Welcome to our new Managing Director: Christina Senn-Jakobsen

“I can imagine no higher privilege than doing my part to put Switzerland firmly on the map as a leading nation for food innovation”

A conversation with Christina Senn-Jakobsen, SFNV Managing Director

I always say food is the best thing in the world,” says Senn-Jakobsen, smiling as she recalls some of the best meals of her life.

Food has always played a central role in Christina Senn-Jakobsen’s life. Hailing from a family with agricultural roots in Denmark, her interest in health and nutrition led to studies in food science and technology, and from there to a varied career in food innovation – including 12 years at leading consumer goods company Mondelez International in roles spanning R&D, innovation management, marketing and strategy. She has now been appointed as the new Managing Director of the Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley (SFNV).

“I always say food is the best thing in the world,” says Senn-Jakobsen, smiling as she recalls some of the best meals of her life. “People can relate to that: food brings us together. Notice how now, in the time of Covid-19, what most of us miss most is sitting around a table with friends. We bond over food. Whatever the celebration, there’s always food! Food allows us to travel, so even sitting here in Zurich, I can experience a piece of Spain by eating paella, or Japan with a bowl of udon noodles.

Food is why the Danish native, who has called Switzerland home for the last 14 years, pursued a Master’s in European Food Studies from Wageningen University: “Food nurtures our bodies, it helps children grow into healthy adults, and allows athletes to perform to the best of their abilities. The right food helps us focus, gives us energy and boosts our immune system. Good food really does nurture soul, body and mind.

Christina Senn-Jakobsen

Managing Director of the Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley

Yet as she worked her way up the career ladder in the food industry, Senn-Jakobsen came to realise that food is also – in her own words – the absolute worst. “It is the biggest sinner when it comes to destroying our planet and human health. A third of food is wasted and we urgently need to lower our consumption of animal products, address soil depletion and plastic waste. What’s more, we can’t even feed everybody alive on Earth today and poor nutrition leads to illnesses that lower life expectancy and quality. So our food system is fundamentally broken.

That is not to say Senn-Jakobsen is without hope. Far from it: her sense of optimism is palpable, even across the virtual divide necessitated by Covid-19. “I really believe it is important that we do not sink into a depression about the challenges we face. It is very hard to act once you have lost hope. And there is a lot of work to be done! When we started mass-producing food during the Industrial Revolution, we did not understand the consequences of over-production, over-consumption, over-processing and over-packaging. But we cannot blame ourselves for that – we simply did not know any better.” Of course, today, says Senn-Jakobsen, we are far wiser: “Let’s celebrate the knowledge that we now have and get to work. We need to build a better, healthier, more sustainable food system and we can have fun while doing so!

My ambition is that the majority of Swiss actors in food and nutrition will become members of the SFNV in the years to come.

This proactive enthusiasm will resonate with many, particularly the movers and shakers of the Swiss food ecosystem. And that’s exactly who Senn-Jakobsen plans to involve further in the organisation’s efforts. “We have already welcomed so many fantastic actors as members of the SFNV. My ambition is that the majority of Swiss actors in food and nutrition will become members of the SFNV in the years to come. We’ll offer value that they won’t want to miss out on and each member will also bring their own unique value to the organisation.” And she adds, “The more members we have, the more creative opportunities for collaboration.”

When it comes to tackling our global food challenges, collaboration is key

For Senn-Jakobsen, the most important concept is exactly that: collaboration.Some commentators talk about food innovation coming from one company, or one particular field of science. But in my opinion, true change won’t ever come from just one sector or one group of people. All of these sectors are interconnected – or they would be, in an ideal world. So we have to foster that cooperation. Together we can achieve more, more quickly than any of us could possibly do on our own.”

She cites the example of an early-stage food tech startup:The company might be working on some amazing technology in their spare room, but it will take time to scale up, apply for a patent, raise the funds needed. It could take ten years – or more! – for this technology to become widely available. But instead, if you teamed up with a company who had knowledge in distribution and patenting, you could take off much more quickly.” Nurturing relationships between actors in the food system is one of Senn-Jakobsen’s main priorities as she takes up her role as Managing Director. 

