Last November 7, FoodBytes! returned to London with fifteen international startups showcasing ground breaking solutions that are driving sustainability and innovation across the global supply chain. The pitching companies showcased solutions for the increasing demand for personalized and alternative protein consumption, optimization of farming practices and reduction of food packaging, among others. The startups make use of disruptive technologies, such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence, to enable new pathways for production and respond to the ever evolving consumer demand.

“By bringing together the most promising entrepreneurs and ideas, and connecting them with our networks and knowledge, we hope startups can grow their business and help tackle the many challenges facing our global food system – Tamira Treffers-Herrera, CEO of Rabobank Europe

Opportunities for collaboration

While some corporates consider disruptive startups as a threat to their business model and market share, they should rather be seen as a learning opportunity. In order for today’s industry giants to stay relevant to their customers, one of the routes is through collaborative innovation. There is a growing trend of corporates opting to engage with startups as part of their innovation strategy. While these collaborations differ from case to case, the idea behind it is similar: corporates get the opportunity to tap into the agility of startups and explore fresh perspectives on how to solve the challenges of tomorrow beyond current company boundaries.

“We can’t do everything ourselves. We need to find the really smart, tech-savvy, innovative, agile founders, who can really get to the cutting edge of the cutting edge. We work very well together, because we have what they need, and they have what we need.” – Craig Twyford, Founder of Coca Cola European Partners Ventures and sponsor of FoodBytes!

Choosing the right model

Nearly all large companies have built out innovation departments and are exploring different forms and fashions to reap the benefits of collaborative innovation with startups. While there is definitely no one-size-fits-all model, we do see a few frameworks that are becoming more prominent.

The rise of corporates setting up venture capital arms is steadily increasing in the market. In 2018, global Corporate Venture Capital activity accelerated to all-time highs, with a 47% increase over the previous year. CVCs can provide corporates strategic benefits such as access to new technologies or insights in business models that may otherwise be unavailable, as well as business model diversification and higher ROIs.

However, many corporates have begun seeking engagement that goes beyond transactional and are less capital intensive. We are seeing this through strategic partnerships, where corporates and startups get into a co-creation mode and share aspects such as knowledge, in-house facilities, distribution networks, and ways of working. Ultimately, this leads to joint product development, a client-supplier relationship, or technology licensing models.

“It’s all about innovation. Innovation drives our business and we have an ambitious target for 10% of annual sales to come from innovations launched in the previous three years. We’re constantly striving to find new ways to innovate and bring in new ideas.” -Tony Hinds, Business Development Manager at Saputo and sponsor of FoodBytes!

How can we help?

Startups need an opportunity to scale, where corporates need to explore new markets, technologies and business models to stay relevant. Through its leading F&A innovation platforms FoodBytes! and TERRA, strong startup alumni networks, and proprietary startup database and trend insights, Rabobank is a trusted advisor that can support their clients with their innovation strategy and objectives. By fostering collaborative innovation, Rabobank aims to catalyze the move towards a more sustainable food supply chain.

“Clients of Rabobank really think about innovation. Most companies are aware that they need to change. The challenge for them is actually how to change. That is the conversation we continue to have, and that is where Rabobank can help.” – Cyrille Filott, Strategist for consumer foods at Rabobank

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