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Innovation in Food Sustainability Venture Creation Weekend, Feb 2021

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VCW innnovation in food sustainability.

Do you want to transform the lives of people and make a positive impact on the environment? Do you have a novel idea or application in global food security? Are you interested in getting involved in entrepreneurship?

Kickstart your entrepreneurial career and start developing your venture at the next Venture Creation Weekend on 5-7 February 2021 delivered online by the Entrepreneurship Centre at Cambridge Judge Business School. It’s a chance to test your business ideas relevant to food security, build a team and pitch to investors within 50 hours!

Our current food system is under pressure and needs to change. While one in eight people suffers from malnutrition, one third of the food produced in the world goes to waste. Meanwhile, the population continues to increase and climate conditions for crop plants are changing.

Food security, as explained by the World Food Programme, is about the “availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. In practice this means that a vast range of parties are stakeholders. It ranges from those creating policies to those researching and creating the latest biotechnology in labs to entrepreneurs creating innovative ventures which tackle the wide range of problems facing the world.

The upcoming Venture Creation Weekend is organised in partnership with Illumina and supported by Cambridge Food Security Forum. We recommend and encourage participants to focus on key areas around Food Security such as:

  • food biotechnology
  • big data and AI applications
  • crop management
  • genetic improvement in livestock
  • agrigenomics applications (i.e. food safety and conservation)
  • nutrition
  • food waste

Bring your novel ideas that help to eradicate poverty through technology, genomics and big data applications.

Why attend the Innovation in Food Sustainability VCW?

It’s a chance to create, test and validate your Innovation in Food Security venture idea or application with industry experts. You can get inspiration from your peers and mentors, learn the basics of building a business and how to collaborate with others in a team environment. Some of you can go ‘founder-dating’ i.e. use the weekend to match up with one or more co-founders for your business. All participants will work together in teams on customer development, business models, pitching practice and building product prototypes (where appropriate). The most popular ideas are pitched to a panel of judges formed of industry leaders and investors who can provide expert feedback and analysis.

At the end of the VCW, you will have developed your entrepreneurial skills, kick-started your venture, enjoyed the buzz of exploring and creating ideas; and potentially be ready to launch your business together with a talented team.

In addition, one or more of the participating teams will be invited for an interview to join our Accelerate Cambridge incubator programme delivered by the CJBS Entrepreneurship Centre. Please note that successful application is dependent on whether the team meets the selection criteria.

Find out more about the content and format of the CJBS Venture Creation Weekends

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

Winning teams

1st place and ‘Crowd Favourite’


Social Impact brand of millet-based snacks with a focus on re-investing profits into local communities and millet based agricultural research.

2nd place


Provide a to-home daily meals service for new mothers on a monthly subscription basis.

3rd place

AuTomato: Adopt a Farm

Gaming platform linked to an automated vegetable cultivation system.

Friday 5 February 2021


Registration and networking


Welcome & introduction, CJBS and Illumina


Half-Baked session


Break and dinner


Pitch your idea


Vote for your favourite ideas


Team building


Teams allocate roles and start working on the idea

Saturday 6 February 2021


Arrival and networking


Business Model Canvas presentation, Andrew Hatcher, CJBS


Teams work on their ideas



Sign up for mentoring sessions


Teams work on their ideas


Lunch break




Networking break






Status check and call for help


Sign up for Sunday mentoring sessions


Teams work on their ideas

Sunday 7 February 2021


Arrival and networking


How to pitch your idea, Andrew Hatcher, CJBS


Meet Mentors




Break and networking




Lunch break


Teams finalise presentations


Break (suggested)


Final Presentations


Break and judging


Winners announced



Guest speaker

André Eggen

Agrigenomics Segment Manager, Illumina

André Eggen graduated from the Federal Institute of Technology (Animal Science) in Zürich (Switzerland) in 1988 and obtained his PhD in animal genetics (emphasis on molecular genetics) at the Institute of Animal Science in Zürich.

He started work as a research Scientist at INRA in 1992 and became a Research Director in 2004. André led the bovine genomics team at INRA in Jouy-en-Josas with research programs on the identification of genes and chromosome regions for economically important traits in cattle, especially dairy QTLs and genetic disorders.

