16 November 2015

FOOD works towards the formation of a European food innovation alliance

food cooperation

Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen is part of the consortium "FoodNexus" (formerly Foodbest), which is currently developing an application for the status of a European innovation alliance – a so-called "food-KIC” (Knowledge and Information Community). The alliance will connect the private and public sectors within the food industry in Europe, creating more innovation, more jobs and better education. The goal is to ensure that the competitiveness of the food sector increases over the coming years – both economically and in terms of sustainability.

University of Copenhagen's Department of Food Science (FOOD) is part of FoodNexus' Nordic branch, which is one of five European centres in the consortium that will be applying for more than €100 million – as the future innovation alliance – from the EU organization EIT (see box) over seven years. The funds will be allocated to the pan-European FoodNexus consortium if it wins the funding for the food-KIC, and the work will be carried out locally in the five co-location centres, which will comprise the engine of the innovation alliance.

Picture of the Head of Secretariat for the Nordic branch of FoodNexus, Jenny Bergsten

Head of Secretariat for the Nordic branch of FoodNexus, Jenny Bergsten

"To be part of this innovation alliance between Nordic companies and educational institutions means working to become part of a greater European cooperation to develop innovation, entrepreneurship and education. We need more enterprising people in the food system," says Head of Secretariat for FoodNexus' Nordic branch,” Jenny Bergsten.

The overall agenda for the innovation alliance is to develop the food industry in Europe into a globally leading force in terms of innovation and adaptability for future markets.

"We want to ensure availability of food to be produced and delivered in a responsible and resource-efficient way. At the same time we will focus on food as a part of the solution for a healthy life," says Associate Dean at Copenhagen University’s SCIENCE Faculty, Erik Bisgaard Madsen, who is a board member of the Nordic branch of FoodNexus and also a member of the European Executive Board, which has overall responsibility for the food-KIC application.

Head of Divison at the Division of Food Technology, Engineering and Nutrition Lund University, Yvonne Granfeldt, who is a member of FoodNexus' Nordic board, agrees.

Picture of Head of Division at Division of Food Technology, Engineering and Nutrition, Lund University, Yvonne Granfeldt

Head of Division at Division of Food Technology, Engineering and Nutrition, Lund University, Yvonne Granfeldt

"Denmark and Sweden are some of Europe's leading nations in food and related industries such as packaging. Both industries and educational institutions are strong in these areas. Therefore, we need to be part of it when the EU presents an opportunity like this," she says.

Strong focus on food innovation and talent

FoodNexus includes a number of prominent institutions and companies in Europe, the Danish ingredients company Chr. Hansen A/S being among them. Vice President for Chr. Hansen Innovation, Esben Laulund, sees a number of advantages in the FoodNexus consortium:

"This is an opportunity to be part of an innovation alliance with various partners, who play an important role in Europe within our field. At the same time it is an opportunity to get funding for specific projects about some challenges that Chr. Hansen would like to help to solve."

In addition to this, Chr. Hansen expects the companies in the food industry to face harsh competition for talents in the future.

"We need the talents to look upon the food industry – and for our part, especially the ingredients industry – as an exciting and good place to work and develop. We hope that the consortium can help to attract more talent to the food industry," says Esben Laulund.

New paths to be trodden

The Food-KIC includes the classic food areas, but must also aim to be a pioneer.

Picture of Associate Dean at the University of Copenhagen, SCIENCE Faculty, Erik Bisgaard Madsen

Associate Dean at the University of Copenhagen, SCIENCE Faculty, Erik Bisgaard Madsen

"We must become adept at thinking about food in other contexts than we have done over the past 100 years. We need to look at the world we have, with consumers who are making new demands, and technologies that offer new opportunities. We must create a greatly increased power of innovation," says Erik Bisgaard Madsen, who also believes that the innovation alliance must build bridges to other KICs, for example climate, health and digitization, in the efforts to become a game changer in Europe.

The application must be submitted to the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) on 14 July, 2016. The FoodNexus secretariat and partners are therefore fully engaged in providing answers on how the KIC is to be formally designed and how it will meet the EIT's delivery requirements.

"At the moment we are studying existing projects that support the focus of FoodNexus. For example, InnoBooster– a Danish instrument for the promotion of innovative ideas – as well as the Swedish concept Meny, which works with companies to define a problem, and forms a study group with the participation of a researcher to find solutions. We look at what works well and where entrepreneurial ideas are falling through," says Jenny Bergsten.

Picture of Vice President for Chr. Hansen Innovation, Esben Laulund

Vice President for Chr. Hansen Innovation, Esben Laulund

There is at least one rival consortium in Europe that also seeks to achieve KIC status within the context of the EIT. This includes Nestlé, which has teamed up with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and a number of partners.

"I believe we have a good chance of winning the food KIC. We are represented with some prominent companies that are well prepared for future cooperation. But of course we can’t take anything for granted," says Esben Laulund.

For further information, please contact your local FoodNexus representative: Reasearch Academic Officer Heidi Høy Dyrholm.