Ten Nordic startups participated in the first acceleration program at the VTT-led EIT FAN Nordic Hub. Teams polished their skills and created contacts with the support from industry-leading experts. Two startups eniferBio and Mycorena were selected to compete in the European Food Venture Summit.
The Helsinki-based EIT FAN Nordic Hub is one of six accelerators in the European EIT Food Accelerator Network (FAN), which aims to promote a sustainable food system. The hub has just completed a four-month acceleration program with ten Nordic startups.
“Leading the Nordic FAN program has been an eye-opening experience for us. It has shown us the huge potential of startups and given us a great opportunity to help them on their journey to success,” says Mirva Lampinen, Co-Creation Manager of VTT and EIT FAN Nordic Hub leader.
The program culminated in the Demo Day event where the startup teams pitched their businesses to investors, partners, media and judges. The judges selected two teams, eniferBio from Finland and Mycorena from Sweden, to participate in the European EIT Food Venture Summit to compete for three 100 000 euro prizes with teams from other accelerators. eniferBio’s technology allows biorefineries to profitably convert their underutilized dilute side streams into valuable protein leveraging the Pekilo single-cell mycoprotein, which can be used e.g. as a fish feed ingredient. Mycorena’s product Promyc™ is a fungi-based mycoprotein with excellent nutritional quality and prolific culinary benefits.
“We are happy for eniferBio and Mycorena and proud of all the skillful, innovative and hard-working teams at FAN Nordic Hub. They made excellent progress while working with their mentors and other industry-leading experts, which, for their part, have shown tremendous dedication to the teams,” says Paolo Borella, the Program Manager of FAN Nordic Hub.
Two more teams will be selected to the Food Venture Summit from the whole network of six accelerators by the end of October.
World-class industry partners to offer expertise
The program gathered altogether 150 experts from all over the world to coach the startup teams. Each team got their own mentor and the opportunity to participate in various workshops and lectures given by other experts.
Experts shared their views on market and regulatory trends as well as their best practices concerning topics ranging from business development and international strategy to fundraising. In one of the most popular workshops each startup invited its preferred corporation to plan co-development and even negotiate a deal.
With support from EIT Food Accelerator Network, FAN Nordic HUB was able to find and attract experts from international corporate partners such as Nestlé, Amcor and Döhler. Local partners of FAN Nordic Hub are Valio and University of Helsinki.
“The cooperation ran very smoothly. It offered us a close look at new European food innovations, which was great. Discussions with the participants challenged our own thinking, and we also enjoyed seeing how the startups developed their thinking during the program. So, mentoring has turned out beneficial on both sides,” says Soila Kananen, Innovation Manager of Valio.
“We found it important to contribute to this program with our expertise in food and nutrition science, sustainable development, and consumer and marketing understanding, just to mention a few. In the faculty we particularly seek to build up systematic innovation co-operation with the Finnish food value-network. The program serves this aim in an excellent way,” says Ritva Toivonen, Dean at Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.
A new round with new startups starting next year
In January 2021 FAN Nordic Hub will open the submission to the next acceleration program. It will be open to startup teams from all Nordic and Baltic countries as well as Poland, and to experts from all over the world.
“We believe in the power of pan-European initiatives and are proud to work with VTT, University of Helsinki and Valio on the Nordic presence of the EIT Food Accelerator Network to support high impact agrifood startups,” says Christoph Mandl, EIT FAN manager.
“The challenges faced by Europe in the transformation of its food system will not be solved without the disruptive innovations developed by great entrepreneurs and fast-moving startups. More than ever, they are an essential piece of the puzzle, and we are very proud to support their growth.”
Two teams, eniferBio from Finland and Mycorena from Sweden, were selected to join the EIT Food Venture Summit 2020. From left:
Dmitri Sarle, MC of Demo Day, Mirva Lampinen Leader of FAN Helsinki Hub (as stand-in for Anton Johansson, Finance Leader of Mycorena), Simo Ellilä, CEO of eniferBio, and Paolo Borella Program Manager of FAN Helsinki Hub.
Paolo Borella, Program Manager, paolo.borella(at)vtt.fi, tel. +358 40 480 8333
Mirva Lampinen, Co-Creation Manager, mirva.lampinen(at)vtt.fi, tel. +358 40 674 9233
Soila Kananen, Innovation Manager, soila.kananen(at)valio.fi, tel. +358 50 3987 543
Maija Tenkanen, Vice-Dean, maija.tenkanen(at)helsinki.fi, tel. +358 29 415 8410