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Opinion: Switzerland – Pioneering Food Industry Innovation at the Heart of Europe

Europe’s most innovative country for 12 consecutive years, according to the European Innovation Scoreboard – is shaping the future of the food industry through its innovative approaches. Thomas Bohn, CEO of the Greater Geneva Bern area, and Christina Senn-Jakobsen, managing director of Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley (SFNV), explain why the country is such a hotbed for food tech innovation. 

Thomas Bohn, CEO of Greater Geneva Bern, and Christina Senn-Jakobsen, managing director of Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley

With a population of 8.5 million multilingual and innovation-curious consumers with high expectations for quality, Switzerland offers an ideal test market for businesses seeking to introduce new food and beverage products into Europe. The country’s commitment to driving food tech innovation is evident through its utilisation of world-class research institutes, technological know-how, highly qualified workforce, evolving consumer mindsets and collaboration with key players.

One notable initiative is the Swiss Food & Nutrition Valley (SFNV). Established in 2020 as a purpose-driven, not-for-profit association, SFNV fosters collaboration among various partners in the Swiss ecosystem. It strengthens Switzerland’s contribution to developing future-proof food systems. Since its inception, SFNV has expanded to include over 130 partners — from global corporations, retailers and governments to leading universities, innovation facilitators, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

Fostering collaboration 

Switzerland occupies a unique position to shape the precision nutrition agenda, benefiting from its association with global nutrition players such as Nestlé, Givaudan, DSM-Firmenich and ADM. The country’s vibrant start-up ecosystem and leading universities contribute to its influence in this field.

For instance, the Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne are renowned for their food science and technology research. Switzerland’s cantonal universities and educational networks also possess expertise in nutrition, culinary arts and hospitality management, attracting talent, fueling research endeavours and nurturing entrepreneurship.

Switzerland’s research centres and technology parks have created an excellent environment for innovation. Nestlé’s global R+D Accelerator network, along with several other resources, such as the Integrative Food Science and Nutrition Center (CNU) at EPFL, PhytoArk, Agropôle and AgriCo, provide start-ups with tailored equipment, flexible spaces and comprehensive support. This environment is conducive to growth and experimentation for companies with ambitious ideas.

The R+D Accelerator is a unique platform for start-ups, students and Nestlé intrapreneurs to quickly bring highly differentiated innovations to the market. The CNU acts as a bridge between researchers and industry, facilitating interdisciplinary projects along the food value chain, while PhytoArk assists companies in industrialising products made from natural ingredients. Agropôle and AgriCo also provide start-ups with flexible spaces, tailored equipment and comprehensive support.

A recent highlight of Switzerland’s commitment to food industry innovation was the prestigious FoodHack Summit hosted by the nation. This exclusive gathering brought together some of the brightest minds from around the world in the global food tech industry. The summit served as a platform to address the pressing challenges faced by the global food system and explore promising solutions.

It showcased Switzerland’s dedication to fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange among industry experts, researchers, entrepreneurs and policymakers. By convening brilliant minds, Switzerland further solidified its position as a leading force in driving positive change within the food industry.

The place to be 

Western Switzerland, in particular, presents significant advantages for food and beverage companies, with its excellent transportation infrastructure and central location between Germany, France and Italy. The region is already home to significant international companies and boasts a thriving startup scene, with over 160 food tech start-ups and scaleup companies actively developing innovative food products and technologies.

The country’s ongoing commitment to driving positive change in the global food ecosystem ensures its position at the forefront of food tech advancement. Its innovative approaches and collaborative efforts will continue to shape the future of the food industry on a global scale. Start-ups/SMEs, larger F&B companies and worldwide talent are invited to engage with the vibrant food system movements in Switzerland.

Source : Food Bev Media