Maryland Innovation Lab Opens Startup Applications for Pioneering Food Sector Corporate Accelerator

December 18, 2023

BALTIMORE, Maryland — December 18, 2023 - The Maryland Innovation Lab (MIL) officially announced the opening of startup applications and solution themes for its new corporate innovation accelerator. The first-of-its-kind accelerator in the United States is designed to position Maryland companies as leaders in corporate innovation and attract global investment to the state.

With lead funding support from the Maryland Department of Commerce, this pioneering accelerator will catalyze corporate innovation by matching Maryland-based businesses with a global array of startups. Up to two accelerator MIL programs will be run annually, with a high-value industry selected for each cohort.

The Maryland Innovation Lab is a result of the public-private partnership in the state’s Global Gateway Program with the non-profit World Trade Center Institute (WTCI) and L Marks, a renowned UK corporate innovation specialist. The Maryland Department of Commerce identified the state's food industry as the focus for the inaugural cohort, zeroing in on sustainable food systems—a field of both local and global critical significance.

During the October Global Innovation Summit, hosted by WTCI, the inaugural corporate participants for the MIL were unveiled as food sector and sustainability leaders Pompeian Olive Oil, Sodexo US, and SIMPLi.

Through a series of strategic interviews with these businesses, L Marks has compiled 5 critical themes for the cohort. Global startups are encouraged to apply for the first phase of the accelerator competition, taking place in April of 2024. The accelerator is seeking startups with solutions that address:

  • People & Workforce: Innovations that leverage workforce insights, improve employee experience, and harness skilled labor.
  • Sustainability: Technologies setting new standards for agriculture, tracking and commercializing carbon offsets, and educating on sustainable practices.
  • Retail and Product Optimization: Cutting-edge solutions for understanding and tracking consumer behavior, optimizing retail and product experiences, and enhancing brand experiences.
  • Supply Chain / Operations: Systems that optimize supply chains and distribution processes, promote transparency and traceability, and support sustainable shipping and transportation.
  • Wildcard: An open call for transformative solutions in any area that can revolutionize the Maryland food sector, particularly those that support sustainable practices, address greenwashing, and foster a resilient local food ecosystem.

From the applicant pool, approximately 15-20 global startups will be chosen to join a rigorous 2-day bootcamp in Maryland in April 2024, collaborating directly with the participating companies.

The bootcamp will culminate with a competitive Pitch Day event to be held in Baltimore on April 4th. At Pitch Day, startups will pitch their solutions to the participating companies for the chance to form a lasting partnership.

Pompeian Olive Oil, Sodexo US, and SIMPLi will select approximately five winning startups to proceed to a 10-week mentorship-driven accelerator that will begin in May. The first cohort of the MIL will conclude with a celebratory Demo Day event, where startups and corporate partners announce their joint innovations and partnerships.

The Maryland Innovation Lab is a trailblazing public-private initiative tackling barriers to innovation and economic expansion in Maryland. It can be difficult for corporations to benefit from open innovation ecosystems, with a historic reliance on internal R&D and innovation processes. MIL bridges this gap by linking corporate innovation leaders from target industries with top-tier startups, fostering disruptive innovation with the potential for worldwide influence, all originating from Maryland.

Corporate innovation industry focal areas have not yet been announced for future MIL cohorts, but exploratory discussions are underway in health and life sciences, transportation and mobility, defense innovation, supply chain and logistics, and energy and climate tech.

We're thrilled to see the Maryland Innovation Lab open its first round of applications to startups from around the world," said Maryland Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson. "This inaugural cohort will bring together some of the most creative minds in the food industry, and I can't wait to see what kind of innovative ideas they produce. What an exciting way to attract global investment to Maryland!

For more information about the Maryland Innovation Lab and to apply for the accelerator program via the L Marks application portal, The Bridge, please visit:

For media inquiries, please contact:

Kristin Lewis, Vice President of Strategic Development & Innovation
World Trade Center Institute

Tel: 814-558-3705

About World Trade Center Institute (WTCI)

The World Trade Center Institute (WTCI) is a globally recognized non-profit organization that fosters international business growth and innovation. WTCI provides startups and businesses with the resources, mentorship, and global connections needed to expand their international reach. WTCI is committed to driving economic growth, technological advancement, and global collaboration across various industries.

About L Marks

L Marks is a leading innovation specialist that has created over 100 innovation labs and collaboration programs with its partners in Europe, Asia and North America. With a track record of successful collaborations, L Marks brings startups into established corporate ecosystems to drive innovation and growth. Through their expertise and global footprint, L Marks enhances the success and impact of startups across various industries, achieving a successful deployment rate of over 70% and $1.6B in investing funding raised. L Marks annually identifies 10,000 startups from more than 80 countries.

About Pompeian Olive Oil

Pompeian Olive Oil is a trusted leader in the olive oil industry, with a history dating back to 1906. Dedicated to providing high-quality, authentic olive oils, Pompeian is committed to promoting healthier cooking choices and culinary innovation. With a focus on sustainability and responsible sourcing, Pompeian Olive Oil has earned the trust of chefs and home cooks around the world.

About SIMPLi

A woman-owned and minority-owned company, SIMPLi's mission is to simplify and transform a flawed food system into one that is equitable and regenerative – good for the people, producers, and the planet. The company stands out for its commitment to plastic-free packaging for its beans, grains, legumes, superfoods, oils, and spices. In an effort to commercialize sustainable and regenerative organic farming, SIMPLi works with native farming communities around the globe to transition their land to Regenerative Organic Certified®, a method of farming that restores and regenerates the planet. SIMPLi is a leading Regenerative Organic Certified® food company with transitional organic, organic, and regenerative organic certified products offered through its food service and retail channels. Learn more about SIMPLi's ever-expanding line of Regenerative Organic Certified® products at and @eatsimpli.

About Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 53 countries. Sodexo specializes in sustainable food and valued experiences at every moment in life: learn, work, heal and play. The company employs 94,000 people at thousands of sites in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Puerto Rico and Guam, and indirectly supports more than 100,000 additional jobs through its annual purchases of $20B in goods and services from small to large businesses. Routinely recognized for the organization’s commitments to sustainability as well as diversity, equity and inclusion, Sodexo North America’s purpose is to create a better everyday for everyone to build a better life for all.

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