Valley members come together for SFNV’s third General Assembly
On Friday May 6, SFNV members came together at our third General Assembly to celebrate our joint achievements so far and explore the key opportunities for impact in the coming months. Here are a few of our highlights.
A vibrant and diverse community
Martin Vetterli, SFNV’s President, kicked off the General Assembly by sharing his thoughts on how the role of food in our lives has evolved. Once a sheer matter of survival, food has now become an integral part of our lifestyles. But at the same time, key events in 2021, like the blockage of the Suez Canal, the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have reminded us of the interdependence and fragility of global food systems – and the importance of constantly seeking new solutions to emerging challenges.
Martin stressed that this is exactly why collaboration and innovation is so important. But he’s also been heartened to see such a huge appetite for change across the Swiss food ecosystem over the last two years. In April 2021, the Valley had 39 members. This year, SFNV has grown into a vibrant and diverse community of 93 companies and organizations, representing the full spectrum of Swiss knowledge and expertise – from global corporations and leading Swiss academic organisations to early-stage startups, scaleups and SMEs.
Choosing to be part of the solution
While presenting SFNV’s activity report, Christina reminded attendees that only sustainable food systems can deliver positive impact and a strong financial return. Ecosystem actors can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution every day. She thanked all Valley members for becoming part of the community – and for choosing to become part of the solution.
So far, SFNV has mapped the Swiss FoodTech ecosystem, launched Impact Platforms on precision nutrition and sustainable protein and become a recognized player in the Swiss food innovation landscape. Together with Martin – who was unanimously reelected for another term as SFNV President – Christina and the Valley community will now:
- launch three more Impact Platforms on Food Systems 4.0, the Future of Farming and Sustainable Packaging
- run a series of events to attract talent and facilitate networking and knowledge exchange
- onboard 30+ members to strengthen the diversity of the Valley’s network
- continue to grow SFNV’s online presence and global reach
The world’s pilot plant
SFNV Executive Committee members were also invited to share their personal perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in the Swiss food innovation ecosystem. They noted that Switzerland has the potential to become the world’s pilot plant. SFNV has a key role to play in working alongside Government partners to create the conditions in which innovations can scale, and enabling food startups to drive economic development and job creation. They Valley should also function as a platform that shows budding innovators what is possible and inspires them to act.
In response to these remarks, SFNV members agreed that Switzerland has all the key ingredients needed to become a leading player in the global food innovation scene but a clearer strategy is needed to articulate our USP. Members also noted that entrepreneurs who haven’t graduated from a Swiss university could benefit from more support.
Building a unicorn nation
Finally, Martin invited Andri Silberschmidt, a Member of the National Council of Switzerland and fellow food entrepreneur, to share his thoughts on the strengths and limitations of entrepreneurship in Switzerland.
He acknowledged that, unlike recent developments in other leading food nations, the Swiss government is unlikely to invest directly in specific industries. Switzerland’s focus has always been on encouraging collaboration between academia, industry and startups. But he recognized that there was still a lot that government colleagues, alongside ecosystem actors, could do to make Switzerland a successful unicorn nation.
Andri believes that it will be critical to teach children and young adults entrepreneurial skills from an earlier age, reduce the administrative barriers to creating a company and ensure there is financial support available for those who try and fail. He explained how he and his colleagues are working on making it easier for innovators and talented students from non-EU countries to settle and work in Switzerland. He also highlighted the importance of ensuring that promising startups have access to the Series B, C and D funding they need to scale and grow in Switzerland.
He called on SFNV members to be specific about which legislative issues are creating barriers to growth and shared a few examples of how he’s already worked with members and sector leaders to achieve tangible changes.
Executive Committee members stressed that the Swiss policy framework needs to support the products that represent the future of food and allow R&D developments to rapidly progress to consumer testing. They noted that the US and UK also have a Small Business Act that is designed to make procurement more SME-friendly and would welcome a similar approach in Switzerland. Finally, they called on the Government to remember their commitment to the 2030 agenda and consider who is part of the problem today and who can be part of the solution tomorrow when defining national food and nutrition policies.
The meeting drew to a close with a networking session that gave SFNV members a chance to connect in person after many months of virtual meetings. Discussions covered current challenges and recent successes – from product launches through funding rounds to new partnerships.
The SFNV team heard loud and clear that there is appetite for more social events, so we’ll be developing a new event format to bring the Valley community together more regularly. In the meantime, we’d like to thank everyone who joined us in person and online and we look forward to connecting again soon.
We’ll soon be launching our next Impact Platform on Food Systems 4.0.
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