She sees six major sectors as instrumental to the food and agri-nutrition industry within Switzerland: the government and cantons, corporates and SMEs, academic and research institutions like ETH Zurich, as well as startups and investors. The sixth is a group she likes to call ‘enablers’, denoting interest groups, accelerators, collaborators and innovation platforms. “All of these six groups are working on incredible initiatives or undertaking amazing research, and there are already some good collaborative initiatives between two or three organisations from these separate sectors. However, what’s missing is the unifying umbrella organisation where all actors from each of these six sectors can come together. I hope the SFNV can be that connective tissue. We have all the tools – we just need to line them up in the right way.”

We are on the cutting edge of food and nutrition innovation here in Switzerland and we have a duty to share our knowledge, expertise and resources with other countries around the world.

Switzerland is, after all, one of the most food innovation-dense countries in the world.We have some of the leading research institutions here when it comes to food and agri-nutrition,” says Senn-Jakobsen. “We have the top food and flavour companies in the world – think Givaudan, Firmenich, Nestlé. Cantons and the federal government are increasingly engaging in topics related to food and nutrition innovation. And we have this fertile startup culture, much of it centred around food. 

For Senn-Jakobsen, this brings both an obligation and an opportunity.We are on the cutting edge of food and nutrition innovation here in Switzerland and we have a duty to share our knowledge, expertise and resources with other countries around the world.” She attributes her global outlook to stints living and working in 14 different countries, a perspective that will inform her work at the SFNV. “This knowledge also gives us the opportunity to attract talents from outside Switzerland, whether that’s PhD students, amazing startups, SMEs, investors. That is going to be a big part of my job: advertising what we have here and making people aware that coming here is conducive to innovation.” 

Senn-Jakobsen believes that Switzerland has a way to go before it is firmly anchored in the public consciousness as a hub for food innovation. This is not for want of exciting developments in the sector, but rather due to a lack of awareness. “If you ask people to name the world’s top pioneering food innovation hubs? They say Food Valley in Wageningen, they mention the Kitchen FoodTech Hub in Israel. They might refer to Kitchentown Silicon Valley in California. Generally, they do not refer to Switzerland. They perhaps note an individual university or company, but not Switzerland as a whole. My goal for the SFNV is that together we can show what a fertile place Switzerland is when it comes to food, agriculture and nutrition – the right place for both local and global players to engage.

She is equally clear-eyed about the obstacles that could crop up along the way.The biggest issue I foresee is acknowledging that the SFNV cannot be everything for everyone. We are collaborating with six very different sectors and within these, there might be hundreds of companies, universities and individuals. So that is why I am keen to have members set their own agenda, in line with the bigger purpose of the SFNV.” Finding a common language will also help: “One that’s not corporate, not academic, not too much jargon, but something that resonates with all of these sectors.

The entrepreneurship culture is so needed. It makes you want to jump out of bed because you know you are doing the right thing and following your dream for a better world.

Source: Unsplash

Despite the challenges that await, Senn-Jakobsen is galvanised by the task ahead. She mentions the bubbling sense of optimism among entrepreneurs, investors and corporate innovation teams observed in her previous role as Food Vertical Lead at the Zurich-based accelerator program Kickstart. “That culture is so needed. It makes you want to jump out of bed because you know you are doing the right thing and following your dream for a better world. I hope the SFNV can be part of that for many people and companies.”

For Senn-Jakobsen personally, her new role at the SFNV is a source of both joy and responsibility:Having the opportunity to oversee the work of the SFNV is a dream come true. I’m being given a chance to do something about these issues that keep me up at night. I can imagine no higher privilege than doing my part to put Switzerland firmly on the map as a leading nation for food innovation and seeing the results of this work evolve. I feel like my whole career path has led me to this exact place and I am so excited to get started.

Christina Senn-Jakobsen takes over her new position from Fathi Derder, who has been leading early implementation of the SFNV’s work for the past 18 months. The SFNV Committee extends its thanks to Mr. Derder for his contribution to the Swiss food innovation ecosystem during this time.

