By Roland Sebestyén
Early-stage “companies with a vision” will be offered the opportunity to change the medical cannabis industry for the better as Israeli, TechforCann Europe, announced that it has secured funding to establish the first European teach accelerator for the industry.
TechforCann EU has received €2.5 million from Malta’s foreign investment agency (Malta Enterprise) to support start-up companies that are selected to participate in Europe’s first accelerator program.
Participants in the program will receive funding and pilot their technology within an EU-GMP licensed facility in Malta. A transfer of knowledge from international academic and research institutions and industry experts includes business, regulation, science, strategy, marketing, and finance.
According to the announcement, participants and alumni also join an invitation-only community, including in-person pitch events with a global network of partners, customers and investors.
The accelerator currently focuses on four categories, including:
- Healthcare/biotech – Delivery methods, digital health, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, formulations, delivery devices, testing, education;
- Agtech – Genetics, breeding tech, growing materials;
- Digital operations – Infrastructure (water, lighting), extraction, AI management/control, operational technology; and
- Product technology – Including research and innovation in the areas of wellness, topicals, veterinary products, etc.
Yona Cymerman, Co-founder & COO at TechforCann Europe, told Canex that the program is a “gamechanger.”
She said: “If you look at the 2017-2019 period, there was a huge boom, and everyone was investing in cultivation, but the market dropped, and coronavirus hit, which further slowed investment into the industry.
“There is renewed interest in the cannabis industry but we must address the challenges the market is facing to breakthrough into the pharmaceutical or big tech industries.
“Those include everything from the stability of the plant to the efficiency of the supply chain to delivery systems to more research and so on.
“The accelerator is focused on intellectual properties, such as technology and solutions. What we are looking for early-stage entrepreneurs who have a concept or an idea that answers some of the questions in the cannabis industry. We offer them, in exchange, a quicker pathway to increase their evaluation and commercialisation.
“The entrepreneurs join the accelerator, which is a 12-week program where they get a workspace, funding of €100,000 with the option of raising it to €200,000. They also get an ongoing mentorship and curriculum that covers business, regulatory and financial concerns they may have.
“The companies go over to Malta to complete a proof of concept or pilot of their technology in an EU GMP-licenced facility.
“Throughout the cohort, they get introduced to a network of business partners, and at the end of the programme they will attend a pitch event where the entrepreneurs will meet our investors – by that time they will be investor-ready.”
Ms Cymerman said it was a global initiative, and they were looking for teams they believe can implement their projects. The businesses will need to show their abilities to scale, but if they need help, they will be helped throughout the program. The focus is on having an innovative concept.
She added: “We need to understand what the problem is and what is their solution. This is for very early-stage companies, so anything from two guys from a garage, to a small company with IP which is looking to move ahead in terms of commercialisation, or even established companies seeking to spin-off their technology for the cannabis industry.”
While in North America there are some successful examples, this is going to be the very first medical cannabis accelerator in Europe.
Ms Cymerman said they realised that there was a massive gap in the medical cannabis industry here, and to have a “pipeline of innovative products” that help the patients, they need to support the early-stage companies.
Malta, which hasn’t been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, seems like the best place to start – also, the island is very open about its plans to be a huge player in the cannabis industry.
Ms Cymerman said the program is almost here, and when the flights are back, they can start creating the space they need to kick off the game-changing program.
She said: “The next step is to raise another €2.5 million from private investors. We fly over to Malta in the first week of June to work on the space, the infrastructure and the service providers we need. By the end of May, we will start evaluating start-ups.
“We are also on the lookout for investors who can not only support the entrepreneurs with funds, but they can offer experience and knowledge and who are willing to work with the companies closely to give them support and information.
“In the end, we expect a better industry with more stable products at the highest global standards for patients in need of medical cannabis.”