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Developing Systematic Innovation Tools for the Food Industry

| On 05, Oct 2001

Developing Systematic Innovation Tools for the Food Industry

University College Cork, Ireland on November 26-28, 2000

Jorge C. Oliveira
Department of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition
University College Cork
Ireland
j.oliveira@ucc.ie

Summary

This document proposes a strategy to develop systematic innovation tools for the Food Industry and to promote its active use in the industrial innovation environment.

The drive for this initiative came from the emerging systematic innovation tools that originated in TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving), which have given excellent results in other industrial sectors to promote trans-sectorial technology transfer, cut down R&D costs and time, and improve the quality of design solutions. What was in it for the Food Industry? How could the Food Industry take the best advantage of these new concepts and working methods?

With the financial support of the European Union 5th Framework Programme, through Accompanying Measure QLAM 2000 – 00093 of key action 1 (Food, Nutrition & Health, Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources), a workshop was organised in Cork, Ireland, in November 2000, bringing together experts on systematic innovation and on food research from academia, R&D institutes, consultancy companies and the Food Industry. As a result of this workshop, it was possible to design a strategy and outline a plan of action to implement it. The dissemination materials of this Accompanying Measure consist of the Proceedings of the Workshop and this strategy report.

This document was written with food industry researchers/developers and food scientists in mind, and therefore devotes more attention to the issues that would be more novel in this environment. It does not discuss problem definition methods (crucial for consumer-oriented innovation) nor innovation management techniques in depth – it is assumed that they are known, and excellent material on these issues, specific of the Food Industry, can be found elsewhere.

This report initially discusses the fundamental aspects of systematic innovation seen from a problem solving perspective. This leads to the understanding of how the development of technical intelligence systems to manage scientific/technological knowledge finds an excellent starting point in TRIZ and emerging spin-off tools.

A brief analysis of the development needs of both scientific research and industrial innovation suffices to visualise the importance of effective tools and of their efficient use in food industry innovation.

The type of initiatives needed to move forward are then outlined and an action plan to materialise them is proposed. It becomes evident that a concerted effort of an international network involving industry, trainers and R&D performers needs to be set up to achieve the strategic objectives to be pursued.

It is expected that this report could constitute a vehicle to harness expressions of interest from interested parties on the activities proposed for this network, and contacts are most welcome.

The lines of action proposed are summarised in the following tables.

1

Objective: creation of an international network

  • Starting from the Workshop participants, assemble a team per initiative and establish a steering committee;

  • From the dissemination of this Accompanying Measure, collect additional expressions of interest and complement the teams;

  • Establish contacts with ETRIA and EFFoST (other associations if needed) to anchor the network;

  • Canvass EU and national agencies to explore opportunities for support to co-ordination activities, starting from virtual networking, and promote regular meetings;

  • Promote the various initiatives described below with appropriate partners, as opportunities arise.

2

Objective: design and delivery of a comprehensive training programme on systematic innovation tools for industry developers

  • Contact the Leonardo programme to check for best way to submit a proposal for designing and running pilot programme;

  • Gather interest from the network (trainers and industrial companies) and prepare proposal;

  • Through network partners, contact national training agencies to ascertain support at national level to complement, or replace, EU-level project;

  • Through network partners, contact professional associations (engineers, food scientists & technologists) to try to gather support for international and national proposals, as part of professional advancement schemes;

  • Contact large industrial R&D structures of major companies to ascertain willingness to move independently with their own staff, at their own costs, if international/national public agency support fails, or to complement it.

3

Objective: development of case studies on the use of systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry for concurrent product and process development

  • Through network partners, assess willingness of companies and trainers in different countries to put together R&D projects to be performed by deploying systematic innovation tools by a small collaborative working team involving the industry, systematic innovation experts, and possibly food researchers from university and/or R&D institutes;

  • Through network partners, evaluate funding opportunities at national level for these innovation projects;

  • Establish contacts with the EU R&D agro-food division and/or innovation/SME programme to ascertain opportunities for concerted action to co-ordinate all national initiatives of this type (this may need to be running in parallel with the previous action).

