Foodvalley Shared Facility Finder
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Foodvalley Shared Facility Finder

  • 21 November 2022
  • By: Janneke Vermeulen

An important tool with which Foodvalley wants to give the food transition a big push forward is the Shared Facility Finder: a platform on which all kinds of organisations can find and share facilities. Already some 350 research equipment and innovation facilities are available through the platform.

Petra Roubos
Manager Shared Facilities

Sharing is the future, is Petra Roubos' firm belief. "If we want to provide food security for 10 billion people by 2050, a sustainable food system is necessary. Innovation can make the difference here. The innovative power is largely in startups and SMEs, but they often lack money and facilities, such as research equipment, pilot production plants, kitchen facilities production lines, demonstration areas and laboratories. These are often available at large corporates and knowledge institutions, but not always accessible. Corporates like to get in touch with innovative start-ups. Research results should also find their way into practice faster. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together across the network of parties and sharing facilities accelerates innovation."

From startup to corporate

To encourage the sharing of facilities, knowledge and technologies in a practical way, Foodvalley and Wageningen University & Research jointly took the initiative to create the Shared Facility Finder: a platform on which various organisations, companies and institutions working on the transition to the future food system can search for and share available facilities and research equipment. Roubos is responsible for the platform from both Foodvalley and WUR. She and her team maintain contacts with stakeholders and further develop the platform. "In doing so, we focus specifically on Foodvalley's three main themes: food and health, circular agrifood, and protein transition. All stakeholders and organisations working on these are helping the platform grow and utilising the facilities. Last year, more than 50 organisations used them.

If needed facilities are not yet available but we see opportunities to accelerate innovations, we connect organisations and investment opportunities."

Some 300 research devices are already included in the Shared Facility Finder, including advanced microscopes, mass spectometry and a supercomputer. Roubos: "Devices that are not needed on a daily basis but are used by various organisations in product development and research. Valuable for start-ups, but also for SMEs and corporates - especially if they want to go off the beaten track and experiment with certain ingredients, for instance. There are also some 50 innovation facilities available, from research facilities to scale-up, where startups and scale-ups can experiment, produce and demonstrate to potential customers."

Cost sharing

For large companies and knowledge institutions - apart from bringing them into contact with innovations - there is another important reason for making their own facilities available: knowledge sharing.

Roubos: "By cooperating, you get in touch with each other and share knowledge, which allows you to move forward faster. Moreover, you can only use investment capital once. It often involves equipment with a large capacity that is never fully utilised. By lending equipment or facilities or investing together, you reduce costs."

This does require a different mindset, according to Roubos: "Sometimes there are reluctant reasons such as security and intellectual property. We think along and offer user agreements to remove the barriers. We encourage organisations to open their door to their neighbour.

Certainly parties that can support with facilities needed in the last phase before market introduction - think scale-up and demonstration facilities - are welcome to join. And who knows, the neighbour might also have interesting facilities available for you. After all: what goes around, comes around."

Fermentation lab and Insect Experience Centre

Next year, a shared innovation lab will open at the Smaakpark in Ede where companies can go to develop and learn about new fermented products with unique flavours and properties. The fermentation lab is partly made possible by a subsidy available from the Regio Deal Foodvalley. From the Taste Park, the need arose for a place to develop fermented products. Roubos: "This is why we brought together our stakeholders from the food sector and applied for a grant, so that this place could actually be realised. From the grant we also financed the Insect Experience Centre, which opened at the end of 2021. There, an automated system has been realised for insect breeding to enable affordable insect proteins in animal feed."

Robolector

The Robolector is a new type of device that allows as many as 24 fungal fermentation processes to be run simultaneously using a special technique, making protein selection faster and more efficient. This means a huge acceleration in research processes in product development.

The Robolector is a joint investment by WUR, Utrecht University and GINKGO Bioworks in Utrecht, where the device is located. The purchase fulfilled a big wish of GINKGO Bioworks, which did not have the means to buy the device itself.

The Robolector is included in the Shared Facility Finder and is also available to other companies and (research) institutes.

More information on foodvalley.nl

Source: Foto Petra: © James Media; overige foto's ©WUR