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Innovation in Food Security Venture Creation Weekend (postponed)

This event has been postponed (date tbc).

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 20-22 March 2020 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 Security 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.

How to apply

This event has been postponed (date tbc). Applications are closed.

Terms and conditions apply.

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

Provisional programme:


16:30-17:00 Registration at Cambridge Judge Business School Foyer, CJBS
17:00-18:00 Guest speaker talk (Illumina) LT1
18:00-19:00 Buffet Dinner & Networking CJBS
19:00-19:05 Welcome & introduction from CJBS LT1
19:05-19:10 Welcome & introduction from Illumina LT1
19:10-20:00 Half-Baked session LT1
20:00-20:30 Pitch your idea LT1
20:30-20:45 Vote for your favourite ideas LT1
20:45-21:00 Team building LT1
21:00-23:00 Teams work on their ideas Break out rooms


08:30-09:00 Arrival and refreshments; Sign up for mentoring sessions Common Room, CJBS
09:00-09:45 Business Model Canvas presentation, Andrew Hatcher LT3
09:45-11:00 Teams work on their ideas Break out spaces
11:00-11:30 Tea / Coffee break and Sign up for mentoring sessions Foyer, CJBS
11:30-13:00 Teams work on their ideas Break out spaces
13:00-14:00 Sandwich Lunch Common Room, CJBS
14:00-15:30 Mentoring 4th/6th floor pods
15:30-16:00 Tea / Coffee break Common Room, CJBS
16:00-18:00 Mentoring 4th/6th floor pods
18:00-19:00 Beer and Pizza Common Room, CJBS
19:00-19:30 Teams check-in, report progress and call for help Common Room, CJBS
19:30-23:00 Teams work on their ideas Break out spaces


08:30-09:00 Arrival and breakfast refreshments Common Room, CJBS
09:00-09:30 How to pitch your idea, Andrew Hatcher LT3
09:30-10:00 Teams work on their ideas / prepare for mentoring Break out spaces
10:00-11:00 Mentoring 4th/6th floor pods
11:00-11:30 Tea / Coffee available Common room
11:30-13:00 Mentoring 4th/6th floor pods
13:00-14:00 Sandwich Lunch Common room
14:00-16:00 Teams finalise presentations Break out spaces
15:30-16:00 Tea / Coffee available Common room
16:15-16:30 All presentations should be submitted and uploaded on PC LT3
16:30-18:15 Final Presentations LT3
18:15-18:30 Break and Judging  
18:30-18:40 Winners announced and Awards presented LT3
18:40-18:50 Closure LT3
19:00-21:00 Closing Dinner Royal Cambridge Hotel
Emma Fletcher

Emma Fletcher

Managing Director, SmithsonHill

A graduate of the University of Cambridge in Land Economy and a Rural Surveyor by trade, Emma additionally has over 20 years’ experience in property development, including Managing Director at SmithsonHill, Project Manager at Hill Group and Property Director at Marshall Group Properties. Emma is a council member of the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry, Chair of Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust, who are working to set up the first village wide sustainable heating system in the country, Vice Chair of the Cambridge Ahead Transport Group and is also Vice Chair of the Shelford and Whittlesford Rail Users Group.

Emma Fletcher is currently Managing Director at SmithsonHill, working to create ARC, a one million square-foot globally-significant, innovative AgriTech facility housing a 30,000 square foot innovation hub for AgriTech startups and space for global HQs and crop trials on site, south of Cambridge.

Bobby Kaura

Bobby Kaura

Seed Investment, EMEA Outreach & International Development, Illumina Accelerator

Bobby joined Illumina Accelerator to support the set-up and ongoing success of Illumina Accelerator Cambridge. Previously, he was responsible for heading the commercial market and business development for EMEA. His focus was in enabling precision health initiatives through the application of next gen sequencing and technologies and constructing ecosystems with the stakeholders that support better patient outcomes i.e, pharma, biotech, CROs & healthcare systems. 

Prior to joining Illumina, he has worked in the NHS to deliver sustainable transformation programs and spent several years working in the pharma industry across early research & development, global informatics, strategic finance planning, strategy for the CFO/CIO office and leading the UK Personalised Reimbursement Models initiatives. 

He is a member of the Praesens Foundation (not for profit) and serves as an advisor to health, tech and blockchain startco’s.  

