18 August 2023, Europe Shaping Europe's Bioeconomy: An Interview with Michael Nettersheim of ECBF We had the pleasure to interview Michael Nettersheim, the President of the Tech Tour Agritech, Food and Bioeconomy 2023 programme. He sheds light on the enormous potential of the bioeconomy and provides a unique perspective on the industry's transformative journey. He emphasizes not only the advancements in technology but also the critical role of holistic thinking in future developments. Please, introduce yourself and tell us more about your company? Michael: My name is Michael Nettersheim. I hold a PhD in Biochemistry and earned an EMBA from Kellogg/WHU. I am an investment professional with more than 20 years of experience in investment management, corporate finance, and investor relations. After several years at BASF Venture Capital, High-Tech Gruenderfonds, and Medigene AG, I decided to undertake a new venture and co-founded the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF), where I am a general partner. The European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF) is the first venture fund exclusively dedicated to the Bioeconomy. We aim to catalyse the transition towards a sustainable future by investing in biobased growth-stage companies who are driving the shift from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy. The bioeconomy encompasses many sectors, such as agriculture, blue economy, bio-based materials, and alternative protein sources, and holds great potential for a successful transformation to a more sustainable, future-proof economy. What they all have in common, however, is the use of renewable biological rather than fossil resources and the goal of mitigating climate change. Why did you decide to lead the Tech Tour Agritech, Food and Bioeconomy programme? What inspired you? Michael: For me, the bioeconomy holds enormous potential to add value to our economies, but also to make them more resilient and sustainable. The progress in biological sciences, and materials as well as the rise in data processing capabilities will enable a better understanding and development of complex systems. In addition, regulatory developments and changing consumer preferences will further promote the bio-industries. All these factors make it an attractive investment field. Tech Tour’s Agritech, Food and Bioeconomy Programme is the leading forum in Europe for innovators and investors to exchange business and investment opportunities. Tech Tour’s great team, network and reputation made my decision very easy. Indeed, it is a great privilege to be part of this event and to promote the European bioeconomy. Throughout the years, the great technology, product and business innovators have been a great source of inspiration for me. Creativity and smart ideas when rethinking established processes and products are at the heart of the transformation that we urgently need to become more sustainable. For instance, think about new ways to eliminate or valorise food waste. Digitalization and biologicals will make agriculture more efficient, resilient and regenerative. New bio-based materials can save fossil resources thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These are just a few examples that I can find as a dedicated sector investor at this event. I have only one wish, which is to bring in generalist investors that sometimes are afraid of technologies which they think they don’t understand. Their fresh views, investment expertise and capital could be a great catalyst for this particular industry. In your opinion, what stands out as the greatest strength of this programme and sets it apart? Michael: Several things come to my mind, however, I would like to highlight two of these: First, it is the focus on bioeconomy instead of for instance climate tech, which includes more mainstream and popular sectors that shadow the potential of bio-economy segments. Second, it is the high reputation and visibility of this event that has been built for over a decade now. The organizers and participants are dedicated to identifying and preparing high-quality startups for this event. From my perspective, this is a key factor that makes this event so unique. However, it would not work without the outstanding work of Dorte, William and the whole event team. All the time I appreciate the courteous and competent support provided by Tech Tour. What do you think will contribute most to the shift from a fossil-based to a circular bio-based economy and contribute to achieving the goal to make Europe’s climate neutral? Michael: In an ideal world, a clear-cut and consistently applied accounting framework for environmental performance indicators would be a great tool. It could help to benchmark fossils against bio-based products. One could say, it is just a matter of accounting for the footprint of each product. Based on the data you can make an easy choice. Generating data, however, is not straightforward and accounting frameworks are not applied consistently, e.g., the choice of scope has a significant influence on the result of the evaluation. We at ECBF spend a lot of resources on the analysis of sustainability profiles of technologies, processes and products. Recently, regulators in Europe have released the EU Taxonomy and Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation. Both aim to standardize accounting for sustainability. However, only a few of our target sectors in the bioeconomy are currently by the Taxonomy. As a result, investors like us apply SFDR-based frameworks, which is a case-by-case and method-by-method approach, at least allowing for some comparisons. Once the true footprint of products can be properly and consistently calculated, innovators, consumers and investors can make informed choices. It could also facilitate more reasonable pricing of products beyond the factory gate. I would expect this to have a positive and sustainable impact on products from the bioeconomy, maybe not on each and every product, but on several. Imagine what it took to build the existing production infrastructure. The transformation of this will require substantial capital to finance infrastructure and assets for new production processes. From an investment volume and return perspective this is a major challenge for venture capital. However, this can be overcome by a further increase in public financing, thereby attracting more private capital, especially from generalist investors. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and/or investors navigating through this economic downturn? Michael: It is important to keep in mind that the bigger picture for the bioeconomy remains intact, I.e., the demand for more sustainable products and technologies will grow. Entrepreneurs should continue to work on their sustainable value proposition. Technologies addressing climate change adaptation may become even more relevant since we start to experience more and more climate extremes. For current investors, today’s market offers a lot of great opportunities since they may benefit from more reasonable valuations. What are you going to look for in the companies to be selected for Agritech, Food and Bioeconomy 2023? Michael: Like always I want to see entrepreneurs who are really passionate about their vision and company. A great combination of sound business opportunities and significant contributions to sustainability needs is what I expect. Entrepreneurs will hopefully surprise us with lots of innovative technologies, products and business concepts that will contribute to the urgently needed transformation of our economies. What aspect of the onsite event of Tech Tour Agritech, Food, and Bioeconomy 2023 are you most excited about? Michael: For sure, I am excited about the pitching sessions and the opportunity to meet and exchange with companies and investors alike. For instance, only a live presentation can transfer a team’s passion and vision. The Q&A sessions between companies and jury experts are also something that I really enjoy because different aspects of investment are addressed that are sometimes not on my radar screen. There is always a lot to learn! Discover the transformative discussions and innovations of the bioeconomy firsthand. Learn more about the Agritech, Food and Bioeconomy 2023 programme and sign up today! Click HERE to explore and register.