I attended the recent 10th Annual World Food Technology and Innovation Forum 2012. It was held in Citywest in Dublin and attracted over 100 senior level delegates from over 30 countries.
The conference kicked off with a fascinating presentation from Catherine Bedford of Stylus, an online business resource for consumer-facing industries. She spoke about some of the most innovative consumer realted scientific progresses that they have become aware of including growing algae at home for air purifying as well as a food source, using disused railway tunnels in Australia to grow mushrooms, producing fabric from milk and using fungi to degrade nappies. This really provided a great framework for the conference and was a fascinating insight.
As the Conference progressed it became evident that the majority of the presentations were more about Innovation rather than Technology and is probably an indicator of where the sector is at the moment in terms of focus. The value of innovation and including external organisations in this process is viewed as key and a number of presentations focussed specifically on innovation management, including those from Kraft Foods, Arla Foods, Wrigley and Unilever.
Ireland were well represented in the presentations by Joe Healy from Enterprise Ireland and Food for Health Ireland (FHI), with their CEO, Jens Bleiel. Joe spoke about the different models of industry/academia collaboration in Ireland and the benefits that this has brought. This led smoothly into Jens’ presentation on FHI – a collaboration between academic partners; UCC, UCD, Teagasc, UL and industry; Carbery, Kerry, Dairygold and Glanbia and also supported by Enterprise Ireland. One of the key messages from this presentation was that successful innovation is the future of the food industry. FHI has an industry led research agenda, with the capacity to scale up new processes through its industry partners. Through extensive work packages they cover the mega trends in health and wellness including weight management, glycemic management, muscle metabolism for healthy aging, gut health, food safety and more.
The networking service at the Conference was excellent with the opportunity to have pre-arranged one-to-one meetings with attendees at the Conference. I found this an excellent service and got great value from it. Enterprise Ireland, as host sponsors, were also on hand to provide introductions where necessary and received a great deal of interest in their exhibition stand.
The Conference next year is set for February, in Dublin again, and I would recommend anyone in the Irish food industry who did not attend this year to mark the date in their diary.