Turning promising ideas into reality: Nestlé targets Africa’s innovative thinkers

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nestlé's R&D innovation challenge will boost local entrepreneurship in Africa. Pic: ©GettyImages/Caiaimage/Chris Ryan
Nestlé's R&D innovation challenge will boost local entrepreneurship in Africa. Pic: ©GettyImages/Caiaimage/Chris Ryan

Related tags: Nestle, Africa, Research and development, United nations, Sustainable Development Goals

Nestlé has kicked off a Research and Development (R&D) innovation challenge in Africa to boost local entrepreneurship.

The breakfast cereal and snack conglomerate is calling on start-ups and university students in South Africa, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal to put forward their breakthrough ideas.

The goal is to identify sustainable and scalable science and technology solutions that will help accelerate the development of products that answer today’s consumer needs across four areas: Environmentally friendly packaging solutions, sustainable cocoa plantlets, affordable nutrition and new routes to market.

Selected teams will enter an accelerator program to help advance and potentially commercialize their ideas.

During the accelerator, the startup 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.

On completion of the program, the teams will pitch their proof of concept to Nestlé’s management.

The challenge is part of Nestlé’s Global Youth Initiative, which aims to help 10 million young people around the world have access to economic opportunities by 2030.

This supports the UN's Sustainable Development Goals on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

Outstanding creativity

“There is a growing number of Africa-based entrepreneurs and local researchers with creative ideas to address issues facing their communities,”​ said Stefan Palzer, Nestlé chief technology officer.

“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."

To engage with local startups, Nestlé has partnered with Kinaya Ventures to join its Spring Fellowship Program designed to accelerate corporate startup partnerships and catalyze digital entrepreneurship.

In 2018, the company 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 also collaborated with 22 ON SLOANE, the largest start-up campus in Africa to present work-readiness events, careers fairs and life-skills programs. It reached more than 12,000 young people in 2018.

“Nestlé has been operating in South Africa for 103 years and part of our sustainable growth can be attributed to reinventing ourselves in these dynamic and evolving times,”​ said Nestlé East and Southern Africa region spokesperson, Ravi Pillay.

Nestlé has the world’s largest private food and nutrition research organization, involving about 5,000 people in around 30 R&D centers worldwide. With nutrition at its core, Nestlé R&D is committed to enhance quality of life of people and contributing to a healthier future. In 2018, Nestlé invested around $1.7bn in R&D.

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