The Digital Feed Episode 7: Open Innovation Can Help Accelerate the Push for Alternative Proteins and Sustainable Diets

Gandhar Desai
May 28 · 2 min read

Changes in our diets, particularly reducing the consumption of meat and animal products, are necessary if we are to meaningfully address the global threat of climate change. Rearing livestock for meat and dairy production contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternative sources of protein offer a solution to the issue and the private sector is leading the way in this area. However, innovation remains largely a ‘closed’ process with organisations closely guarding information and ideas and unwilling to them beyond their confines.

In contrast, open innovation is “the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.” In the context of development, open innovation can reduce barriers to entry, ensure alignment with needs and realities, and leverage collective wisdom for finding sustainable solutions to challenges.

To leverage open innovation in the foodtech space, Givaudan (producer of food flavourings and ingredients) and Bühler (manufacturer of food processing equipment) — two widely known brands in food manufacturing — have partnered to launch a Protein Innovation Centre in Singapore to allow startups, food processing companies, and R&D teams to co-develop plant-based proteins. To understand how open innovation can support the push for alternative proteins, we spoke to Alex Ward, Head of Innovation APAC at Givaudan and Dominique Kull, Head of Technology at Bühler Group.

Regarding the decision to set up the Protein Innovation Centre in Singapore, both Ward and Kull highlighted the importance of having an enabling ecosystem — startups, investors, accelerators, ingredient suppliers, and a friendly regulatory environment — for open innovation to succeed.

But why open innovation in the first place? Kull explained the importance of having short innovation loops and quicker product development to be competitive in the food industry today. “In the past, R&D and innovation used to happen behind closed doors… but the world has become [more] complex and faster”, he remarked.

Ward emphasised that “trust” between collaborators and having an environment where they can be open are key requirements for open innovation to be successful. “Open innovation at its finest is when two companies come together, share their knowledge and insights and create a concept based on those. And then if you can create a prototype of that quickly — that’s fantastic!”

Watch the full interview here. If you prefer to listen to an audio-only version of this episode, check out our podcast channel on Spotify. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay updated on the latest initiatives of UNDP GC-TISD. We hope you have enjoyed watching or listening to The Digital Feed!

Write to us at registry.sg@undp.org if you would like to partner with us on our agritech initiatives.

UNDP Global Centre Singapore

UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development (GCTISD)

UNDP Global Centre Singapore

The Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development is a joint initiative by the Government of Singapore and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which aims at identifying and co-creating technological solutions for sustainable development.

Gandhar Desai

Written by

Development professional. 🌐 gandhar.in

UNDP Global Centre Singapore

The Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development is a joint initiative by the Government of Singapore and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which aims at identifying and co-creating technological solutions for sustainable development.