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WEBINAR: Introduction to NTN InnoBooster for Swiss Food Ecosystems
WEBINAR: Introduction to NTN InnoBooster for Swiss Food Ecosystems

The China Agri-Food-Tech Bootcamp 2021 offers Swiss startups a unique opportunity to take a deep dive into the fast-growing Agri-Food space in China, gain insight into the specific IP / legal frameworks while connecting with potential partners and customers.

Organized by swissnex China and Innosuisse, this program will provide tailored support to participating startups via virtual workshops, exclusive pitch sessions to investors, IP & regulation consulting, as well as market research reporting, connecting them with investors, industry experts and potential partners, while maximizing their exposure to a broad audience in China. This program is offered free of charge to the selected startup attendees.

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2021: A taste of the future

2021: A taste of the future

Dear Reader,

As we enter a new period and welcome 2021, we’re taking a few minutes to reflect back on an unprecedented first year. As for many others, the Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley expected 2020 to go quite differently. 

Not so long ago, our schedules were filled with in-person events and meetings with many of you across the country and around the globe. These plans quickly changed due to the current pandemic. But innovation never sleeps and instead, we’ve had to pleasure to connect with many of you through video calls, webinars, as well as our first General Assembly which was a first step towards gathering the Swiss food ecosystem under one – albeit virtual – roof.

The pandemic has also been revealing. On the one hand, we’ve accelerated the need to transition to a more resilient food system, locally and across the globe. On the other hand, it’s highlighted consumers’ willingness to change their habits towards healthier and more sustainable practices. These developments further underline the relevance and necessity of initiatives such as the SFNV.

We’d like to thank you for your part in keeping Switzerland’s food innovation ecosystem growing; and to all of our new members who have joined us in our mission to establish Switzerland as a global food and nutrition innovation hub.

Wishing you a very happy new year and look forward to continuing the discussion with many of you in 2021,

Christian Schwab, EPFL
President of the Executive Committee
Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley

Our goals for 2021 :

Key Objectives

To contribute to solving some of the most pressing food-related global issues.

To attract further talent, start-ups and investments, as well as connecting existing actors.

To establish Switzerland as a world reference in sustainable food and nutrition innovation. 

Levels of Action

We Foster Ecosystems

We strengthen and promote the Swiss food innovation ecosystem by uniting key stakeholders, enabling collaboration and attracting talent, startups and investment to Switzerland.

To Advance Innovation

We create content and establish project plans to address major challenges in food, nutrition and agriculture, from a sustainability perspective, using cutting-edge science and technology.

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Aquantis: Developing sensors for inline quality control and process monitoring

Aquantis: Developing sensors for inline quality control and process monitoring

Aquantis is a Swiss company specialized in innovative sensors based on electromagnetic wave technologies. 

 

Variations in raw materials or external factors may result in unwanted effects on a food product quality. Regular or continuous process monitoring is critical to ensure the quality standards are met and maintained. Based at the EPFL Innovation Park, in Lausanne (Canton of Vaud), Aquantis investigates and develops new inline sensor solutions using micro and millimeter wave technologies.

The company provides innovative inline sensor solutions for various applications including freezing, moisture and particle size determination. Their product portfolio includes both atline and inline monitoring solutions for solid and liquid products. 

Widely applicable to various materials and processes, Aquantis’s technology allows to evaluate both the surface and the inside of the products, including the determination of:

 

Find out more:

As a service, the startup also provide project-based feasibility studies and more extensive evaluations to further optimise production processes. 

Aquantis SA
EPFL Innovation Park
Bâtiment C, 1015 Lausanne.

Info@aquantis.org

Prof. Jacques-E. Moser
je.moser@epfl.ch

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In Molondin, the Agropôle is building an international innovation campus for 2025.

In Molondin, the Agropôle is building an international innovation campus for 2025.

In Molondin (State of Vaud), the Agropôle has been developing its new campus to further innovation in food and agriculture. This week, they unveiled their goals and targets for 2025.

Build an internationally renowned innovation campus by 2025

Their objectives are clear: start-ups, SMEs and industries must be able to find in the Agropôle an accelerator, enabling them to create, implement and disseminate their innovations with agility and at a lower cost. All this for the benefit of the environment, the economy and consumers. 

