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  • Writer's pictureMiddle East Center for Reporting an Analysis

Cockpit's Emily Neilson-Winkler on the food-tech sector in Israel and the UAE

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Neilson-Winkler is a serial entrepreneur who works in Foodtech for Global Corporates today.

In an interview with Neilson-Winkler she discusses her background and current activities

I have created and managed four companies, living and breathing the start-up ecosystem in agriculture, food, water, waste management and circular economy. Previously I founded and directed LINK, which for the past 7 years has helped emerging market government and corporations implement Israel technologies in their industries. LINK took me across the world, weeks on end in Ghana, South Africa, Kyiv, Tel Aviv and London. Always on the go. I built my career on showing people how to implement hi-tech tools in low-tech, or even no-tech fields. We went into long term projects with governments, banks, corporations and INGOS, the company became useful in helping these companies and countries roll out technology; and make the innovation process more efficient and effective. That is why joining Cockpit Innovation was a great fit.

Cockpit is an open innovation hub supporting exceptional entrepreneurs with venture investments, and propelling meaningful collaborations in the fields of air travel and food-tech. The team is filled with professionals that understand how to create real business impact by nurturing strategic relationships between start-ups and corporate leaders.

Cockpit is an open innovation hub supporting exceptional entrepreneurs with venture investments

Something else we excel at is cultural adaption. I spent two years visiting Ghana and learning the culture before we rolled out our first project. This is something that can never be underrated or undervalued, learning about the culture you are going to work in is crucial to your success. We bring cultural understanding as well as business expertise to the regions we work in, ensuring we will be able to roll out the necessary solution, training and awareness.

Emily Neilson-Winkler (Courtesy)

After years of parliament meetings and jeep rides in the jungle, where my mind was always racing, trying to solve complex problems with innovation, I decided to make a change. I wanted to spend more time in Israel, with my family, but still do something meaningful in the innovation sector. Joining Cockpit has enabled me to do just that, not only continue my passion of open innovation and support for the start-up world, but it has taken me even further. Helping cutting edge technologies in Air Travel and Food-tech get where they need to go to actually make an impact on the industry. At the same time helping global corporates integrate more innovation and creativity into their operations and offerings.

Food-tech and Cockpit

I am now running the business development and food-tech category for Cockpit. Not a small task, as Cockpit works side by side with the world’s leading corporations. Created in 2015 by El Al Airlines, at the peak of the dialogue about the ‘innovation nation’. Very quickly the value of the company became obvious and Boeing and gategroup joined in as shareholders as well.

Gategroup is a world leader in culinary and retail services, and the value-add from Cockpit became clear as a customized professional open innovation platform dedicated to global corporates, connecting cutting edge technology to the industry from the top-down.

Cockpit has grown extensively in the food-tech sector over recent years and have decided it is time to get on the stage publicly, especially in the Middle East. The signing of the Abraham Accords has brough with it new opportunities for the industry and the region. So it was obviously a personal and professional honor to be invited as a keynote speaker at Gulfood. I am keen to see what the UAE has to offer in the food industry and where we can add value ourselves. This will be the first time Cockpit will take a public stage in the region, and in the industry. While I am at the conference, I will be looking for interesting start-ups with ground-breaking products, and shareholders that would benefit from our model and operations. This will be a large and important step in developing the open innovation ecosystem between Israel and the UAE.

Opportunities in the UAE

We are enjoying reaching out to professionals in the food-tech sector in Israel and the UAE. Embracing the new commercial opportunities and value add that each side can provide the other. If you ask me, there is no better time. The global COVID crisis has brought with it clear challenges for the Air Travel and Food-tech sectors that need solutions. Effective Innovation Programs is a way to thrive even during these difficult times. That is one of the topics I will be talking about at the conference, explaining how start-up and corporations can work together to maintain growth within the industry. I hope to show the audience Cockpit’s vision, which is very much in line with my own career journey, and that is that any problem, not matter how complex, deserves a well-thought out, strategic solution – and we are thrilled to be able to showcase how we do this every day.

Are many Israelis going?

Yes, actually I have heard that many Israeli start-ups will be present, an entire delegation of speakers, start-ups and investors. It is great to see the new-found cooperation and networking. I look forward to being a part of it.

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