As the world looks to resolve complex, interconnected, and urgent challenges related to agriculture – such as food and nutrition security, climate change, biodiversity loss, and deforestation – the importance of scientific innovation has never been greater. The Technology Executive Committee of the UNFCCC indicates that technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation will play a vital role in tackling these challenges and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP) is a venture space that builds on CGIAR’s legacy of research and innovation to support both incremental and transformational innovation to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges at the nexus of agriculture, environment, and health. A4IP bridges science and entrepreneurship to incubate and accelerate scientific innovations and generates both impact and the resources needed to support continued research in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.
A4IP bridges science and entrepreneurship to incubate and accelerate scientific innovations
According to the Agfunder AgriFoodTech Investment Report, venture capital investment into agri-food technologies increased 85% in the year 2021 pouring a record $51.7 billion into innovative ag-tech and food-tech startups offering more profitable, accessible, efficient, safer, and greener solutions. Since 2015, global food companies have begun establishing venture funds and startup incubator programs, reflecting the shift away from traditional research and development models.
The Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP) keeps up to speed in this fast-evolving environment, rethinking business-as-usual and investigating models to capitalize on the emerging opportunities offered by the evolving funding landscape and the organization’s need to work more closely with the private sector.
A4IP is articulated around three pillars:
- Valorize dormant know-how by incubating and accelerating existing science-based innovations stuck in the precommercial phase, connecting them with the innovation ecosystem, and promoting an Open Innovation culture.
- Co-design and launch novel transformative innovations by de-risking pioneer market-driven research and funding visionary teams and their scientific creativity to find breakthrough solutions.
- Nurture and institutionalize an entrepreneurial mindset and market-oriented culture by offering training, mentoring opportunities, and digital hangouts while attracting the future generation of entrepreneurial scientists.
In November 2021, the first global Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge received almost 350 submissions, involving 1,050 startups from 76 countries. A total of 16 awards were granted to winning pitches, including enrollment in the CGIAR x Investor Readiness Program offered in partnership with Rockstart.
The Agri-Food Tech Innovation Forum, “The Role of Venture Capital in Agricultural and Food Systems: Creating Opportunities and Scaling Up Science-Based Innovations,” in November 2021 convened experts from Valoral Advisors, Deep Science Ventures, Food@Google, Seedstars, CiBO Technologies-Flagship Pioneering, the Italian Institute of Technology, Rockstart, Pluton Biosciences, Knorr at Unilever, USDA, IFAD, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discuss models to bridge the gap for accelerating innovation and de-risking innovative research and scaling processes.
In Spring 2022, A4IP plans to launch the AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge, aimed at improving the efficiency, competitiveness, and sustainability of the agriculture sector. The top 20 teams will be awarded with a three-day intensive bootcamp in Meknes, and finalists receive a tailored three-month acceleration program.
The A4IP scouts founders of innovative science-driven companies to present their scaling journey to CGIAR scientists and discuss avenues for collaboration during the Venture-Out Events series. The first event was inspired by A4IP’s collaboration with GoMicro, a phone-based detection app to assess grain quality in Africa by utilizing cost-effective mobile attachments and showcased the power of artificial intelligence products and services to provide solutions to farmers. A second iteration convened an all-CGIAR audience for a conversation about technological innovation for soil health with STENON, an innovative ag-tech startup that provides farmers with a technology solution for independent, real-time soil analysis.
A4IP also works to strengthen and institutionalize innovation activities at CGIAR. A4IP is now launching VentureSpace, a virtual innovation ecosystem for entrepreneurs, scientists, experts, investors to connect and collaborate with one another, and even participate in programming like capacity building courses and innovation challenges.
Header image: A maize farmer in Kisumu, Kenya, who has signed up to receive text messages from the CIAT-led Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS). The messages provide vital information on crop management, including planting times and fertiliser application. Photo by N. Palmer/CIAT