UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — Icos Capital, a climate tech venture capital fund, held the “Accelerating Sustainability Food Systems Summit,” at Bühler’s CUBIC Innovation campus in Uzwil, Switzerland, on Feb. 14. 

The event brought together startups 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 startups 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,” said Nityen Lal, general partner at ICOS Capital. “Our model of collaborative venturing brings startups specialized in sustainable food, circular economy, sustainable industry, and decarbonization into win-win partnerships with corporates, supporting their growth.”

The startups 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 startup to push forward, and industry partners equipped with the know-how and technology to accelerate positive impact at scale,” Lal said.   

Over 30 startups 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,” said Ian Roberts, chief technology officer of Bühler. The company 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 startups and enable them to scale both their business and their sustainable impact significantly faster.”

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,” said Dr. Magdalena Kozlowska, CEO and founder at NapiFeryn. “This event is a unique opportunity to connect with companies that can offer know-how and technology to scale up our production.”   

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 toward more sustainable and nature-friendly chemicals,” said Joana Pereira, business development manager at Holiferm.

Icos and Bühler will work together in the search for high potential, sustainable startups continues.

“We’re always looking to expand our network and encourage Climate Tech entrepreneurs ready to scale in the food industry to contact us directly at [email protected],” said Katarzyna Gil, FoodTech and AgriTech analyst at Icos.