Innovation is critical to bringing about a fundamental shift in the way our food is produced and consumed. With the ever-growing world population, inefficient use of raw materials and farmland and shortages of water and farmland, the current speed of climate change and the combined pressure of obesity, hunger and malnutrition, we urgently need breakthrough solutions for structural system change, for our future and the generations to come.
Key multi-stakeholder platform
To support this, the World Economic Forum, the Dutch government and several public and private-sector partners have launched a network of Food Innovation Hubs. This forward-looking, multi-stakeholder platform will leverage technology and innovation to enable local ecosystems to transform existing food systems. The network was launched with multi-year funding from the government of the Netherlands for a Global Coordinating Secretariat based in the Netherlands.
The global network of Food Innovation Hubs is a flagship initiative of the Food Action Alliance, and is key to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit; it will become a multi-year cooperation. The role of the Global Secretariat will be to coordinate the efforts of the regional hubs and ensure they align with global processes and initiatives.
Marjolein Brasz, Managing Director of Foodvalley NL: “There is a perfect match between the ambition of the Food Innovation Hubs network and our own commitment to the development of sustainable food systems. We will achieve this through commercialization of innovations and by providing solutions to current and future system challenges. Being seen as the leading European Food Innovation Hub is wonderful recognition of the work we have done over the past fifteen years, and it enables us to accelerate our processes and amplify our impact. I am also delighted to see the Dutch government taking a leading role by offering to host the Global Coordination Secretariat. This new body will help the individual food hubs to share, contribute, and work together in the best way possible.”
Jeroen Wouters, Global Ecosystem Development at Foodvalley NL, will be responsible for setting up the operational structure for the European Food Innovation Hub. “Connecting relevant technologies to the innovation needs and opportunities of the global Food Innovation Hubs will be crucial for success,” he stresses.
Foodvalley NL will follow a step-by-step approach in which 1) innovation needs and opportunities will be defined and selected, 2) relevant solutions and actors will be scouted and connected, and 3) projects will be initiated to address the challenges. Potential partners include corporates, research organizations, governments, startups, scaleups and facilitators such as NGOs and innovation clusters. “Each actor is of importance and has its own role in the transition of the food system,” says Wouters. “It is vital to approach each partnership with an open-mind. Focus will be on the innovation themes: Protein Shift, Food & Health and Circular Agrifood. Only together can we make the connections to uptake innovation and boost change. We welcome partners to get involved.”
“Tuesday January 26, the Netherlands' Premier Mark Rutte announced the launch of the Global Coordinating Secretariat. Wouters continues: “We will embrace our leadership role and enhance coordination between partners of the Food Innovation Hub Europe and Food Innovation Hubs elsewhere in the world. This is a truly collaborative effort; it was great to have support for the initiative by Foodvalley members Mengniu Dairy, DSM and Unilever this week at the online WEF Davos panel session on transformation of food systems.”
The strategic partnership of the WEF Food Innovation Hub Europe and the Global Coordinating Secretariat has been established by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; the Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy; the Dutch Province of Gelderland; Oost NL - East Netherlands Development Agency; Unilever; Royal DSM; Rabobank; Topsector Agri & Food; Wageningen University & Research; and Foodvalley NL.
More than 20 organizations are already working together as Food Innovation Hubs in Colombia, India, Europe, South-East Asia and several countries in Africa. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided multi-year support for the development of a Food Innovation Hub in India and several public and private sector partners have committed in-kind resources to support the development of hubs in various regions.
With country/region-led approaches, the hubs will drive both high-end and low-cost grassroots innovations that could have a scalable impact, as well as innovations involving supply chains, partnerships and business models that will enable systemic change. In November 2020, Foodvalley NL, the World Economic Forum and associated partners announced their partnership in the Food Innovation Hubs.