Ten Nordic startups will begin a four-month acceleration programme in June at FAN Nordic Hub led by VTT. Their goal is to gain knowledge from experts and connect with possible partners, clients and investors from all over Europe.
VTT has created the Helsinki-based FAN Nordic Hub together with its partners Valio and Helsinki University. It is one of six accelerators in the European EIT Food Accelerator Network (FAN), which aims to promote a sustainable food system. Participants for this year’s accelerator programs have been selected by an international panel of impartial experts, and each accelerator will launch its program in June.
Ten teams were selected to FAN Nordic Hub, six of which come from Finland and four from Sweden. The Helsinki-based accelerator received altogether 81 applications, and 54 applicants considered it their first option.
“We were impressed by the high level of ideas and skills of the applicants, and we look forward to working with the selected teams. There is a good mix of different types of business ideas, which all correspond extremely well to the most interesting and sustainable trends in the food industry. Half of the startups work with alternative protein sources, each one of them from their own angle. The rest tackle challenges in farming, product development, retail and storage,” says Paolo Borella, the Program Manager of FAN Nordic Hub.
Mentors and experts to accelerate startups
Each startup team will be assigned their own mentor who will support the team all through the program. Besides mentoring, teams will be offered lectures and workshops in topics ranging from product development and service design to sales, marketing and fundraising.
FAN Nordic Hub has already attracted mentors and experts with various backgrounds in the food industry as well as the startup scene. Also new participants are still welcome.
University of Helsinki and the leading dairy producer Valio are participating in FAN Nordic Hub as VTT’s partners. The whole network has altogether more than 40 partners including Nestlé and PepsiCo.
“Research and product development have been important to us ever since the Noble prize winner A.I. Virtanen led the Valio laboratory. We want to share our experience with startups and learn new things ourselves at the same time. Some of the things we will work on with the teams are: corporate cooperation, food trends and sustainability of the food chain. We hope to see new European stars in food competence to take off from the program”, says Soila Kananen, Innovation Manager of Valio.
“A lot is happening in the food industry at the moment and new products and services for a sustainable food system are actively emerging. The University of Helsinki and the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry are very interested in participating in the program, offering the expertise of food and nutrition science, sustainable development, consumer understanding and knowhow of our marketing experts to startups. We expect to learn from the companies in the program about the latest trends and research in the field”, says Maija Tenkanen, Professor and Vice-Dean at Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki
Towards competition and funding
The Nordic accelerator program will culminate in the Demo Day event on the 6th of October, where startup teams showcase their businesses to corporates, investors, media and judges. Two startups from each accelerator program will be selected to participate in the European EIT Food Venture Summit to compete for three 100 000 euro prizes.
“Due to restrictions on public gatherings and travel, we will organize our acceleration program online in four sprints between June and September, but we still hope to be able to meet live for the last part of the program and the Demo Day in October,” Paolo Borella says.
In addition to Helsinki, the network has accelerators in Munich, Haifa, Lausanne, Cambridge and Bilbao, each of which offer an acceleration program for ten teams