EIC Impact Stories - EIC Corporate Day with AB InBev: what’s been brewing?
This time last year AB inBev, the Belgian beer giant, co-hosted an EIC Corporate Day and opened the doors of their brewery for 32 EIC-innovators. Nearly 100 senior leaders from AB InBev welcomed startups and scaleups that provide innovative technologies in circular economy, smart energy, urban mobility and digital solutions. Let’s take a look back at the event and see what inspirational stories and developments came from it.
Computomics is a German bioinformatics company that tackles the challenges of data-driven crop production systems. During the EIC Corporate Day with AB InBev, CEO Dr. Sebastian Schultheiss pitched their software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology xSeedScore®, which predicts crop phenotypes, powered by artificial intelligence algorithms.
During the matchmaking event, Sebastian had the opportunity to talk to Paolo Bazzoli, the Global Barley & Malt Specialist about the global aspect of barley breeding at AB InBev for local brewing and sourcing operations: “Paolo put us in touch with his colleagues in Colorado (USA), their largest and technologically most advanced barley breeding program. Together with the breeders, we discussed current and upcoming challenges in barley breeding and the need to develop future-proof varieties for a changing climate. Our xSeedScore technology accelerates breeding by predicting how new plant varieties will perform in untested locations and future climates. It can easily incorporate large data sets from multiple data sources using our machine learning algorithms. Our model offers accurate predictions for breeders to advance elite lines faster and future-proof the breeding pipeline for changing climates. AB InBev’s breeding team agreed that we were a good match, as the team had plans in place for extended data collection and we could offer a ready-to-use technology to integrate the data into a model for breeding predictions. The logical next step was to work together in a pilot project on a scale that would be acceptable during COVID-times. What we achieved in this typical project was a good understanding for each other. We analyzed and evaluated AB InBev’s available data and together we set up a comprehensive strategy to leverage all data sources most efficiently. This will be the core of a highly accurate prediction model, optimized for AB InBev’s barley breeding goals. To fully leverage the benefits of xSeedScore® we are now working on moving towards the next level in our partnership, to build a strong collaboration lasting several years, as improving crops takes several breeding cycles over many years.”
“The EIC put us in front of the right person, someone with a global view. Discussing our business during an EIC Corporate Day has a much larger impact than if we set up the meeting ourselves. By being invited, people were able to listen to us and have an NDA in place within a few days, so they could talk about the data sets. That helped to get a deal done fairly quickly.”
Koolmill Systems, based in the UK, offers a paradigm shift in rice (cereal) milling technology, increasing the quantity, quality, and value of rice and resulting by-products from processing. This supports SME millers and small farming communities, creating socio-economic growth. Koolmill’s internationally patented technology is a gentle, low-power, two-stage, cold-milling process. The aim is to achieve optimised production which minimises food loss whilst transforming waste by-products into additional revenue potential and maximising the return of rice and highly nutritious bran from existing harvests. For example, bran can be reprocessed and sold as an ingredient into the human food manufacturing supply chain for high carbohydrate and protein rich diets. CEO Alec Anderson on the EIC Corporate Day with AB InBev:
“As we work with cereal millers, we expected AB InBev to have an interest in processing barley. During my pitch, I mentioned our previous experience milling rice for AB InBev in the US. A staff member, from AB InBev California, was in the audience and this piqued his interest. A chat over lunch led to introductions to senior technical and raw material executives. Within a month of our pitch, we had signed an NDA and AB InBev had shipped raw material samples to the UK. Following successful trials, AB InBev is? exploring Koolmill technology for different applications. We have a unique technology that we believe offers benefits for AB InBev by improving process efficiency and quality whilst reducing environmental impact. Having AB InBev as a potential exploitation route for Koolmill IP, raises our profile making us more interesting to other funding programmes and investors as we seek funding for an ambitious, rapid growth plan. This opportunity to engage with AB InBev, and evaluate our impact, will unlock global markets for us!”
“Without this EIC Corporate Day, we would not have had the opportunity for this pre-vetted interaction with senior decision makers at AB InBev. The gatekeepers normally make it impossible to have this level of access. The role of the EIC, getting the right people to meet at the right time, is crucial. Without this Corporate Day we would not have this initial engagement which has the potential to roll out globally.”
TWEVO is a Portuguese high-tech start-up that has developed a wireless system for mobile robotic communications called REVOsdr, which provides reliable and secure long-range real-time connectivity. CTO Carlos Ribeiro attended the EIC Corporate Day with AB inBev last year.
“We had the chance to communicate our product to high senior people, but also to talk with fellow start-ups and start partnerships. AB inBev was interested in involving us in a significant project involving packaging systems, and our wireless system that is meant to be used in Industry 4.0 applications. We set up a pilot from February 2020 to July 2020, where we fully tested the technology and adapted it to their requirements. Basically, the product that we pitched in February had nothing to do with what we delivered a few months later. We had to tune it, dial it and design a new product to fit their requirements. The pilot had a huge impact for us. We decided to get a second product line just to address Industry 4.0 in food and beverage. We have two product lines now, expected to reach the market in 2021 and one of them is the result of this Corporate Day. We realised the potential of our product for a whole new market that we were not aware of. Really a pivoting point. It’s a huge market with few competitors and loads of interesting business case. To see if the assumptions we got from the pilot are correct for other customers in the food and beverage-sector. ABI is an important reference point in this.”
“The EIC gave us the chance to talk to people with decision power. No need to climb the ladder, because you’re talking directly with people who have the power to say yes or no. You remove the middle man and you can accelerate efficiently.”
“Today we’re turning ideas into reality. Contact with large businesses is crucial for startups. It is a win-win situation: the startups can create cooperation and connections, while the business can identify new emerging technologies.” With those words Jean-David Malo, Director of the EIC, opened the event in February 2020. In hindsight we can say that plenty of win-win situations were created! For more inspiring success stories, as well as EIC events, please check the EIC Community.