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Nestlé opens largest R+D Accelerator yet for rapid cross-category innovation

September 5, 2021
Food & Drink

Nestlé has inaugurated its largest R+D Accelerator in a bid to accelerate “the translation of fundamental science into cross-category innovations” with rapid speed to market.

The new center is embedded at Nestlé’s research facilities in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is part of Nestlé’s wider R+D Accelerator network launched in 2019 to bring highly differentiated innovations to the market quickly.

“The Accelerator here in Lausanne is the mothership of our Accelerator network, since we work across all categories and often our innovation is based on new scientific discoveries,” a Nestlé spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

It is behind products like Wunda, a pea-based milk alternative created and scaled by Nestlé intrapreneurs in just six months. The “truly versatile innovation” is now available across several European markets, adds the spokesperson.

“At our R+D Accelerators we combine the creativity and entrepreneurship of students, start-ups and intrapreneurs with Nestlé’s extensive scientific and technological expertise,” says Stefan Palzer, Nestlé chief technology officer.

“The initiative creates learning opportunities for both internal and external talents, builds competencies and fosters an entrepreneurial culture across our sites.”

Infrastructure for collaboration
The new facility covers 4,000 sq m with a variety of co-working stations, prototyping kitchens and mini-production facilities.

It can host up to ten teams simultaneously, where teams have access to a “sophisticated innovation ecosystem” in the area of food and nutrition.

The internal and external teams have full access to Nestlé’s infrastructure and science, technology and business expertise.

Teams can consult with Nestlé’s R&D experts from around the world such as food technologists, nutritionists, regulatory and food safety experts, designers and packaging experts.

Each team also receives hands-on support from dedicated innovation coaches and mentoring from Nestlé’s senior management.

“We give internal and external entrepreneurs full access to all the expertise and infrastructure they need to translate their idea into a product – from analytical labs, experimental kitchens, to prototyping and production facilities – and we help them test their innovations in real-market conditions,” adds Tom Wagner, head of the Nestlé R+D Accelerator program.

An R&D business model?
Nestlé’s spokesperson affirms that “open innovation is an integral part of the company’s R&D set-up.” In addition to accelerating the innovation process and reacting rapidly to new trends or scientific findings, it is also about fostering an entrepreneurial culture across the company’s sites.

“We give start-ups the opportunity to further develop their concepts while leveraging infrastructure and expertise. This collaboration is equity free.”

Upon completion of the project and if there is a mutual interest in continuing the collaboration, Nestlé enters into a new collaboration mode with a participation or licensing IP or both, notes the spokesperson.

“The type of agreement is very specific to each start-up.”

Speed to market
Palzer notes that in the fast-paced environment, products go from idea to test launch “in just a few months, overcoming many challenges along the way.”

Using early trends, differentiating technologies and scientific discoveries as sources of inspiration, the teams develop innovative product solutions in a six-month immersive ‘idea to shop’ program.

Another example that came from the Accelerator program is a supplement based on Nestlé proprietary research.

This work identified new natural bioactive ingredients that work at the cellular level to reduce physical fatigue.

“Our scientists have shown that the combination of micronutrients with a natural olive extract supports muscular energy and allows the body to use its full potential. The successful shop test in Italy is currently being expanded,” adds the spokesperson.

Innovation worldwide
Nestlé’s global R+D Accelerator network consists of 12 sites in eight different countries. Each Accelerator is located at a Nestlé R&D site and focuses on a specific product category or region.

For example, Nestlé has Accelerators at its R&D centers for dairy, nutrition, coffee, confectionery or other food products.

Regional Accelerators in China, India, the US, ASEAN and Sub-Saharan Africa work with local start-ups and students to develop innovations relevant to their regions.

“Our ambition is to further expand to more sites and to reach a global capacity of over new 100-150 projects per year. By having these different Accelerators we can meet up upcoming trends, consumer needs and attract new talents,” concludes the spokesperson.

In 2019, Nestle spurred R&D innovation with a start-up innovation challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last year, the R&D Accelerator located at Nestlé’s R&D center in Konolfingen, Switzerland opened its doors with a special focus on plant-based innovation.

Edited by Missy Green


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