This year marked the start of a bold journey for accelerating science-driven innovations. Learn more in this blog from the A4IP Team.
2021 set out to be an action-packed year for transforming food systems and climate action with significant international events being held such as the UN Food Systems Summit in New York and United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, among others. Funders poured a record $50 billion into innovative ag-tech and food-tech startups offering more profitable, efficient, safer, and greener solutions. This marks an outstanding 60% increase over 2020, in other words, there is an increasing interest in science-driven innovations.
At the Alliance/CGIAR, we are keeping up to speed in a fast-evolving environment by rethinking the business-as-usual and investigating the interfaces that harbor visionary business ideas. Six months since the launch of the Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP) and we are thrilled to see the initiative thriving to spotlight disruptive climate and development solutions.
Building on CGIAR’s legacy of Research and Innovation, A4IP is a Venture Space offering a new paradigm for applied sciences by bridging science and entrepreneurship to co-design agriculture and climate change science-based technologies that are accessible to all. At A4IP, we strive to scale high-potential existing research products and stimulate the most visionary teams working on cutting-edge research areas to frame their game changing solutions and take them to market.
A4IP is articulated around three pillars:
1) Leverage existing knowledge products and services with the aim of scouting dormant know-how and valorizing it,
2) Co-design and launch novel transformative innovations, a venture creation function that targets neglected areas of opportunity at the center of complex challenges to create breakthrough solutions,
3) Nurture an entrepreneurial mindset and market-oriented approach to support the institutionalization of innovation processes at CGIAR.
We dedicated year 1 to building and defining the operational framework, by pulling together a core team and implementing the first initiatives both within and beyond CGIAR.
A4IP activities in 2021
We scouted founders of innovative science-driven companies and invited them to walk us through their business journey and share their solutions with CGIAR scientists to seek areas of synergies. A seminar was organized with ag-tech startup GoMicro about harnessing artificial intelligent products and services to provide solutions to farmers. Together with GoMicro, we are now collaborating to deploy a phone-based detection app to assess grain quality in Africa by utilizing cost-effective mobile attachments that will eventually cost USD $1.
As a part of the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress, the team rallied together experts in the research and corporate sectors at the Agri-Food Tech Innovation Forum on “The Role of Venture Capital in Agricultural and Food Systems: Creating Opportunities and Scaling Up Science-Based Innovations.” For impactful solutions to come to life and succeed, we need to find that red thread connecting scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors operating in the agri-food tech ecosystem. The Agri-Food Tech Innovation Forum did just that. With a global audience of 1,100 attendees, big names from trailblazing organizations engaged in lively discussions about how to bridge the gap for accelerating innovation and scaling processes. Represented among them were Valoral Advisors, Deep Science Ventures, Food@Google, Seedstars, CiBO Technologies-Flagship Pioneering, the Italian Institute of Technology, Rockstart, Pluton Biosciences, Knorr at Unilever, USDA, IFAD, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Also taking place during the Congress, we hosted our very first global Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge. We targeted early-stage innovators from or working in developing countries, bringing science-based solutions to the market. We partnered with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), CIHEAM Bari, Italian Institute of Technology, Rockstart, and The Lexicon and the response to the Innovation Challenge was impressive with almost 350 submissions, involving 1050 startuppers representing 76 countries. 10 finalists were shortlisted and competed for prizes including free equity grant, mentoring, partnerships, scientific and technology guidance, and tuition for a master’s program. Together with leading Venture Capital Rockstart, we are offering an acceleration program, made up of technical assessments and support, customized workshops, and matched mentoring with industry experts, to the winners: SeaSoilution, NovFeed, and Cloud Pads. Once completing the program, startuppers will have developed a clear growth plan, expanded their networks, and enhanced their entrepreneurial skills to take their innovations to the next level.
We are also working with the Innovative Food Systems Solutions (IFSS) Portal team to make available an interactive online Pathway-To-Impact builder tool, a self-guided acceleration program for founders in their early stage to prioritize problem-solving in their innovations.
We joined the Moonshots for Development (M4D), a working group of the innovation branches and labs of development finance institutions who believe in leveraging their different capabilities and experiences in the innovation space to produce greater, global, impact.
We convene monthly to learn about the upcoming initiatives and breakthrough solutions in climate mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaborations for disruptive change.
And all the while behind the scenes, we are working to produce state of the art research on the role of venture capital in supporting agri-food tech innovation, collaboration’s effect on scaling, and recommendations for effective and efficient technology transfer to achieve sustainable growth and food systems impact.
As we celebrate A4IP’s successful activities of 2021, we look at year-2 where we will expand the team, continue to develop the venture-building environment linking it to CGIAR research, and boost our work on the ground.
We are thrilled with our collaboration with leading Venture Studios to launch a program that combines CGIAR knowledge and expertise with the most talented and prodigious science entrepreneurs to design transformative solutions from scratch that target areas of research that could be cornerstones of future innovation and tomorrow's industry.
With the support of the World Bank and a local partner accelerator, we will execute our next innovation challenge: DigitalAg4Morocco. This program is designed to address some of the structural bottlenecks in the Moroccan agri-food business sector, including 38% of Morocco’s employment. The initiative will scout, select, and accelerate the most innovative youth-led ICT to enhance the efficiency, equity, and environmental sustainability in line with the Green Generation 2020–2030 strategy.
We have the privilege to work with Rockstart, IFAD, and World Bank as partners and the many others that crossed our path and genuinely contributed with their ideas and contacts to forge our venture space. We thank the generous offerings of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the continued support of Alliance and CGIAR colleagues, without whom we could not have realized our Platform.
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