Creating Food Innovation Systems

September 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

Currently, there is a groundswell of discussion going on about the food industry. Much is arms-length in that it is not tied specifically to any one company, but rather, by organizations and individuals that are aligned with food processors. This includes the Conference Board of Canada/Food Centre, the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, the Agri-Food Innovation & Regulatory Chair, Canadian Food Processing Industry roundtable, various food industry associations, and a handful of interested individuals, in addition to the government of Canada through various departments and agencies.

What’s the basis of all this activity? The short answer is ‘innovation”. While this may not seem surprising, the timing is interesting. Recently, food manufacturing became the number one manufacturing industry in Canada, for both sales and employment. This, in itself, is a significant milestone and worthy of discussion. However, if the industry is number one in Canada, why all the concern about innovation now?

It seems that people are realizing that the systems we have been utilizing to “help” industry innovate in Canada, may not be fully complete. Innovation can effect all areas within a company and thus impacts productivity, competitiveness and sustainability. All good reasons to shine the spotlight on how the sector innovates, and by extension, how it competes globally and how sustainable the industry will be in the long-term. 

A recent article in BioBusiness (July/Aug) suggests that the ways government invests in R&D has failed to spawn significant commercial success, according to author Rory Francis. It asserts that there are other components of the innovation “system”, including market assessment, technology transfer, access to capital, HR capacity, regulatory environment and more, which have to be well-developed  and well-connected to capture the economic potential of research.

Developing effective innovation systems is where concerned industry supporters, including governments, need to focus. While investment in research to spawn new products or processes has been well supported, the translation of research and novel technologies has been less than stellar. According to many well accepted definitions, innovation includes not only the generation of the idea, but its successful implementation. Supporting implementation is where our innovation systems are incomplete.  

FOODTECH Canada in aligned with these discussions, and wants to develop programs that can put more connected, networked systems in place for the food industry. This would bring expertise in the above areas, such as market intelligence, technology transfer practices, and infrastructure, along with scientific capital, to the doorstep of processors. We encourage a continued dialogue on how to make these linkages and systems operational in Canada. Many other countries have this figured out, and now its Canada’s time.

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Entry filed under: Innovation News.

In Sales and Employment, Food Manufacturing is #1 Federal R&D Review could spark Innovation Culture

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