He has published over 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals, participated in several EU funded projects and international consortia and served as Secretary of the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG) from 2004-2010.

André has developed extensive experience with the breeding industry and led research programmes that paved the way for the implementation of marker assisted selection and genomic selection in dairy cattle in France.

André joined Illumina in May 2009.


Ian White

Commercial FP&A Manager at Illumina

Experienced senior finance professional, with strong business acumen gained through 20 years’ experience across a variety of roles covering banking and corporate finance, plus privately owned and listed businesses.

Since joining Illumina in 2014 I have worked on a wide range of strategic plans and large scale opportunities, identifying risks and rewards of alternative business models and making appropriate recommendations.

Lydia Smith

Head, NIAB Innovation Farm and EastAgriTech Innovation Hub

Lydia Smith is Head of NIAB Innovation Farm and EastAgritech Innovation Hub at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge UK. She leads Interactive farmer-facing research into sustainable farming; especially crop genetic improvement and waste minimisation.

Lydia’s research gradually shifted towards improvement of plant genetic resources and new methods for their utilisation and characterisation. She built up and led the Novel and Non-food Crop portfolio of projects over 12 years; particularly concerned with bio-pharmaceutical and probiotic applications.

The need for industry participation and demonstration in this area led to the ‘Innovation Farm’ concept, a new venture, conceived and set up by Lydia, now providing a practical, grower-facing research facility, with knowledge exchange and route to application for end-users in industry at its core. Since 2016, she is also now leading the East Agri-tech Innovation Hub providing a pilot study resource for farmers and researchers to minimise waste in farming, or to reuse selected waste for new, higher value products.

Oliver McEntyre

National Strategy Director, Barclays Agriculture

Oliver grew up on a family farm in Lancashire, after three years at Myerscough College he spent ten years managing pig units throughout the north west, then spent six years as an independent Farm Business Advisor.

In 2006 he joined Barclays as Senior Agricultural Manager for Cumbria and Scotland before being appointed National Agricultural Specialist in 2012. In his current role as Barclays’ National Agricultural Strategy Director, Oliver oversees Barclays’ agricultural strategy and positioning from an industry perspective.

Michael Gifford

Director of Commercialisation, NIAB

Michael joined NIAB as Director of Commercialisation in March 2019. His role is to develop revenue streams based on the research and intellectual property being developed within NIAB. Within this he manages much of the SME engagement, is active in developing spin-out opportunities and is leading the development of Barn4, a new agritech incubator on NIAB’s campus in Cambridge.

Michael’s background is not typical for either NIAB or crop sciences. He is as a serial entrepreneur and angel investor with C-suite experience across a range of sectors including law, engineering, agrochemicals, medical systems, software and infrastructure technology. His focus has been on working with fast-growing tech-firms, where he uses strong strategic and commercial instincts backed up by a solid technical background.

Michael has a PhD in Physics from Cambridge University and an MBA from HEC Paris.

Ursula Arndt

Seedfunding & Technology Scientist, Illumina Accelerator

Ursula Arndt, PhD, is the Scientist (Seed-Investment & Technology) at the Illumina Accelerator Cambridge. She was previously responsible for the Illumina Solutions Labs at the EMEA HQ (Cambridge), the ISO 13485 accredited laboratory supporting internal and customer facing activities.

Prior to joining Illumina, she collaborated with groups such as WWF Canada, Traffic Canada, University of York and the RCMP in Vancouver.

Ursula earned an MA from the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany and a PhD from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

André Eggen

Agrigenomics Segment Manager, Illumina

André Eggen graduated from the Federal Institute of Technology (Animal Science) in Zürich (Switzerland) in 1988 and obtained his PhD in animal genetics (emphasis on molecular genetics) at the Institute of Animal Science in Zürich.

He started work as a research Scientist at INRA in 1992 and became a Research Director in 2004. André led the bovine genomics team at INRA in Jouy-en-Josas with research programs on the identification of genes and chromosome regions for economically important traits in cattle, especially dairy QTLs and genetic disorders.

