incubation, academic, investment, and government partners launches The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge 2021 (ISPIC 2021)
The Innovation Challenge in India is backed by sponsors and partners such as Capri Global Capital Limited, NICEorg, Alkem Foundation, CIIE.Co at IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Madras Bioincubator, Omnivore, Ankur Capital, and others and offer teams the chance to seek mentorship, incubation, and win cash prizes as they work to build the smart protein ecosystem from the ground up.
Smart protein — meat, egg, and dairy alternatives produced without industrial animal agriculture but rather through food science and biotechnology — is a major piece of the global fight against climate change, food insecurity, and public health crises such as future pandemics. These transformative foods received over US $ 3.1 billion in funding in 2020, but continued success requires bold, visionary action from governments and industry supporting entrepreneurship, infrastructure, and talent development for the sunrise sector.
The challenge will educate, inspire, and engage
Following major success in 2020, the India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge (ISPIC) is back in 2021, bigger and better. Last year, the challenge saw 1,350+ registrations from 150+ cities across 27 states in India. Several teams formed or incubated during the challenge started their own companies and now, some are even competing in the international arena. Two notable examples include Brew51 and SeaSpire, who are now semifinalists for the US $ 15 million XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion competition. Both companies were incubated at ISPIC 2020 and are creating waves in the smart protein ecosystem. This year, in the second edition of the challenge, we invite participants to ideate and innovate in key commercial whitespaces across the value chain of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived proteins. The challenge will educate, inspire, and engage a strong pool of talent on the one hand and ensure venture creation for potential and existing entrepreneurs in the smart protein sector on the other.
As a strategic initiative of the Good Food Institute India (GFI India), the central expert smart protein ecosystem-building nonprofit, the focus for ISPIC 2021 is on meeting the protein needs of 10 billion people by 2050, one-sixth of whom will be Indian. With increasing disposable income and upward social mobility, India will be one of the most significant contributors to the rising demand for protein, placing major burdens on public and planetary health over the next decade. Conventional animal agriculture significantly contributes to the world's most pressing problems: climate change and environmental degradation, public health and food safety threats, global food insecurity, and nutritional deficits.
Smart Protein Digital Lab, infrastructural support & mentorship
ISPIC 2021 serves as a springboard for companies trying to address these issues through smart protein. With a Smart Protein Digital Lab, and infrastructural support and mentorship from GFI India and experts across major academic institutes, including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), government agencies including Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and influential investors with over US $ 1 billion (Rs 7,300 crore) under management, the challenge nurtures talent. It supports participants as they develop smart protein solutions for the future. Up to Rs 20 lakh in cash prizes is on the table for the top 20 teams that make it to the end of the challenge.
Shardul Dabir, GFI India Innovation Specialist & Challenge lead, says, "Coming from a food technology background, my peers and I spent many years trying to perfect skills which we could apply in a fast-growing, high-impact industry. Especially at a time of climate crises and pandemics, smart protein is a sector that can enable us to align our careers with safeguarding planetary health. ISPIC 2021 will help augment those skills and get hundreds of young professionals, students, and entrepreneurs ready to build a sustainable, secure, and just 21st-century economy."
Sandeep Singh, managing director at Alkem Labs, says, "ISPIC 2021 is the only initiative in India where hundreds of future innovators, students, and young entrepreneurs have the opportunity to get smart and get certified for their knowledge around the basics of the smart protein sector. The certifications from the Smart Protein Lab are useful for certificate holders while applying for jobs, internships, or higher education programs, along with establishing credibility and helping them apply for the multiple career avenues presented by the smart protein sector globally. Entrepreneurs also gain access to well-founded leads and networks to fundraise in the future."
CIIE.CO, a Centre of Excellence for technology business incubation and education at IIM Ahmedabad, is an organizing partner for the challenge. Speaking to the challenge's significance, Soniya Sadhnani, associate, Seed Investments, CIIE.CO says, "Last year, we witnessed the ISPIC 2020 platform playing an instrumental role in educating and inspiring hundreds of young Indian smart protein innovators to ideate and engage with leading scientists, accelerators and investors. With this year's challenge, an entrepreneurship track has been additionally carved out to provide startups incubation and acceleration support, where CIIE.CO aims to play a catalytic role. GFI India has done incredibly well in its continued efforts to build the sector from the ground up by attracting the relevant talent pool and bringing the ecosystem partners together. We eagerly await to welcome the ISPIC 2021 participants!"
Mark Kahn, managing partner at leading agri-tech and food systems venture capital firm Omnivore (an ecosystem partner for the challenge), notes, "India's natural resources will be stretched thin to feed 1.5 billion people, and we need to explore alternatives that reduce pressure on our land, water, and food systems. Various approaches to alternative protein (plant-based, fermented, and cellular) will eventually become a significant component of our future food system. India also has a remarkable repository of high protein substrates (oilseeds, millets, etc.) in need of technology interventions to create a range of value-added products and increase farmer incomes. GFI India is at the forefront of rethinking protein to solve pressing malnutrition and climate change issues. We are excited to be a part of ISPIC 2021 to discover new talent and explore more innovations in this dynamic sector."
With applications closing on 14 September 2021, prospective participants can now apply for the India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge: www.smartproteinchallenge.in
The Good Food Institute India is part of an international network of nonprofits with partners in Brazil, Israel, the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, on a mission to build a healthy, sustainable, and just global food system. Since our establishment in 2017, GFI India serves as the central thought leader and convening body in the space of plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-based meat, eggs, and dairy, collectively known as the 'alternative protein' or the 'smart protein' sector. With unique insight across the scientific, policy, industry, and investment landscapes, GFI uses the power of food innovation and markets to accelerate the transition of the world's food system toward alternative proteins. Building the sector from the ground up in India aims to establish a model for its growth all across the developing world.
Testimonials from the following sponsors and partners here:
Organizing partner: CIIE.CO at IIM Ahmedabad
Government partners: Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) of the Dept of Biotechnology, Government of India, Food Industry Capacity & Skill Initiative (FICSI) of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
Academic and incubation partners: Atal Incubation Centre - Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, IIT Bombay Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Madras Bioincubator (IITMBI), and Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE)