The members of Norways food industry are competitors, but they also seek to collaborate. They have come up with more than 20 project ideas that are based on common research needs. Themes for future research needs include healthier products, prevention of obesity, consumer choice and quality of raw materials.
We want to see research that can substantiate the advantages and benefits of Norwegian food. A deeper understanding of cultivation conditions, component substances and other factors that characterise Norwegian food could be utilised in marketing Norwegian food products. This could give the Norwegian food industry a competitive edge, both nationally and internationally, says Johanne Brndehaug of Tine. She is the spokesperson of a group that has been working on defining the food industrys priorities for the next two years.
Research throughout the value chain was a recurrent theme when about 40 people from the biggest Norwegian food companies, research institutions and professional circles in the food industry assembled for a dialogue meeting at Gardermoen. The purpose was to prioritise those areas that should be focused on over the coming years.
The meeting was organised by the Norwegian Technology Platform (NTP) Food for Life, which is chaired by NHO Mat og Drikke, with Nofima as secretariat. Norwegian companies from the blue and green sectors, research and development centres and representatives of the research funds and the Research Council of Norway all attended.
Collaborate, says the Research Council of Norway
We expect collaboration between food companies, and applications from several companies with identical needs will be prioritised. Applications will carry more weight if companies work together, was the challenge from Unni Rst of the Research Council of Norway regarding applications for the 2011 Food Programme.
The needs of the food companies determine the research topics being announced in the Food Programme. That is why we want to meet the companies through NTP Food for Life. Your priorities should coincide with ours, Rst told the meeting delegates. She went on to say that the initiative for project applications must lie with the companies and that the researchers should be service partners.
We have had a budget increase from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food for 2011 and the announcements have already been made, with the deadline for applications set at 16 February, said Unni Rst.
Celebrating increased funding
Roald Gulbrandsen of NHO Mat og Drikke was also delighted about the Ministry of Agriculture and Foods focus on research and development.
The ministry has just offered about NOK 8 million extra funding for food related research in 2011. That is very good news. Without this extra funding there would have been no room for user-controlled projects. Innovation in the industry involves high risk for the companies, so the industry depends on a secure regulatory framework, said Roald Gulbrandsen.
Unni Rst also encouraged commitment further into the future. The Research Council of Norway is working on plans for 2013 and beyond and wishes to have a planning dialogue with Food for Life about priorities for long term research after 2013.
Arcus shared its experience
Ivan Abrahamsen of Arcus has worked with the SINTEF and Nofima research centres to improve production processes, such as for the filtering and maturing of aquavit. He concludes that Arcus has both gained new expertise in processes and changed production during the project period. As a result of this, costs and investments have been substantially reduced. His experience of working with research centres has been positive.
The minimum requirement for the research centres is that they must know about our production process If they do not, I expect them to familiarise themselves with it. It is also important that results are put in context when reports are provided by the research centres. When it comes down to it, management is concerned about one thing that the project results in a financial benefit. The Sapiva project enabled us to reduce our costs and investments substantially. We also improved our knowledge, gained a greater understanding of the technology, optimised production processes and improved collaboration right across the organisation, concludes Ivan Abrahamsen. The results of the project have been used in the design of a new plant at Hjellersen.