He has published over 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals, participated in several EU funded projects and international consortia and served as Secretary of the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG) from 2004-2010.

André has developed extensive experience with the breeding industry and led research programmes that paved the way for the implementation of marker assisted selection and genomic selection in dairy cattle in France.

André joined Illumina in May 2009.

Rebecca Jowsey

Senior Territory Account Manager, Illumina

Rebecca Jowsey has worked in sales for over 11 years in a variety of commercial applications within the life science field. She started as a life science specialist working for Thermo Scientific before moving to GE healthcare as the Gene Modulation Specialist providing technical support for the Dharmacon and Open BioSciences ranges. She then worked as a Clinical Account Manager before coming to work for Illumina as a Senior Territory Account Manager.

Rebecca holds a post graduate degree in forensic science (Sanger Sequencing). She also worked for several years in the lab running the qPCR facility, 2D gels, proteomics and HPLC, GCMS work.

Bobby Kaura

Seed Investment, Entrepreneurial Development & International Evolution, Illumina

Bobby helped co-launch Illumina Accelerator Cambridge, UK, the second location for Global Illumina Accelerator, a genomics and VC-backable company creation engine. In his current role, he looks to grow the life sciences and genomics ecosystem by partnering with entrepreneurs, investors and individuals within the innovation/entrepreneurial ecosystem. His current focus is looking at new models that can support entrepreneurs and startups in different geographies. Previously, he was responsible for heading commercial market and business development for Illumina EMEA. His focus was on how the application of genomics enables precision health. He advocates for building ecosystems that support better population and patient outcomes.

Before joining Illumina, he worked in the NHS to deliver sustainable transformation programs and spent several years working in the pharma industry across early research & development, group planning & strategic projects (executive) office and leading the UK value-based medicine and pricing innovation stream.

Bobby read his BSc in biology, with a focus on neuroscience and genomics, and an MSc in IT from the Queen Mary University of London.

Sue Ward

Talent Acquisition Business Partner for Commercial at Illumina

Sue Ward is Talent Acquisition Business Partner for Commercial at Illumina and has over 25 years’ experience helping to recruit sales, marketing and operations teams across Europe.

Gaining a degree in Chemistry, she worked initially with North West Water in consumer complaints and water quality, before establishing a successful career in technical sales, working across England for one of the largest commercial laboratories in the UK.

With a focus on networking and relationship building she was drawn toward HR and joined an international advisory and search firm where she gained comprehensive knowledge of team dynamics, good recruitment practice and psychological evaluation in team building.

Having worked as part of HR for some of the leading laboratory and biotech companies, such as BD and Thermo Fisher, she joined Illumina in 2016 and has helped hire a number of the executive leadership team, as well as helping build the team at Illumina for startups. Passionate about positive work environment and healthy teams, she enjoys helping a fast-moving business attract the best and brightest talent.

Shima Barakat

Food Enterprise Manager and Director of the Entrepreneurship for Sustainability Programme, University of Cambridge

Shima is broadly interested in critically studying management and entrepreneurship practice to explore the implications on people and the planet. Her recent work focuses on global food, agri and environmental challenges, and the nature, networks and education or training needs of entrepreneurs and their ventures in providing solutions to such big challenges.

Shima has spent the last 25 years helping companies (from startups to MNEs) as well as governments and international funding agencies to improve their performance on sustainability. Shima is one of the founders and Director of Value in Enterprise, the responsible business consultancy company. She has also been among the founders of several organisations that aim at engaging communities in their own development in Egypt and the US.

She most recently co-founded the Impact Women’s Network to raise the visibility of enterprising women globally and enabling the creation of greater impact through the power of the collective. Shima has been a Trustee of the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Louise Piper

Social Entrepreneur, Co-Founder, The Haller Foundation

Louise is an experienced philanthropy professional, who draws on the experience of her 20 year career in the global capital markets, and applies these skills to areas in society where needs aren’t met.

