The FIT launches a new programme for start-ups in the food, nutrition and hospitality sectors

FIT | 01 September 2021

With the launch of a Food & Hospitality Vertical, the Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT) is for the first time implementing field-specific support for start-ups. The Food & Hospitality Vertical includes two programmes: FIT Food & Hospitality by EHL for digital start-ups (previously known as FIT Digital by EHL and launched in 2019) and the new FIT Food Tech, launched in association with Nestlé, aiming to foster collaboration and investment between food-industry and early-stage tech start-ups in the local innovation ecosystem. B’ZEOS is the first start-up to take part in the FIT Food Tech.

Switzerland has long been a hub for the food and nutrition industry. Western Switzerland is home to major multinationals (such as Nestlé, Givaudan and Firmenich), top-class universities (such as EPFL, EHL and UNIL), advanced R&D centers and over 80 start-ups in the food industry. In Switzerland, this industry has the second-highest number of patents behind pharmaceuticals. Organizations within the Canton of Vaud in particular have been rolling out a number of initiatives to support food and nutrition research; these include EPFL’s Integrative Food & Nutrition Center, EHL’s Innovation Village and the Nestlé R&D Accelerator. In 2020, a consortium comprising the Canton of Vaud, EPFL, EHL Group and Nestlé – all of which are FIT sponsors or partners – launched the Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley association.

Building on these initiatives, the FIT launches the Food & Hospitality Vertical, which includes the new FIT Food Tech in partnership with Nestlé, alongside the Food & Hospitality by EHL programme. “This Food & Hospitality Vertical is a significant milestone for the FIT, as it is our first field-specific support. In addition to our partnership with EHL, we are pleased to include a new programme with Nestlé. The aim is to provide start-ups with the support of a world leading multinational company in its sector with future investment opportunities”, says David Kappeler, Director & Head of Investments of the FIT.

The FIT Food Tech aims at initiating potential investments and bringing together food-industry and start-ups. As part of the programme, the FIT will allocate loans of CHF 100’000.- to start-ups in Western Switzerland that have an innovative, sustainable and scalable business idea in the field of food and nutrition. FIT Food Tech is launched in partnership with Nestlé and it is open to other companies in the sector that might want to join. These corporates participating in the new FIT Food Tech will have the option to invest in the start-ups.

Closely related to the field of nutrition, the hospitality sector – including travel, tourism, and entertainment – offers significant potential for digital innovations. Therefore, just like the initial FIT Digital by EHL programme, Food & Hospitality by EHL will continue supporting digital start-ups addressing key challenges within these industries, with grants of CHF 20’000.- and loans of up to CHF 200’000.-. The start-ups participating in this programme will benefit from the infrastructure and network of EHL’s Innovation Village.

B’ZEOS, a first start-up benefiting from the FIT Food Tech to develop seaweed-based packaging
With 275 million tonnes of plastic waste generated globally each year, and half of them coming from packaging, B’ZEOS’ sustainable packaging alternative has strong potential. The start-up develops a novel solution based on seaweed extract that is flexible and can be used in many current packaging processes. The material comes from sustainable sources – kelps, a type a brown seaweed that can provide a sustainable feedstock for biopolymers through both cultivation and harvesting. The manufacturing process of the material does not use harsh chemicals and does not rely on land-based crops. Furthermore, B’ZEOS’ final product is fully bio-based, marine biodegradable and 100% home compostable.
Originally in Norway and Spain, B’ZEOS will be working with the Institute of Packaging Sciences of Nestlé Research and benefit from the FIT Food Tech programme, including a CHF 100’000 loan.

The FIT Food Tech and FIT Hospitality & Food by EHL programmes give start-ups options to speed up their business development activities and facilitate market entry. Applications to both programmes are open, with following characteristics:

FIT Food Tech
This programme targets start-ups with an innovative technological solution and looking to collaborate with a leader in the food industry. Companies active in the following areas are particularly welcome in the FIT Food Tech programme:

  • Plant-based food & beverages;
  • Personalized nutrition;
  • Affordable and healthy nutrition;
  • Sustainable packaging.

For more information or to apply for the programme:
fondation-fit.ch/en/fit-food-tech

FIT Hospitality & Food by EHL
The FIT Hospitality & Food by EHL programme is proud to support talented individuals and start-ups that provide digital-based solutions to key challenges in the Food & Hospitality industry (including travel and entertainment) and that wish to join the 20 start-ups already members of the EHL Innovation Village.

Since 2019, four start-ups have benefited from FIT Hospitality & Food by EHL: OriginFood, Freelane, Smeetz and PrivateDeal.

For more information or to apply for the programme:
fondation-fit.ch/food-hospitality-ehl