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Open innovation is the key to answer consumers’ future needs [Interview]

Article-Open innovation is the key to answer consumers’ future needs [Interview]

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From academic research and private investment to startup entrepreneurship, open innovation drives the search for the foods of tomorrow. But how do multinationals balance research and innovation activities with their day to day business?

We talked to Kavita Karnik, Vice-President of Global Nutrition and Open Innovation at Tate & Lyle, about how setting-up partnerships with innovators from all fields help deliver the healthy and sustainable foods of the future.

In your presentation during the Future of Nutrition Summit, you will demonstrate how Tate & Lyle innovates by using an open innovation model. Who do you mainly cooperate with: startups or academics? And how do you define innovation?

“Innovation for us is a broad term! From the ‘renovation’ of an existing product portfolio (by introducing small but useful changes) to the introduction of ‘disruptive technologies’ anywhere in the life cycle of our ingredients (from new product development to production processes to logistics), we innovate daily.
We believe that even small changes, incorporated cleverly and sustainably, have the potential to improve the world! In this regard, we are open to ideas coming from all sources, whether it is a small startup or a PhD project within a university.”

How do you make sure that you have access to the information on the newest research, and that you acquire products of interest before your competition?

“Being a multinational company, with a very wide presence globally, our colleagues are our eyes and ears on the ground. We receive information from those working with our customers, distributors and those who attend various trade meetings and shows. Our scientists, who attend academic meetings as well, are members of professional associations and a great source of information. We have research collaborations with a wide range of universities and organisations which helps us not only leverage their expertise for specific projects but also develop relationships built on mutual that trust become instrumental in learning about the latest developments in the academic world.”

What are the main challenges of working in open innovation environment?

“Open innovation is a very dynamic and fast-moving world! Sometimes it can be challenging for a big company like ours to make decisions fast enough to keep us with the pace. “


Can you give examples of successful implementation, in your company, of research acquired from an academic or a startup?

“Tate & Lyle acquired exclusive rights to manufacture and commercialize a new sodium reduction technology from Eminate, a subsidiary of The University of Nottingham in the UK. The ingredient, SodaLo, has won awards for innovative ingredient.”

Do you usually look for ongoing research projects or do you search for academics who could develop your ideas?

“We are open to both avenues. Networking is the key for success in both directions.

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

“We are in an exciting and fast-paced phase in the F&B industry. The explosion of consumer interest in clean label and functional ingredients is driving innovation. An increased awareness of sustainability issues leads to an increase in flexitarian diets, an emphasis on plant-based diets as well as packaging innovation.
We hope that this environment will open exciting opportunities of collaboration between F&B multinationals and smaller start-ups. Ultimately, we hope these partnerships will have a positive impact on public health and improve sustainability. We expect an increased role for ingredient manufacturers like us, who, through expertise in reformulation and innovative ingredients, can help F&B manufactures make tasty food a little bit healthier and healthy food a little bit tastier!”

TAGS: Startups