She has co-founded two successful social ventures:

  1. The Haller Foundation brings a model for economic development which is sustainable and environmentally sound. Based in East Africa it supports fragile communities to address poverty through integrated programmes which combine WASH, smallholder farmer training, environmental regeneration and mobile technology to lay the foundations for prosperity. Started as an NGO is 2004 it has developed income streams to enable it to be financially sustainable.
  2. Better Endings offers progammes in the employee wellbeing sector to change the way we approach end of life across six spheres: legal, emotional, physical, legacy, spiritual and financial. It aims to help employees and their families to be better prepared for the end of life.

Louise is an alumna of Cambridge Judge Business School and Trinity College.

Janos Toth

Strategy Director at FaceKom and Angel Investor

Janos is responsible for FaceKom’ overall business strategy which is a leading remote client identification solution in Europe. In his spare time, he invests in pre-seed sustainability companies as an angel investor.

Prior to his current role, Janos invested in pre-seed and seed-stage companies in the areas of resource efficiency, clean air & transport, connected homes, energy tech in the UK. Prior to Sustainable Ventures, he was an investment manager at Day One Capital which is a CEE-based generalist fund investing at Seed and Series A stages.

He was also Vice President of Operations at SPCE, where overseeing day-to-day operations of a seed-stage marketplace company taught him the nitty-gritty part of startups. Parallel to SPCE, he was studying at the London School of Economics and his freestyle initiative got rated as one of the 10 most promising social enterprises in the UK in 2017 by McKinsey & Company.

Tamzin Byrne

Programme Manager, Cambridge Social Ventures

Tamzin manages the Cambridge Social Ventures programme, supporting entrepreneurs with a social or environmental mission embedded at the core of their business. Prior to this, she worked in science communication in the UK, Kenya and Australia, with universities, research institutes, government departments, startups and community groups, including projects supported by UN agencies, the EU and the Gates Foundation. She has a deep interest in food and agriculture and is just as excited by local, organic production as she is by high-tech, broad-scale farming interventions.

Startup mentors

Oli Hilbourne

Founder and Operations Director at Outfield

Oli is Operations Director at Outfield, leading Outfield’s development and R&D efforts. Oli’s background is in aerospace engineering, and he has previously worked at Marshall Aerospace on both military and civil aircraft design projects.

Oli oversees the development of the systems that make up the Outfield precision agriculture platform, including automated drone surveying, machine learning based image recognition, and a scalable web platform.

Jim McDougall

Founder and Commercial Director at Outfield

Jim is Outfield’s Commercial Director and sales lead, engaging with companies and organisations across the agriculture and food sector.

He has a background as a risk consultant advising private equity firms on mergers and acquisitions, with a focus on environmental and social governance.

Jim started his career as a fire and explosion engineer, managing large international projects across in the oil and gas industry. Jim is currently focussed on raising Outfield’s seed funding round.

Miha Pipan

Co-founder and CSO of Better Origin

Miha is the co-founder and CSO of Better Origin, a startup tackling food waste through insect bioconversion.

Miha started Better Origin in his final year reading Natural Sciences at the University when he became interested in the immense potential insects have in helping us fix the current food system. He’s an avid cook and adores all things food.

Tom Simmons

Founder and CEO of Supplant

Tom Simmons is Founder and CEO of Supplant, a Cambridge-based new food company re-imagining the role of sugar in the food industry. Supplant is a Y-Combinator alumnus and is back by some of the biggest VCs in Europe and the US.

Tom started Supplant as an Enterprise Fellow in the Biochemistry Department in Cambridge, and prior to that was a postdoc and a PhD specialising in plant science and carbohydrate biochemistry.

Tom has over 10 years of experience in carbohydrate biochemistry. He formerly held fellowships at the University of Cambridge and at the World Economic Forum and has advocated sugar reduction initiatives through Sky News and Channel 4 television appearances.

Andrew Hatcher

Mentor in Residence, Entrepreneurship Centre

Managing Director, Applied Knowledge Network

Andrew has a long history of identifying, developing and managing innovation within corporate environments and notably created and implemented an innovation management system while working for Reuters, the European media group. His career at Reuters culminated in a role as CEO of an Asian-based Internet trading corporate spin-out in Singapore which he took through initial VC funding and on to a trade sale.

