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Investment for impact: EIT Food’s COVID-19 funding helps to support recovery from the pandemic

EIT Food COVID-19 funding has directly supported the growth of 13 innovative agrifood start-ups and resulted in the launch of products and services from eight innovation projects to market by the end of 2021.

The investments were part of the EIT’s Crisis Response Initiative, which directly contributed to the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The growth and innovations developed are helping to support recovery from the pandemic by providing bridge funding for startups and scale-ups adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and by funding innovations addressing needs related to improving nutrition, supply chain disruption and food safety risks. 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, EIT Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, invested EUR 10,25 million to support the European agrifood sector through the initial stages of the crisis. This was used to launch two initiatives to support the agrifood sector in its time of need. EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

EIT Food’s COVID-19 Bridge Fund supported 13 innovative agrifood start-ups to grow during the pandemic 

The aim of the investments was to help ventures adapt to COVID-19, to continue critical innovation to transform our food systems and to bridge the gap towards their next investment round.  

The start-ups supported cover a range of sectors with vast potential to create positive change, addressing the following focus areas: Alternative proteins, Targeted Nutrition, Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Aquaculture, Digital transformation of traceability, and Circular food systems.   

  • Spanish startup Feltwood, received EUR 391,5K to help build and condition a demonstration plant, enabling them to scale up from the lab to an industrial capacity. Feltwood produces low-cost, biodegradable, mouldable, recyclable and compostable alternatives to plastic materials and products, developed from vegetal waste.  
  • Polish startup NapiFeryn BioTech received EUR 466,2K to enable them to keep up with their development and scale-up activities despite the challenges of the COVID-19 situation. This included supporting IP activities as well as securing further investment to help commercialise their technology. NapiFeryn BioTech extracts protein from rapeseed oil production waste streams for functional, nutritional and cost-effective protein isolates and concentrates. These ingredients are a sustainable alternative to animal-derived proteins, are nutritional, and can be used in a wide variety of applications. 
  • Epinutra develops natural nutraceutical solutions. They received EUR 212,5K which supported them to launch their first product Benesco TM, which acts directly on the root cause of heartburn pain, in the Netherlands to a test group of 100 people. Following analysis of the results, this is now being expanded to a larger clinical trial. 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many innovation activities which were needed for ventures to bring their solution to market were delayed and disrupted, customer adoption slowed down and raising capital from external investors was challenging. We were able to provide bridge funding to promising innovative agrifood startups which were impacted by the pandemic. 

"Our funding has helped to enable a range of business-critical activities including: IP and certification applications, market research, infrastructure, R&D and pilot projects, and securing further investment.” 

- Benoit Buntinx, Director of Business Creation at EIT Food

Find out more about the impact achieved by the fund recipients here.

EIT Food’s COVID-19 Rapid Response for Innovation projects have resulted in products and services launched to the market which aid recovery from the pandemic 

EIT Food invested in 12 innovation projects, eight of which developed and launched products and services to the market in 2020 and 2021. These innovations support the immune system before, during and following COVID-19 infection; products and services which deal with issues directly related to supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased food loss and waste; and technologies and packaging solutions to protect food and reduce the risks of SARS-CoV-2 contamination. 

  • SPIN has developed an innovative food supplement which strengthens the human immune-system against SARS-CoV-2 infection by using natural antiviral ingredients. In September 2020, the SPIN food supplement was registered with the Italian Ministry of Food Health with the commercial name of EIT Viral.  
  • In 2020, Robin Food launched 12 food products from produce/food which would have been lost or wasted from the food chain in Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium. There has been particular emphasis on making these products available to socially vulnerable groups.   
  • SAFEbion-V is the first virus surrogate on the market that safely mimics the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It was developed and introduced to the market in 2021 as part of the BEAMitup project. The diagnostic device can validate and test sanitisation protocols and testing methods for businesses to trace the presence of the virus. SAFEbion-V can be used to test surfaces, products or packaging, or as an aerosol.   

At EIT Food, we believe that we are all responsible for, and connected to, the food that we eat so we all need to work together to improve it. Our role is to bring all players together, and guide and accelerate the innovation process that will transform the food system. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed unprecedented pressure on the global food system, and therefore we called on our community to come together and develop innovative solutions for the immediate challenges we faced in the pandemic, as well as for the future recovery.

“The solutions we have seen range from innovative food supplements which strengthen the immune-system against SARS-CoV-2 infection, to food products for socially vulnerable groups made from food which would have otherwise been wasted.”

- Dr Paola Giavedoni, Director of Innovation at EIT Food

Find out more about the projects here.

"The innovations developed by the projects and startups we have supported through our COVID-19 response are helping to support the recovery of people’s health, and our food system from the initial effects of the pandemic.  

“I believe that having the ability to provide rapid, targeted financial support at times of need, is vital in enabling us to foster innovation, and overcome challenges together.

“This is a key part of building resilience into our food system, which is something which will continue to be important over the coming months and years.”

- Dr Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food

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