ICL Group Ltd., a leading global specialty minerals and specialty chemicals company, launched ICL Planet Startup Hub.The new innovation platform is expected to help propel innovative foodTech and agriTech start-ups to the marketplace and to provide enterprises with an extensive network of support, including investment and mentorship.

ICL Planet was created as an innovation catalyst serving early stage, pilot-ready start-ups, as well as more mature, market-ready start-ups operating within the agriculture and foodTech domains. The initiative was driven to advance and nurture game-changing technology companies active in addressing critical global needs and making a positive and sustainable environmental impact.

ICL named Hadar Sutovsky, vice president of external innovation and general manager of ICL Planet. Sutovsky is a seasoned player in the global foodTech and sustainable agriculture arena.  She has held key roles in incubation and investments, leading innovation, and global business development for major agrifood firms and VCs. Her past partnerships include the Aquagro Fund, the Global Unilever Open Innovation Hub, and Frutarom, Ltd.

“We seek start-ups aligned with our organization on sustainability values and product direction,” says Sutovsky.  “The goal is to synergize efforts and know-how to meet the fundamental needs of our customers and to work together solve key challenges in the food and agri industries.  Start-ups that join us benefit from our corporation’s accrued wisdom and advanced infrastructure, and to attain a fast-track route to commercialization.”

Haven for food and agriTech start-ups

The new start-up hub will center activities on two core areas of competency.  The first will focus on areas related to crop nutrition, such as organic fertilizers, nutrient use efficiency, biostimulants, micronutrients and nitrogen fixation. The second will focus on foodTech start-ups active in the areas of alternative proteins, natural ingredients, plant-based functional ingredients, and white biotechnology, that can demonstrate a measurable positive environmental impact.

The Planet as an ICL external innovation extension

The ICL Planet Startup Hub is an extension of ICL’s existing external innovation activities.  The program was initiated in 2014 for scouting breakthrough technologies emerging from universities, institutes and early-stage start-ups.  ICL sponsors long-term R&D and proof-of-concept projects, in exchange for a royalty-bearing license.  Since its inception, more than 45 projects have been nurtured under the program, with another 13 ongoing.  The current projects are mainly in the agriTech space, with some already in the commercialization phase.

“As global leaders in the field of agriculture, food and engineered materials, we are constantly developing impactful solutions to improve the quality of life for millions worldwide via our established R&D infrastructure,” adds Sutovsky.  “Our value proposition is much more than merely funding; we answer early stage companies’ needs to run pilots and move them to the commercial stage with full support.”

Forging impactful partnerships

ICL has set up a dual-track program and service envelope for all start-ups working under its umbrella.  Through the program, they can leverage ICL’s broad business and infrastructural ecosystem, including, investment, co-working space, access to laboratories and analytical equipment, and R&D support, with options for field trials and new-product pilots.

Mature start-ups with market-ready products will benefit from ICL’s Market Runway Track program.  It offers a business acceleration contract directed at growth through investment, business development, and strategic partnerships, including an opportunity for M&A.  They will also potentially benefit from ICL’s well-established reputation in the global marketplace.

“A key milestone in our business transformation is centered around the idea of responsibility for our collective future and leading innovations that can favorably impact the industries we work in,” says Anantha Desikan, EVP and Chief Research, Development and Innovation Officer of ICL.

About ICL

ICL Group Ltd. is a leading global specialty minerals and chemicals company that creates impactful solutions for humanity's sustainability challenges in global food, agriculture, and industrial markets. ICL leverages its unique bromine, potash and phosphate resources, its passionate team of talented employees, and its strong focus on R&D and technological innovation to drive growth across its end markets.  ICL shares are dually listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (NYSE and TASE: ICL).  The company employs more than 11,000 people worldwide, and its 2020 revenues totaled approximately $5.0 billion.