Berytech launches ACT Smart Innovation Hub

Berytech officially launched its ACT Smart Innovation Hub today in the presence of H.E. Mr. Jan Waltmans � Ambassador of The Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon and Mr. Maroun N. Chammas � Chairman and CEO of Berytech, as well as representatives from different ministries, associations, academia, partners, SMEs , startups and entrepreneurs, media, friends and colleagues.

As the name implies, the A.C.T. Smart (acronym for Agri-Food & CleanTech) Innovation Hub is a new out-of-the-box approach by Berytech aimed at strengthening business advancement, economic growth and job creation in the Agri-food and Cleantech sectors in Lebanon.

With generous funding from The Kingdom of the Netherlands, and their renewed trust, Berytech is now taking a sector-wide approach for economic growth by stimulating innovators and entrepreneurs to put their creativity and energy at the service of Agri-food and Cleantech sectors and encouraging them to develop local solutions to the environmental and food security challenges faced by Lebanon, explained Maroun N. Chammas.

H.E. Mr. Jan Waltmans commented, The current situation in Lebanon shows even more than before that innovation and job creation for youth are needed. Agri-food and Cleantech are priorities to Lebanon in which we gladly invest. Renewable energy and economic activities that take into account protection of the environment increasingly are priorities worldwide. It is important for Lebanon to be part of innovation and to provide opportunities to its youth to be part of this. Berytech’s ACT Smart Innovation Hub offers the opportunity to youth from different parts of Lebanon to work towards a better future for their country.

ACT Smart Innovation Hub Program details

The ACT Smart Innovation Hub program runs over 36 months from September 2019 to August 2022. It includes two accelerator programs � Agrytech and Cleanergy, it aims to create 200 direct job opportunities and 400 indirect job opportunities with at least 50% linked to youth and 25% linked to women.

Through the innovation hub, Berytech continues its support of the QOOT Agri-Food Innovation Cluster, accompanying its members in their innovation strategies and competitiveness, ultimately leading to efficiency and quality exports from Lebanon.

Berytech will work closely with Academia and research institutes on converting Intellectual Property (IP) into commercialized solutions.

Berytech will also propose policy reforms and establish lobbying and coordination structures that will last beyond the lifetime of the program. All the above will be done using local Lebanese and Dutch know-how and expertise throughout the process.

Ramy Boujawdeh � Deputy GM at Berytech and Director of the program explains, The ACT Smart Innovation Hub capitalizes on the achievements of the Agrytech program, while adding new areas that focus on improving access to markets and partnerships through technology transfer, research to industry support, and business development linkages, focusing on actual market challenges suggested by industry actors and building corporate partnerships.

Boujawdeh continued explaining the novelty of Berytech’s ACT Smart approach as being fourfold:

The Cleantech and the Agri-food sectors are not necessarily the most attractive sectors for innovators and entrepreneurs who are otherwise drawn to other sectors and opt for emigration. Bringing their creativity and energy into the ACT Smart Innovation Hub will open new horizons and will prove that things can be done differently.

The enabling environment around the Cleantech and the Agri-food sectors is quasi-inexistent, with various actors working in silos despite the obvious added value of collaborations. Creating policy lobbying and business development platforms for these actors to exchange and work collectively under the ACT Smart Innovation Hub will help Berytech in its objective to improve the enabling environment from a sector-wide perspective.

The economic policies of the Lebanese government have historically privileged the tertiary sector (provision of services) at the expense of agriculture and industry but are now counting on a Knowledge Economy to address the socio-economic problems of the country in the future. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is one of the champions of this knowledge economy and the exchange of experiences with them under the ACT Smart Innovation Hub will inspire the various Lebanese actors to do things differently.

There is a growing trend around the world to address systemic social, economic and environmental problems from a nexus perspective that accounts for the interrelatedness and interdependencies between different sectors, particularly Food, Energy and Water. Berytech designed ACT Smart as a way to examine this interrelatedness and the interdependencies from a pragmatic hands-on perspective and brings all concerned stakeholders under one broad collaboration umbrella.

Partnerships under the ACT Smart Innovation Hub

Berytech is aware that it is not the exclusive player in ecosystem building and that a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem around the Agri-food and the Cleantech sectors is key in the growth and sustainability of the intended operations, comments Boujawdeh.

New like-minded institutions will be brought on board to support the process of ecosystem development: the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs of the American University of Beirut will be in charge of hosting the working groups on Waste, Energy and Water, as well as developing a paper on Sustainable Agriculture.

The Euro-Lebanese Centre For Industrial Modernisation (ELCIM) of the National Industrial Research Institute will be in charge of mobilizing Academia and Research institutions to work on commercializing IP for Industry.

A set of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) will be signed with major universities and professional bodies in view of creating synergies with the different ACT Smart Innovation Hub components, beyond the strict boundaries of the acceleration component. For example, universities will be encouraged to direct final year students in STEM degrees to design their final year projects to benefit from Berytech’s support.

Pillars under the ACT Smart Innovation Hub

Berytech has articulated four pillars under the ACT Smart Innovation Hub, all with the support of like-minded organization from the Netherlands.

Incubation/acceleration programs for startups in the Agri-food and Cleantech (Energy, Waste, Water and Wastewater) sectors;

Supporting and expanding QOOT – Lebanon’s Agri-food Innovation Cluster, initiated and supported by Berytech;

Initiating three Cleantech working groups on Energy, Waste and Water working as think-tanks to lobby for an enabling environment for innovation and growth; and

Encouraging the generation and commercialization of Lebanese intellectual property in partnership with leading academic and research institutions.

The Accelerator Programs

Berytech supports startups with innovations across the Agri-Food sector through the Agrytech Accelerator (2 batches) and the Clean Technology sector through the Cleanergy Accelerator (2 batches) in 2 yearly 3-phase programs:

Validation Phase 1: Up to 24 applicants are shortlisted to join and will receive a grant to validate their market over a period of two months

Acceleration Phase 2: Up to 12 startups are shortlisted and move to this 4-month phase, to build a minimum viable product (MVP) and get traction with a support grant

Incubation & Growth Phase 3: Up to 8 startups are shortlisted to join the 5-month incubation program and will benefit from up to in matching grants

The two programs offer the startups the resources, knowledge, support, and funding worth around $100K, necessary to scale their ideas and grow them into international businesses.

Source: National News Agency