He has been involved in the creation and development of a series of companies including Investing for Good, Working Knowledge and The Mapp and is involved as a non-executive director at several growing technology companies.

With a personal corporate history that includes journalism, software development, project management, marketing and strategic sales. Andrew draws on a wealth of experience in all aspects of business management gained through working internationally, predominantly in the US and UK.

Andrew is an accomplished author including, Inventuring – why big companies must think small (McGraw Hill, 2003), Services (Kogan Page 2013), Marketing Metrics (CMP 2015), Innovation in Marketing (CMP 2016), Marketing Strategy (CMP 2016) and Contemporary Challenges (CMP 2017). These books reflect Andrew’s extensive experience in the areas of business start-up and in the specialist area of innovation management, marketing and corporate venturing.

He is currently Head of Practice and a Mentor in Residence at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Sayara Thompson

Programme Manager, The Entrepreneurship Centre

Sayara manages a few programmes at the Entrepreneurship Centre, such as the Venture Creation Weekend and Ignite. She previously worked in Alumni Relations and for the Master of Finance programme at Cambridge Judge Business School.

With a background in IT and AI research, she has experience in working in education, international organisations (Médecins Sans Frontières, UNDP) and the private sector. She is a great networker and is always keen to help people to connect and spot the opportunities.

Maximilian Ge

IoT Researcher, IfM, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

Principal, OxBridge Angels

Maximilian represents the OxBridge Angels investment fund and has more than 10 years of experience connecting tech and entrepreneurship groups across the Cambridge innovation ecosystem. He has worked at the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing, Department of Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology in Bioscience Enterprise, the Maxwell Centre, the Cambridge Judge Business School Entrepreneurship Centre and the Computer Laboratory. He has a background in maths and computer science and has previously worked on tech startups in the UK and Germany (Techstars).

Maximilian is part of the organising teams of EPOC (Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge), CUE (Cambridge University Entrepreneurs), CUTEC (Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club), SVC2UK (Silicon Valley Comes to the UK) and the Hack Cambridge Foundation.

George Crane

PhD candidate, University of Cambridge

George Crane is a fourth year PhD student based at the University of Cambridge Crop Science Centre, and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). George is interested in the diversity and abundance of symbiotic microorganisms in agricultural systems, quantified with a mixture of metagenomic and microscopic approaches. He has projects running from the national scale, to farm based trials, and has additional collaborative projects with the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), and Cambridge Computer Science.

George is co-chair of the Cambridge Food Security Forum (CFSF), an interdisciplinary network of PhD students and early career researchers at the University of Cambridge. CFSF aims to promote interdisciplinary discussion amongst researchers, community groups and all who are interested in achieving a sustainable food system.

Zhiqi Wang

PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge

Zhiqi is the Co-Chair of Cambridge Food Security Forum, a hub to engage students and academics in food security matters. Each year, the Forum organises a food security themed Venture Creation Weekend as well as many speaker sessions.

Zhiqi has a background in manufacturing fngineering and he is interested in understanding of the role of technology and innovation in tackling malnutrition through data and supply chain improvements.

The Venture Creation Weekend pushes individuals out of their comfort zones. In addition to learning many powerful lessons, I'm leaving this event more confident of my capacity to start a new venture.
Michaela Schickel, MBA student, Cambridge Judge Business School, Food Security VCW, March 2019
A very good experience. It was very enriching to interact with business and marketing and learn new skills. I will definitely take these skills and apply them in the research arena.
Sajeev EM, Postdoc, Sustainable Agriculture Sciences, Rothamsted Research, Food Security VCW, March 2019
The process of validating a business idea, testing it (and changing it!) and then creating a business model to pitch to judges – all in a new team – was really useful. I feel a lot more confident starting my own venture now. Highly recommend.
Hector Williamson, MBA student, Cambridge Judge Business School, Food Security VCW, March 2019

View our photo gallery of the Venture Creation Weekend: Innovation in Food Security, 15-17 March 2019:

View our photo gallery of the Venture Creation Weekend: Innovation in Food Security, 23-25 March 2018: