So many of the strategic issues and opportunities in the Food, Drink and FMCG sector need a joined-up approach to make real progress: sustainability, provenance and obesity can’t be tackled through bi-party relationships alone.
In my role as leader of the Institute for Manufacturing’s (IfM) Open Innovation Forum I have the privilege to observe Open Innovation in practice throughout the whole value-chain, and the recent Forum meeting at Food Matters Live was a great opportunity to demonstrate this.
Around 30 companies from the membership and invited guests came together to help explore how to deliver sustainable business in four challenge areas identified by member companies:
- Low-water washing (P&G)
- New format beverage (Heineken)
- Fruit-based snack (PepsiCo)
- Fresh produce logistics (Fresca).
The groups used the Cambridge Value Mapping Tool (diagram right)to understand who all the stakeholders are (including societal and environmental ones) and where value is being created, destroyed or simply missed.
Using the combined experience of the assembled experts, it was especially noticeable how ideas from one part of the sector provided a powerful insight when applied in an adjacent field; this is one of the key strengths of such an ‘Open’ approach.
OI Pitching Event
Later at the same meeting, the fifth OI Forum ‘Pitching Event’ provided an interesting insight into the challenges and opportunities that companies in the food and beverage sector are looking to address through Open Innovation.
We worked with the twenty member companies to establish their highest-priority innovation needs, and then took the consolidated ‘Top 50’ to innovators from universities, start-ups and SMEs, looking for solutions.
Eighteen finalists were shortlisted to pitch their innovations to the OI Forum ‘dragons’, and the winners highlighted both the breadth of challenge areas and types of organisation that are relevant to this approach.
Nutritas Ltd: The overall winner was Nuritas Ltd, an Irish bioinformatics technology company specialising in the discovery of peptides (chains of amino acids) with disease beating properties. The company’s disruptive computational approach to discovery uses artificial intelligence and DNA analysis to create unique solutions for the maintenance of health and wellness, for industries such as functional and medical foods, pharma and cosmetics. This is a great example of transferring non-traditional technologies (big data and AI) into the sector to deliver a critical innovation need (improved health and wellness).
WeFarm Ltd: Among the ‘Highly Commended’ companies was WeFarm Ltd, a peer-to-peer service that enables farmers in the developing world to share information via SMS, without the internet and without having to leave their farm. Small-scale farmers are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and face many other challenges including lack of access to traditional markets, agricultural inputs and finance. Every day, individual farmers develop a diverse range of innovative, low-cost solutions in response to these challenges; WeFarm’s service enables these to be shared and leveraged by other farmers. A truly dispersed OI model, addressing the challenge of sustainable food and feeding nine billion people.
Senseye Ltd: Another Highly Commended entrant was Senseye Ltd, a start-up offering automated diagnostics, prognostics and condition monitoring to help eliminate machine reliability problems by revealing what’s happening now and predicting what will happen in the future. This is another good example of a novel technology solution to a ubiquitous challenge for all sectors, including food and drink: How to derive higher Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) from existing investments.
The OI Forum Pitching Event takes place annually and is already open for registration of interest for 2017. See more at www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/events/oipitching17/