EIC Corporate Corner with AB InBev: Ready for another round?
The European Innovation Council (EIC) regularly hosts EIC Corporate Days, matchmaking events between Europe's largest corporates and EIC beneficiaries. In this new series, we will discover what makes these corporates tick, what is their approach to innovation and what they are looking for. This month we are joined by David de Schutter, Global VP of GITEC, and Jacqueline Hochreiter, AB InBev’s Head of Sustainability Europe.
On 24 and 25 June 2021, the European Innovation Council (EIC) in collaboration with AB InBev, the global brewing company, brought together 25 EIC-beneficiaries for yet another EIC Corporate Day. Attending SMEs had the chance to pitch their innovative new solutions and services in the fields of sustainable packing materials, renewable energy and water efficiency.
Can you briefly describe your role within the company?
David: I am the Global Vice President of GITEC, which is AB InBev’s global R&D centre. Our scope is mainly consumer innovation, but also supply innovation so we're really innovating our production systems to make them more efficient and energy friendly.
Jacqueline: I am AB InBev’s Head of Sustainability Europe.
Can you tell us more about your approach to (open) innovation?
David: We've always been relying on our work with universities to develop innovations together and bring them to the market or our supply system. Of course, the suppliers are not always innovative, so we decided to reach out to startups and small innovators as well. We believe this is where the real innovation happens. With open innovation, you can attract a great amount of talent in different fields of expertise, like packaging, product development and nutrition. As a company, you need to reach out to your ecosystems to find new ideas and that’s how we approach innovation
Jacqueline: I am responsible for the 100+ accelerator Europe, a program that seeks out the world’s best innovators and inventors to help us solve some of our planet’s most pressing issues. We also have a will to broaden the 100+ scope to Europe, partnering with local agencies & incubator hubs to strengthen our sustainability start-up pipeline and pilot more solutions that could change the world.
Recently you teamed up with the EIC to co-host an EIC Corporate Day. Can you explain the motivations behind joining forces with the EIC?
David: First of all, this is a great collaboration for us, because the EIC has a very large network of startups within their portfolio. Also, the EIC is doing a lot of prework and the startups pitching to us have already gone through rigorous evaluations. As a result, the quality of startups that pitched in our Corporate days these past years is high. And that's something we appreciate a lot. On a daily basis, I get many approaches from startups, but it's very difficult to judge quality based on just a few lines.
Jacqueline Hochreiter: Connected to the 100+ accelerator Europe, the EIC presents a unique opportunity to get to know best-in-class startups and scale-ups. Thanks to these days, we can better understand their businesses and move to develop a product-market that meets our business & sustainability needs.
What mindset and skills do you look for in companies you bring to your ecosystem?
David: It’s a good thing when the culture of the startups matches with ours: we are fast-paced, we dream big, and we want to move fast. As for the collaboration, we also want to adapt to the startup’s needs, but we also have our systems and ways of working. In other words, we are looking for mutual understanding. It also depends on attitude, a lot of empathy for each other's shortcomings and -, of course, the belief and the openness to look at the bigger picture that we can create together.
Jacqueline: The driving force behind our culture is reflected in our 10 principles - corporates who dream big, are excited about the future, are agile and focused on solving real world problems. “Challenge Accepted” is not just a phrase at AB InBev!
What type of partnerships are you looking for with startups?
David: Some startups are looking for additional funding, while others just want to have proof of concepts. In the end what we're always looking for is value for all parties. And if those elements are not there, we will never have a collaboration. If we really invest in a startup, it depends on how we see the future: will it become part of our core business on the long term? If so, we do a matchmaking with our suppliers as well, so we are able to scale them faster. In short, we're open to any kind of collaboration depending on the needs of all parties.
Recently the EIC launched the EIC fund. If you are looking into (co-)investment, what are the main factors you take into consideration?
David: We have the ZX Ventures group within AB InBev. They are investing in startups , based on certain strategic priorities. They are also boosting entrepreneurship and strategic investments in businesses that we think can grow exponentially in the future. And that's really one of the reasons why we will invest, not just for a small improvement in our supply chain, but also for something that can become really big in the future.
Jacqueline: There are, of course, many factors we take into account, but if I have to name of few, I would say growth potential (scalability), product market fit, financial sustainability and uncompromising environmental impact reduction.
Any advice/tips for companies that want to work with you?
David: We are always open to good ideas and companies that want to create value together. So, if any startup is willing to join us to make the future better, then we’re definitely open for business!
Jacqueline: Take a big breath and jump in!
More EIC Corporate Days?
Want to have the opportunity to create win-win situations with Europe’s largest corporates? The EIC regularly hosts Corporate Days, for the moment fully online. For further events please keep an eye on our BAS calendar. For more impressions and info on EIC Corporate Days check out our EIC Corporate Day Highlight report and video.