By Peter Ejiofor
Nestlé’s Research and Development (R&D) Innovation Challenge has launched its Sub-Saharan Africa challenge in Lagos, Nigeria after it kicked off earlier in the week in Ghana.
The company said at the launch of the challenge that it was part of the company’s efforts to contribute to the local innovation ecosystem.
“It is expected that the challenge will help to boost local entrepreneurship, as well as provide a platform for start-ups, researchers and developers to contribute to local sustainable growth by bringing breakthrough ideas to the market.
“The innovation challenge aims to bring partners together to identify sustainable and scalable science and technology solutions that help to accelerate the innovation of products that meet local consumer needs.
“The R&D innovation challenge will also take place in Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, it said in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“The goal is to work collaboratively with start-ups and universities to identify sustainable and scalable science and technology solutions that help to accelerate the innovation of products that meet local consumer needs.
“The R&D innovation challenge calls for novel solutions across four areas: environmentally-friendly packaging solutions, sustainable cocoa plantlets, affordable nutrition and new routes to market.’’
Stefan Palzer, Nestlé Chief Technology Officer said: There is a growing number of Africa-based entrepreneurs and local researchers with creative ideas to address issues facing their communities.
“This R&D innovation challenge presents for our company an exceptional opportunity to leverage the outstanding creativity, while helping to turn the most promising ideas into reality.”
He said that to engage with local start-ups, Nestlé partnered with Kinaya Ventures as part of the Spring Fellowship Programme, which is designed to accelerate corporate start-up partnerships and catalyze digital entrepreneurship.
The challenge also calls upon universities in Central and West African countries to submit solutions, he added.
The statement noted that selected teams would enter an accelerator programme to help advance and potentially commercialise their ideas.
“During the accelerator, the start-up and university teams will have access to Nestlé’s R&D expertise and infrastructure at the R&D Centre in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, including shared labs, kitchens and pilot-testing equipment.
“At the end of the accelerator, teams will have the opportunity to pitch their proof of concept to Nestlé management.’’
Speaking on the challenge, Mr Mauricio Alarcon, the MD/CEO of Nestlé Nigeria said, “Today, consumer needs and challenges are rapidly evolving.
“Individuals and families expect tasty nutritious food choices that are at the same time affordable and accessible.
“Innovation has a critical role to play in providing solutions to these needs and challenges.
“It is also a key driver of economic growth. We are therefore, happy to launch the R&D challenge today to provide a platform for collaborating with local start-ups, academia and key external partners.’’
The R&D innovation challenge is part of Nestlé’s Global Youth Initiative which has an ambition to help 10 million young people around the world have access to economic opportunities by 2030.
This supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
In 2018, Nestlé also partnered with Ashoka and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation to create the Social Investment Accelerator, which accelerates social entrepreneurship and boosts economic development of Africa.
Nestlé has the world’s largest private food and nutrition research organisation, involving about 5,000 people in around 30 R&D centers worldwide, including the R&D Center in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, which opened in 2008.
With nutrition at its core, Nestlé R&D is committed to make the Nestlé portfolio even tastier and healthier, to fulfil its purpose of enhancing quality of life of people and contributing to a healthier future. In 2018, Nestlé invested about CHF 1.7 billion in R&D.