Bobby earned his BSc in Biology, with a focus on neuroscience and genomics, and a MSc in IT from Queen Mary University of London.

Lydia Smith

Dr Lydia Smith

Head of NIAB Innovation Farm and the Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub, NIAB

Dr 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.

Ursula Arndt

Ursula Arndt

Seedfunding & Technology, Illumina Accelerator

Ursula Arndt, PhD, is the scientist (seed-investment and 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 a MA from the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany and a PhD from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

Andre Eggen

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 in 1992.

Since 1992, André Eggen worked as a research Scientist at INRA where he became a Research Director in 2004. André was leading the bovine genomics team from 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 published over 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals, participated in several EU funded projects and international consortia and was serving as Secretary of the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG) from 2004-2010. Over the years, André developed extensive experience with the breeding industry and was leading research programs that paved the way for the implementation of Marker Assisted Selection and Genomic Selection in dairy cattle in France. Since May 2009, André Eggen is with Illumina where he currently is EMEA Segment Manager for Agrigenomics.

Rebecca Jowsey

Rebecca Jowsey

Senior Territory Account Manager, Illumina

Rebecca 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 postgraduate 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.

Tiffany Morris

Tiffany Morris

Senior Regional Segment Manager for Precision Health, Illumina

Tiffany Morris is Senior Regional Segment Manager for Precision Health at Illumina covering the EMEA region. She acts as a subject matter expert working with key opinion leaders, health care systems and consumer genomic companies on healthy screening initiatives, pharmacogenomics and preventative genomics.

Originally from Arizona she is now based in Cambridge UK. Her PhD is from the University of Cambridge in Medical Genetics and before moving to marketing she worked as a Bioinformatician with a focus on epigenetics of cancer and common disease.

Joe Whittaker

Joe Whittaker

Senior Marketing Manager at Illumina

Joe Whittaker is a Senior Marketing Manager at Illumina focusing on launching and utilising its NGS products in the clinical markets, having previously worked for pharmaceutical and gene-editing companies in various product management and marketing functions.

He has degrees in Biology from Nottingham, Marketing from Cambridge and is currently studying at Warwick for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on digital strategies, leadership and innovation and creativity in the biotech sector.

Andrew Hatcher

Andrew Hatcher (Main facilitator)

Mentor in Residence at Cambridge Judge Business School and MD at the Applied Knowledge Network (MAPP)

Andrew has a long history of identifying, developing and managing innovation within corporate environments and notably created and implemented a venture creation 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.

Since then he has been involved in the creation and development of a series of companies including Investing for Good, Greenfield Ventures, 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 in sectors that include Oil and Gas, Media, Education and Healthcare.

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.

Andrew received both a BSc in Engineering from the University of London, an MBA in international business from the Cass Business School and is a Fellow of Cambridge Marketing Colleges.

Sayara Thompson

Sayara Thompson (Organiser)

Programme Manager, The Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School

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

With a background in IT and 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.

Joselte Hollander

Zizi Hollander (Organiser)

Programme Administrator, The Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School

Zizi manages Santander Universities SME Internship programme. She has a passion for business and, in particular, working alongside entrepreneurs. Amongst her happiest and most enduring achievements was the co-founding of a weekly football newspaper in South Africa called Soccer-Laduma (Laduma is the Zulu word for goal). Under her stewardship, Soccer-Laduma grew into the biggest-selling newspaper in the country with impressive profit margins to boot.

Zizi has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of South Africa and extensive experience in a range of different industries and roles.

Maximilian Ge

Maximilian Ge

Industry Liaison, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Maximilian has over 12 years of experience working on tech and entrepreneurship programmes in the Cambridge innovation ecosystem. He is a co-founder of Oxbridge Angels and worked across the University of Cambridge at the Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering Department, Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences, Biotechnology, Computer Laboratory, Maxwell Centre and Cambridge Judge Business School.

Maximilian has a background in maths and computer science and experience working on tech startups in the UK and Germany (Techstars). He is an organiser of SVC2UK Cambridge (Silicon Valley Comes to the UK) and active as an advisor to EPOC (Entrepreneurial Postdocs of Cambridge), CUE (Cambridge University Entrepreneurs), CUTEC (Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club), Hack Cambridge Foundation and local startups.

What is the VCW like?

“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: