€60M from National Growth Fund for Cellular Agriculture Netherlands
The Cellular Agriculture Netherlands consortium won an internationally record-breaking €60 million investment from the National Growth Fund. The €60 million investment will be used to fuel the formation of an ecosystem around cellular agriculture (CA) – the technology used to produce animal products directly from cells, rather than animals. The Growth Fund is the Dutch government’s €20 billion funding programme for project investments with the highest potential for structural and durable economic growth. Catalyze is extremely proud of our role as consultancy partner during the preparation of the Cellular Agriculture Netherlands growth plan.
To learn more about the growth plan and collaboration with Catalyze, we spoke with Cellular Agriculture Netherlands Foundation board members, Tim van de Rijdt (CMO at Mosa Meat), Ira van Eelen (Co-founder RESPECTfarms, Co-founder & CEO KindEarth.Tech), along with Boaz Van Driel – Head of Strategy at Catalyze, who led Catalyze’s support to the consortium.
From a small acorn… building Cellular Agriculture Netherlands
As the original home of CA, the Netherlands is an entirely fitting place to establish a fully fledged ecosystem. However, while there are many independent parties working in CA in the Netherlands, there has never been a formal network, which may have reflected the historical CA funding and financing landscape – almost entirely based on private investment. With only private companies pioneering in the field without actively sharing knowledge and expertise, it was time for a change.
Tim begins, “We knew of many people that should be involved in this network, so we tested their appetite because it is a daunting undertaking. The response was very positive – this field is very open to collaboration, and the interested group started growing.”
With the initial members of the consortium committed to pursue the project, Catalyze was brought onboard to oversee management and coordination of the development of the growth plan.
Ira adds, “Catalyze really put a lot of stress on us all, but we chose them because we knew they were the ones who could really make this move along.”
Foundations for a cellular agriculture industry: Growth Fund goals
The plans for establishing a CA ecosystem in the Netherlands were exactly aligned with the Growth fund goals. For example, a central focus of the CA growth plan is to nurture an ecosystem that can give rise to a structurally growing industry, in this case being CA. Achieving this can accelerate the impact of CA innovations, such as Meatable’s recently announced cultivated meat pork sausage.
Parallel to setting up this plan, over the coming years regulatory and safety standards around cultured meat will be developed, giving private CA companies an extra boost.
Ira explains, “We aimed to create an ecosystem around an idea that has the potential to become an industry, but it’s lacking all of the necessary infrastructure around it, which it needs to become a solid industry that solves the problems of our age, like combatting global warming.”
Developing the Cellular Agriculture Netherlands Growth Plan
The idea began with the development of a two-pager, but after the project made a shortlist of six finalists, another way of thinking was required.
“This moment led to a big change in all of us – we realised we needed to step things up to another gear”, Ira recalls, “To me, the process was quite awful. Because what we needed to explain always felt so self-explanatory – but we had to defend that. This was hard for me, but I think Boaz was very on top of it and I really liked how he went about it.”
Boaz reflects on joining the project, “In the beginning, the concept was there but it needed direction and implementation was lacking. Aligning the group was the biggest initial challenge.”
Tim adds, “Catalyze was instrumental in this process. We all now know how we look late at night or when we’re on holiday – that dedication to keep focused and move forward was in my opinion the tremendous value that Boaz and Catalyze brought to this project.”
Making immediate impact on cellular agriculture worldwide
While the award is internationally the biggest ever public funding into cellular agriculture, the funding received will finance just three of the five proposed workstreams under the CA growth plan.
Ira points out, “Even though it’s the biggest ever funding for public research in this sector, if you look at the challenges the world faces right now, it’s not nearly enough. We have to make difficult choices now – so it’s not fun at all.”
Boaz, “It is painful for us not to receive funding for all of the workstreams, but the money is still a significant amount that I think will be the thrusting power that the sector needs over coming years.”
Although the consortium did not obtain the full investment, the impact of their National Growth Fund success immediately went beyond the activities made possible with the funding.
As Tim explains, many countries contacted them in the days and weeks following the announcement, eager to learn how they could establish such an ecosystem in their own respective countries.
“There are many groups of cellular agriculture companies, academia, NGOs and government asking us, ‘How did you manage this?’”
Tim adds, “In five years, I’m hoping that many more countries will be organized and make this case properly; to invest in this innovative field that we so desperately need.”
Looking ahead on the partnership with Catalyze
The entire Catalyze team is proud of our contribution towards the success of the Cellular Agriculture Netherlands growth plan. We look forward to continuing our collaboration as we aim to support academics and companies throughout the lifecycle of cellular agriculture innovations.
Tim says, “After this exciting start, we see many opportunities for Catalyze in the CA sector. We are hoping Catalyze will contribute to the growth of this sector”.
Ira agrees, “Catalyze has an important role to play in driving innovation forward in this sector, through getting the right suggestions for investment in innovation, getting those projects in shape and getting them approved and building those bridges.”
Cellular Agriculture over the next 5 years
The first CA consortium to be funded came 22 years ago, led by Ira’s father and cell-based meat inventor, Willem van Eelen. This early work – funded by a €2 million Dutch government grant – laid the global foundations for cellular agriculture.
“If you see what came out of the work that my father was involved in, which was a relatively small project, I can’t wait to see what comes out of this €60M project.”
Ira continues, “In 5 years, I hope that Dutch society has a broader knowledge around CA topics. We are making CA knowledge publicly available, so a broader audience can work with it. I will be over the moon when someone is able to go to university and study cultivated meat!”
Boaz adds, “A particularly good outcome is that this group has stuck together and now forms the foundation of a tight network. We now have an excellent foundation in place to create a thriving ecosystem around cellular agriculture.”
To end, Ira finished with a note of advice for others considering applications to major economic stimulus programmes, such as National Growth Fund:
“Have a communication strategy at hand with people that are willing to put in a lot of time for that is advice I will give on any grand success. When the news is announced, this moment only arrives once, and you need to be ready to capitalize on that.”
About the Cellular Agriculture growth plan
With the €60 million investment, Cellular Agriculture Netherlands can make the first steps towards stimulating cellular agriculture education, academic research, publicly accessible scale-up facilities, societal integration and innovation. Thus the Netherlands can take the international lead in establishing a successful cellular agriculture ecosystem.
The Cellular Agriculture Netherlands consortium is a rich mix of Dutch universities, startups, NGOs, and value-chain partners including Meatable, Mosa Meat, RESPECTfarms, SDG NL, KindEarth.Tech, CE Delft, TU Delft, Wageningen University & Research, Those Vegan Cowboys, Nutreco, Plant B.io and Unilever. In addition, the consortium has received support from over 40 additional institutions and companies.
Read more about the Cellular Agriculture Netherlands National Growth Plan