Portugal-based SME EntoGenex Europe in collaboration with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) is developing an innovative pesticide with disruptive potential, targeting insects that are harmful to Brazilian and European crops. Internationalisation of European innovative SMEs finds support from the InnoWWide programme, which grants companies the opportunity to collaborate, develop and test the viability of their solution in markets outside of the EU. As one of the 120 companies that will receive InnoWWide funding, EntoGenex is now well on its way to access the complex mosquito-insecticide market with an estimate global value of 8 billion Euro.
From Portalegre, close to Lisbon the team of five with pharmacists, engineers, R&D specialist and support-staff works on market entry of a highly effective, non-toxic to other species and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pesticides. Born in 2018 as a spin-off from the pharmaceutical company Biolotus the technology has pivoted multiple times. It developed from a solution targeting the change of enzymes in the gut-system of tropical mosquito larva to broad applicability in the agricultural sector. Recently, with the support of the InnoWWide grant, EntoGenex once more improved their solution. With their biolarvicide targeting mosquito larvae already on the market, it has widened its expansion focus to the agricultural sector and emerging opportunities in the livestock market, with the aim to develop target-specific biopesticides based on existing technology targeting plagues from crops.
‘’If it were not for the InnoWWide VAP grant, the already planned expansion to Brazil would not have happened now. Nor at this pace. InnoWWide gave us a ‘stamp of approval’ that helped open closed doors. In addition to the financial support, which made a big difference in pushing us to take the risk at this stage of development, we created a tested, operational market penetration that we apply for the expansion to Brazil and the next markets we approach’’, explains Estevão Mano, Business Development Manager.
Building on the companies technological, R&D and entrepreneurial strengths EntoGenex Europe reached out to a local partner that could fill in the blanks on local regulatory expertise and local market knowledge. With EMBRAPA, one of the largest R&D companies in agriculture and livestock in the world and specialised in Brazilian crop and livestock market, they set out to better understand the potential of their innovative technology and the route to the Brazilian agricultural market.
The joint-project carried out under the InnoWWide grant specified four main aspects: technological, regulatory, intellectual property and market. In addition to EMBRAPA, local companies were consulted to analyse the Brazilian IP and regulatory landscape. A market specialist identified missing information on main players, distribution channels, consumer behaviours and needs, and market size. Brazil is one of the three largest consumers of pesticide in the world.
‘’With this comprehensive analysis and valuable new partnerships, we were able to outline a project to develop a new innovative product, targeting insects that are harmful to Brazilian crops, and are also present in other markets.’’
Reflecting on the scale-up activities of European SMEs and the challenges they bring, the example of EntoGenex Europe highlights the importance of connecting with local partners and networks. ‘’The main challenge was to find the right partners to provide the information we needed and help structure our local project, especially in this complex market.
Based on the solidified, long-term partnership with the Brazilian R&D leader, EntoGenex Europe will advance the research project and development of a new product. Among the next steps will be to analyse and explore the technology developed in Europe against plagues that harm livestock. Additional funding for both the R&D activities will be required as biopesticide development is cost and time-intensive. We are exploring both grants and venture capital investment options that will help us take the next growth and internationalisation step.