EIC Greenathon: building a more sustainable future one step at a time
The EIC Greenathon finished well over a month ago. Eight teams, consisting solely of EIC-beneficiaries, worked together on real-life sustainable challenges posed by some of Europe’s largest innovation players like Saint-Gobain, Danfoss and Henkel dx Ventures. After they pitched their exciting ideas, the big question is ‘What’s next?’ The coming months we will be meeting up with EIC-beneficiaries and corporates alike, to discuss what’s in the pipeline for 2021.
With a total of three distinct EIC Greenathon-challenges, Henkel dx Ventures showed its commitment to a greener and more sustainable future. They had four EIC-teams working on their challenges in the areas of ‘Sustainable Marketplace’, ‘Plastic Matchmaking Platform’ and ‘Biotech for Sustainable packaging’. We got together with Jeremy Schönwalder, Global Open Innovation Lead at Henkel dx Ventures, and Pedro Forjaz Carreiro, co-founder and CMO at EIC-funded Agristarbio, and part of the EIC-team that worked on Henkel’s ‘Sustainable Marketplace’-challenge.
Diversity on display
Having access to a large portfolio of start-ups is always a plus for Jeremy, but it’s not everyday that he gets the opportunity to meet and work with such a diverse portfolio: “We really liked the broad access to over 5,000 start-ups. They were diverse in the broadest sense of the word: very gender-balanced and many differences in terms of background, technologies and nationality,” Jeremy noted. Besides the diverse portfolio, the sustainable co-creation aspect was also one of the key points for Jeremy, noting that: “We had the opportunity to bring our own sustainable challenges into a creative hackathon and really work with founders and start-ups on tangible solutions”.
Pedro was one such founder, who attended the Greenathon on behalf of his EIC-funded company Agristarbio. Citing that Agristarbio’s purpose and innovation is “circular economy to the max”, the choice to attend the Greenathon was an easy one: “We are trying to develop a network with sustainable champions for our cause. Working with both fellow EIC-SMEs as well as corporates in this environment brings you closer together”. In addition, Pedro relished the challenge and was excited to work on something new: “Trying to come up with innovative solutions is always a challenge. When we work in a start-up, we are almost obsessed with it. To be given a new and different challenge, that feels good. To do it with like-minded people, all from different backgrounds, feels even better”. Pedro and the rest of the EIC-team worked on the ‘Sustainable Marketplace’-challenge, pitching an idea focused on bringing transparency to the supply chain. “We came up with a monitoring system that looks at all the supply chains, gathers info in QR codes, therefore allowing you to have a view of your ecological footprint. With this info, brand managers can benchmark it against their competitors,” Pedro commented. The second step involved communication: “Once you have the data, you can disseminate and claim changes for the better. You can communicate regularly on this and gain notoriety on making your businesses more sustainable. In short, more transparency and effective sustainability,” he concluded.
Straight after the pitching sessions were concluded, Henkel dx Ventures invited Pedro and the rest of his EIC-teams to its own hackathon: the Xathon 2020, which took place from November 20-22. Jeremy: “The Xathon is the biggest female creative ideation hackathon of Europe. This year, we had 70 participants, mostly female founders, working on their ideas.” Also Pedro and one of his team-members had the chance to join the event, much to Jeremy’s delight: “Just like in the Greenathon they showed an incredible amount of commitment and dedication to deep dive with us on the concepts they presented earlier. All in all, they really nailed it!”
For Pedro it was an opportunity to further deepen his relationship with Henkel, noting that “we are pre-revenue, so we need to find partners with the right mindset. Having these talks and engagements with Henkel can help us on our mission.” As to what will happen to the solution they came up with, Pedro expressed: “I hope we can take on this cooperation together”. Seeing as he is still in touch with his team-members, as well as Henkel, he has high hopes for the project: “Henkel is discussing our project and will keep us updated on the evolution. If this leads to something tangible, it will be amazing.” Jeremy added: “we at Henkel dx Ventures really believe in open innovation. That is why we are still in exchange and close contact with all the Greenathon SMEs. Some focus more on R&D, others on the corporate venture space. We will invite them the upcoming period and see how we can collaborate further.”