Jeroen Wouters, Global Ecosystem Development at Foodvalley NL: “It is at the cutting-edge of different disciplines that the best innovations emerge”

Jeroen Wouters, responsible for Global Ecosystem Development at Foodvalley NL, brings people and organizations, around the world, together via mutual innovation goals and aspirations.

What makes innovation in Global Ecosystem Development crucial in the transition to a sustainable food system?

“From an increase in lifestyle diseases to the need for sustainable food production, many of today’s challenges are of international scope. Obesity, for example, is not only on the rise in Europe, the USA and the Middle East, but also - due to urbanization and changing food consumption patterns - in emerging countries, for example in Asia and Latin America. So issues are global, as are the solutions; making that connection helps us to innovate faster and be positively disruptive. For instance, solutions developed in the Netherlands can be of added value elsewhere in the world, and vice-versa; it is crucial to build relationships that strengthen these interactions. The Netherlands is globally-well known for its ability to create successful public-private partnerships that bring together industry, science and government in pursuit of solving complex challenges. In countries like the USA, Japan or Singapore strong expertise exists in digital technology, for example for the assessment of nutritional intake and enhancement of healthy behavior – critical to the development of personalized products and services. Making a bridge between these, and other, expertise-regions is of great personal interest to me.”

“I am convinced that sharing knowledge, ideas and solutions, with people from different countries and with different backgrounds and perspectives, is key to solving complex issues. The challenge, and the joy, for me, working on Global Ecosystem Development, is to connect people and organizations that truly complement each other. Valorizing science has always been a big driver for me. At Foodvalley NL and as Program Manager Sports & Nutrition at the Dutch Olympic Sports Centre Papendal international consortia have been set up. At Papendal I set up and manage the Eat2Move center of excellence (www.eat2move.nl), which promotes performance and recovery in (elite) sport and patient care by means of optimal nutrition; linking science to product development.”

Why is Foodvalley NL involved in the transition?

“Since our foundation, in 2004, we have taken an international approach, based on the conviction that this is the best way to make real impact. In the past 16 years we have developed close connections with agrifood entrepreneurs and scientists in innovation hotspots around the world. This puts us in the unique position to initiate collaborations that are valuable to the individual partners as well as to the whole Foodvalley ecosystem. Illustrative are the partnerships we started with Enterprise Singapore and New Zealand FoodHQ. Our strong international partnerships also put us in the right position to become a strategic partner of the World Economic Forum on Food Transitions. We are very proud that Foodvalley and the World Economic Forum have recently joined forces and that Foodvalley will be leading the EU food innovation hub. This is part of a worldwide network of food innovation hubs in Africa, Latin America and Asia, where we work jointly on systemic change in the food system. It is together that we achieve the most.”

How do you see Foodvalley NL contributing to this transition?

“In the coming years we will focus on three key activities. First; targeted scouting of ideas, talent, innovation clusters, innovative multinationals, start-ups and investors that would be great additions to the Foodvalley ecosystem: the collective of organizations that work on the food system transition. We identify these with the help of advanced online search tools and through research by innovation analysts.”

“Second; accelerate innovation through international cooperation. We invite international partners to join us in the programmes, Food & Health, Protein Shift and Circular Agrifood. We initiate projects and consortia with international frontrunners on the three innovation programs. Where possible we relate these to government international funding schemes like EU Green Deal, S3Food, FoodSwitchNL, EIT Food.”

Third; continue to expand globally, providing start-ups and SMEs opportunities for growth via, amongst others, EU-programs, in order to scale up more quickly.”

Could you share some project examples to give a flavor of your work?

”I am looking forward to setting up the operational structure for the WEF Food Innovation Hub, in collaboration with partners and in the other hubs. In line with this, an EU-project proposal is being generated, together with European food clusters, on joint internationalization and innovation support for SMEs to countries outside Europe. This will assist European SMEs to globally expand in the themes of food sustainability and personalized nutrition into Singapore and Japan, amongst other countries. Fantastic topics and a world of opportunity!”

Who do you want to attract into the ecosystem?

“We are open to collaborating with innovation clusters working on structural system change in Food & Health, Protein Shift and Circular Agrifood. Also individual companies, from multinationals to SMEs, and other organizations that can contribute to our 2050 vision are welcome. Shaping the future of food together, that’s what it's all about.”

Want to know more?

Please contact Jeroen Wouters, jeroen.wouters@foodvalley.nl

In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones in the transition to a sustainable global food system. Read the previously published interviews of Edith Schippers, Chairman Foodvalley NL, Marjolein Brasz, Managing Director Foodvalley NL, Judith van der Horst, Innovation Lead Food & Health, Paula Rijkens, Innovation Lead Circular Agrifood and Huiberdien Sweeris, Human Capital. More interviews to come in the next coming weeks.

About Foodvalley NL
Shaping the future of food together: building and strengthening the Foodvalley ecosystem so that we can realize the transition to a sustainable global food system. That is Foodvalley NL’s mission. In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones.

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