Dragons Den event for nutrition industry a "win-win" for all concerned

The initiative hopes to give entrepreneurs a leg up in a competitive market boosting their chances with a tie-up with DSM. ©iStock/DigitalStorm

DSM has dubbed its forthcoming Innovation Partnering Conference a "win-win" for itself and nutrition entrepreneurs as it looks to unearth the rising stars of fermented foods and bio-preservation.

The nutrition giant has held four previous events of a similar ilk, where budding entrepreneurs and innovators get to pitch their wares in front of DSM executives, but this is the first time it will be held in its home market of the Netherlands.

The latest Innovation Partnering Conference is called 'Connecting Bright Innovations 2017' and is being held on 19-20 September at DSM's new Biotechnology Centre in Delft, the Netherlands.

While the entrepreneurs get a leg up in the market from such a tie-up, the advantage for DSM is that it presents a cheaper alternative than making an acquisition, albeit riskier.

It is also hoping that it might discover a company which can help it speed up its own innovation or boast transformative technology.

To speed up innovation

Speaking to NutraIngredients, Rob Beudeker, senior investment manager at DSM, said: “The overall aim is to speed up our innovation activities, whether that is best served through making an investment in a company or through establishing a new collaboration. That really depends on the case.”

DSM is seeking entries for innovative technologies and products with both near-term (less than 3 years to commercialisation) and longer-term (longer than 3 years to commercialisation) applications in the following areas of interest:

1)Fermentation and enzymatic technologies for new ingredients

2)Bio-preservation solutions for food and beverages

3)Sugar reduction and natural alternative sweeteners

4)Salt reduction and other natural taste modulation solutions

5)Solutions to improve digestive health and bio-availability

6)Food chain efficiency and food waste reduction solutions

A selection committee of DSM and Nutrition Capital Network (NCN) executives will evaluate and interact with applicants to select the invited companies.

Post-conference mentoring from a DSM executive will be available on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, Anterra Capital, a specialist venture capital investor active in the food and agricultural sectors, will attend the conference to scout for investment opportunities across the food supply chain in technology-driven companies.

The four previous events hosted by DSM led to collaborations with eight companies, with DSM acquiring a minority stake in two companies, out of a total of forty companies that pitched.

Advantage of being strategic investor

“I think it’s a win-win situation. For a start-up company, if they work with a strategic investor rather than just a financial investor because a financial investor only provide money,” Beudeker told us.

“A strategic investor gives smart money. We also help them to navigate in the industry to become as successful as possible.”

Another benefit for DSM, according to Beudeker, is that it surmounts the problem that big companies, like DSM, have in to focusing on a niche area.

Through its investment arm, DSM Venturing, DSM has invested in over 50 companies in the US, Europe and Israel.

Typically, it invests over the lifetime of a venture varies from €1 – 20 mlllion, with its typical first investment between €100k and €5m. Its investment stakes are usually between five and 25%.

Previous investment include in functional foods brands Blue Prairie Brands and US probiotics companies Ganeden Biotech.

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