All posts by Bram van Beek

Unilever Opens Global Foods Innovation Center Next Door To StartLife

On 6 December Unilever, corporate partner of StartLife since 2018, opened their new Global Foods Innovation Center next door to StartLife. The center was officially opened by His Majesty the King of the Netherlands. Our managing director Jan Meiling, together with senior management of Unilever, was given the opportunity to discuss the value of open innovation ecosystems with the King.

The Hive

The Hive. That is how Unilever calls its €85 million global foods innovation center. From Hive, Unilever will lead its foods innovation programs for brands like Knorr, Hellmann’s, The Vegetarian Butcher and Calvė. Areas of research include: plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives, efficient crops, sustainable food packaging and nutritious foods. Together with its partners, amongst which StartLife’s startups, Unilever aims to transform the food industry into a healthy and sustainable system, driving innovations that are healthier for people and for our planet.

Next door neighbor

At StartLife we are, of course, very happy to welcome Unilever as our next door neighbor here at Wageningen Campus. “The arrival of the innovation center in Wageningen lowers thresholds for knowledge exchange and increases the chance for more and more intensive cooperation between people and parties on Wageningen Campus and the surrounding Foodvalley area,” says Laura Thissen, operational director of StartLife.

Caroline Bijkerk, global partnerships manager at StartLife, adds: “One of the big advantages of having a corporate partner situated next door is that it is really easy to walk in, meet up and have more informal contact moments with each other. This applies for both StartLife and our startups. Digital communication tools, like e-mail and skype, are helpful, but are no substitute for meetings in the flesh.

Enriching regional entrepreneurial spirit

As said, Jan Meiling was given the opportunity to be part of a discussion about the value of open innovation ecosystems with the Dutch King. “I was happy to explain to the King why we are so pleased that Unilever has joined our regional open innovation ecosystem. First of all, Hive has a genuine open door policy, which is unique compared to most corporate innovation centers. And aside from an open inbound and outbound knowledge flow, the Hive adds value to our regional ecosystem by sharing infrastructure, fostering innovative research and enriching the entrepreneurial spirit in our region.”  Clearly, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Practical and figuratively speaking in this case. “We look forward taking the first bites,” concludes Jan.

Free Research Capacity: Wageningen Student Projects

Innovative ideas do not always lead to completely developed projects, due to lack of time and / or creative energy. Students of Wageningen University & Research may offer a solution to this problem. In different courses, BSc and MSc students work in groups on a project supplied by external commissioners. Education Project Services (Onderwijsloket) is looking for organizations with an interesting subject for groups of students to work on.

Product Quality Literature Research (4 weeks)

If you have a research question regarding the product quality of a food product or opportunities for product and process improvements, than third-year bachelor’s students of the Food Technology program may be able to help you out. In the course Case Studies Product Quality groups of five to six students will work four weeks full time on your assignment.

Students integrate the various disciplines in food technology: food microbiology, food processing, food chemistry and food physics, together with aspects such as market science, consumer, legislation or economy. The students will deliver an advice or design based on scientific literature; practical work is not at the core of this course.

Practical information

The course is given from February 17th to March 15th. For commissioners, participation in the course is free. Due to the participation of international students, the project will be executed in English. The commissioner is expected to have contact with the students during a kick-off meeting, and throughout the project to give feedback and expertise.
Interested? Please contact Jelle van Leeuwen by December 13th 2019 at the latest. (See contact information at the bottom of this page.)

Interdisciplinary Consultancy Team (8 weeks)

Do you have an challenging research assignment for an interdisciplinary academic consultancy team to work on for eight consecutive weeks? Within the master of science course Academic Consultancy Training, students work together in multi-disciplinary teams of five to seven students to address specific real-life queries set by societal and private organizations. Projects run for eight weeks, in which the students work part-time for three weeks and full time for five weeks.

Student backgrounds: Biosystems Engineering; Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management; Animal Sciences; Bioinformatics; Biology; Biobased Sciences; Communication, Health and Life Sciences; Climate Studies; Earth and Environment; Environmental Sciences; Forest and Nature Conservation; International Development Studies; Leisure, Tourism and Environment; Management, Economics and Consumer Studies; Molecular Life Sciences; Nutrition and Health; Organic Agriculture; Plant Biotechnology; Plant Sciences; Urban Environmental Management.

Practical information

The ACT course is organized five times a year (Sept. – Oct., Nov.-Dec., Jan. – Mar., Mar-Apr, May – July). Due to the participation of international students, the project will be executed in English. An administrative fee of 50 euros applies. In addition, you are to reimburse expenses such as travel expenses, printing costs, etc. of the students. If you are interested to learn more about this opportunity, please contact Jelle van Leeuwen. (See contact information at the bottom of this page.)

Applications for the March/April course is open till January 24th 2020.

Contact Education Project Service

Interested in learning more about how students of Wageningen University & Research can be of help to you, please contact:

Jelle van Leeuwen
Project Leader Education Project Service at Wageningen University & Research
T: + 31 317 485 314


Personalized Nutrition Planning Platform Verdify Has Launched

After two years of preparation and development nutrition startup Verdi Food has launched their platform for evidence-based personalized nutrition planning: Verdify. The platform empowers patients with a chronic medical condition to easily implement medically prescribed diets in their daily routine. Verdify will also soon be integrated with a large Dutch supermarket. This will allow users to order recipe ingredients directly via their application. A great start for this promising startup that is part of the StartLife community since 2018.

Effortless nutrition planning

People who have considered following a health-related nutrition program or diet know what a daunting task this can be. A growing number of companies try to solve this problem by means of applications that provides customized meal plans. However, most of these applications are limited in their flexibility to the user – offering meal recipes that do not fully meet individual preferences and nutritional needs. As a result, these companies fail to solve the real challenge that people encounter after having received dietary advice. The nutrition startup Verdi Food may have struck gold by developing a truly smart and evidence-based solution.

Verdify: a smart, personalized nutrition planning platform

Verdi Food generated a software engine that automatically adapts virtually any meal recipe to a detailed personal nutrition and health profile – including food preferences, allergies, medical diets and in 2020 biomarker outcomes (blood, microbiome) as well. Meanwhile, taste, nutritional value and fit with the recipe is safeguarded. The company designed the engine to accommodate the full spectrum of patient needs. By doing so they go far beyond what is possible with other meal planning apps.

The application is great for all to use, but most of all for patients with a chronic medical condition. It is developed to be a highly convenient tool for patients to plan, purchase and prepare healthy meals that fit into a personal diet prescribed by healthcare providers. To ensure that meals meet specific health conditions Verdify works with evidence-based diets only. And for each medical indication its approach is verified with medical experts.

Scaling up fast

The first version of Verdify is made ready for people with food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and hypertension. The nutrition startup intends to demonstrate the potential of the personalized recipe service first in these domains and then scale up further. They expect to go fast forward in the coming months, so they already prepare for a first external funding round.

Jochem Bossenbroek, co-founder and CEO of Verdi Food, accredits StartLife for an invaluable contribution to the development of Verdify: “The coaching and feedback of StartLife has supported us in adopting a fully evidence-based approach, positioning Verdify in such manner that it can be used as an extension of current medical practice.