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!”
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