Currently under development with completion date set for 2025, the new concept is positioning itself as a Swiss campus of excellence in the industrialisation and marketing of innovative agri-food products. A role it plays in pursuing the United Nations’ objectives for sustainable development :

SDG Target 9: Society Democratize Solutions 
The role of the Agropôle is to democratize the sustainable solutions of tomorrow, all for the benefit of the actors in the agri-food value chain and consumers.

SDG Target 13: Climate Carbon Footprint
The agri-food sector has a major impact in terms of CO2 reduction. The Agropôle site is designed to meet greenhouse gas reduction standards.

SDG Target 8: Economic Growth
The Agropôle platform is an accelerator for the development of cleantech solutions useful to the agri-food industry, to promote sustainable business models.

SDG Target 17: Community Development
The Agropôle works in collaboration with existing actors, whether public, private, research-related or entrepreneurial, in Switzerland and abroad.

Innovation in the agri-food sector is our concrete objective to ensure the sustainability of the sector, preserve the environment and ensure food sovereignty.

The Agropôle

Learn more on www.agropole.ch

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ADM Switzerland wins Fi Europe Innovation Awards for its new alt-protein ingredient made out of peas.

ADM Switzerland wins Fi Europe Innovation Awards for its new alt-protein ingredient made out of peas.

Winning in best Ingredient Innovation this year, ADM’s ProFam Pea provides a cleaner, less bitter taste experience than other pea proteins and reduces the need for masking or top notes.

The plant-based boom is one of the top 2021 global industry trends identified by ADM, and it is reaching new heights in Europe where more than 50 percent of consumers identify as flexitarians. 

FI Europe Innovation Awards recognizes an organization or company that has submitted the best ingredient or process in terms of sensory and physical properties or application costs. Winning in best Ingredient Innovation this year, ADM’s ProFam Pea provides a cleaner, less bitter taste experience than other pea proteins and reduces the need for masking or top notes.

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EPFL Spin-off Plastogaz awarded CHF 85K to further its research in sustainable disposal of plastic waste

EPFL Spin-off Plastogaz awarded CHF 85K to further its research in sustainable disposal of plastic waste

Plastogaz, a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), has developed a technology that uses powerful catalysts to selectively convert mixed plastics that cannot be recycled into methane.

Plastogaz is a technology company founded in 2020 that focuses on the development of new processes for the circular economy. Awarded CHF 85’000 by Tech4impact to further its research, the swiss startup is developing a technology that has the potential to considerably reduce the greenhouse gases resulting from the disposal of plastic waste (e.g. through incineration). 

Almost 100 project teams responded to the first call for proposals launched by Switzerland Innovation together with Tech4Impact and partners from the Swiss economy. Six projects were selected based on their degree of innovation, sustainability and technology. The topics addressed by the award-winning projects range from reducing water consumption to renewable heat generation and the improved usability of electronic waste. 

The Plastogaz™ process

The original Plastogaz technology transforms plastic waste into grid-compatible methane. The technology can be declined into other products for other markets. For instance, the startup claims is can also transform mixed plastics into naphtha, which is used in turn to produce new plastics. In the long term and thanks to it’s innovative process, the company aims at converting heterogeneous feedstocks into a single, ready-to-use molecule.

Tech4Impact: A Boost for Innovation Projects

The Switzerland Innovation Tech4Impact initiative aims to help pioneering innovation projects addressing one of six selected UN Sustainable Development Goals achieve a breakthrough. In order to qualify for a subsidy, the proposed project must be based on an advanced technology that will reach maturity and application within the next three years.

The award-winning project teams are to receive a CHF 85,000 grant. The funds are designed to give the innovation projects a considerable boost, make them ready for market launch or allow them to embark on further development. The subsidies are financed by the following innovation partners: ABB, Credit Suisse, Die Mobiliar, economiesuisse, Interpharma, Schindler, Swiss Re Foundation, Swisscom, UBS and Zurich Insurance.

More information is available at: www.sitech4impact.ch

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