4

Objective: development of case studies on the use of systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry for concurrent product and process development

  • Through network partners, identify universities willing to participate in a systematic innovation orientation of all, or part, of student project/process development projects;

  • In each case, identify industrial companies willing to be involved as mentors/champions of student projects in areas/products of interest to them;

  • Organise a virtual network of project-workers and project-advisers (focusing on support on deploying systematic innovation tools);

  • Organise training on systematic innovation for the students, with particular attention to how these programmes will be funded;

  • Organise competitions and awards from the network (possibly through its anchor associations); · Canvass the Socrates programme of the EU to assess opportunities for funding co-ordination activities of the network, and possibly the students training requirements.

5

Objective: development of a technology foresight exercise concerning the European Food Industry

  • Prepare accompanying measure proposal and submit to the EU 5th F. P. (done);

  • Set-up working group (done);

  • Training workshop of working group on WOIS and draft work outline (to take place in Brussels in January 2002 – pending contract negotiations);

  • First workshop (open to outside participants) to present and discuss work outline (to be held in Brussels in January 2002);

  • Missions of the working group to US and Japan to gather expertise on TRIZ in forecasting, benchmark industrial food innovation, and explore novel consumer-oriented tools (such as Kansei engineering) (January/February 2002);

  • Second workshop (open to outside participants) to present and discuss first draft of the foresight exercise (to be held in Wageningen in February 2002); · Exercise to be completed by May 2002.

6

Objective: development of “food inventive principles”

  • Set up working group;

  • Propose examples of the inventive principles in food industry problems;

  • Exchange information and review by the network;

  • Publication of the results (The TRIZ Journal would be the most appropriate).

7

Objective: development of “food inventive principles”

  • Maintain the idea of systematically processing patents to extract food principles simmering (specially for biochemical and biological dimensions), pending opportune developments if and when appropriate.

8

Objective: Incorporation of systematic innovation tools and problem-solving orientation in university programmes

  • Initially, address this issue in conjunction with line of action 4 (section 3.3.3.);

  • In conjunction with the network anchors, promote discussions on strategic issues concerning education to the Food Industry, and eventually generate recommendations and suggestions for university programmes;

  • Publish these recommendations and disseminate them in the academic environment, with special attention to Universities with industrial advisory boards.

Index to the report:

1. Background and rationale

1.1. What is systematic innovation?

1.1.1. A brief history of TRIZ

1.1.2. A conceptual framework

1.2. Does the Food Industry need the concepts and tools of systematic innovation?

1.2.1. Systematic innovation and food research

1.2.2. Issues for academia

1.2.3. Issues for industry

1.3. How can we deploy systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry?

2. Methodology

3. Proposed strategy

3.1. Needs

3.2. Initiatives to meet the needs

3.2.1. Design and delivery of a comprehensive training programme on systematic innovation tools for industry developers

3.2.2. Development of case studies on the use of systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry for concurrent product and process development

3.2.3. Development of a technology foresight exercise concerning the European Food Industry

3.2.4. Development of “food inventive principles”

3.2.5. Incorporation of systematic innovation tools and problem-solving orientation in university programmes

3.3. Action plan to promote the initiatives

3.3.1. General needs: creation of an international network

3.3.2. Design and delivery of a comprehensive training programme on systematic innovation tools for industry developers

3.3.3. Development of case studies on the use of systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry for concurrent product and process development

3.3.4. Development of a technology foresight exercise concerning the European Food Industry

3.3.5. Development of “food inventive principles”

3.3.6. Incorporation of systematic innovation tools and problem-solving orientation in university programmes 27

4. Conclusion 28

1. Background and rationale

Why is a research strategy needed to promote systematic innovation in the Food Industry?

Strategic research is performed by a critical mass of researchers that target an ambitious goal that can only be reached with a comprehensive approach involving a well defined series of specific initiatives. To perceive the need for such an action, we must first clarify the basic issues:

  • What is systematic innovation?
  • Does the Food Industry need its concepts and tools?
  • If so, how can they be deployed?

There will be a need for strategic research if the answer to this last question identifies requirements for systems, concepts or tools that are not yet developed, or that still require adaptation to the specific needs of the Food Industry, and these can only be met by a concerted effort. Henceforth, the definition of a research strategy should be straightforward, by addressing the actions that are needed to fulfill these requirements.

1.1. What is systematic innovation?

In this report we will consider systematic innovation as the application of tools and working methods that enable a systematic and objective approach to the specification and resolution of design problems in product and process development.

This view of systematic innovation involves various concepts and methods with different origin, that can be integrated for a comprehensive and effective management of creativity and innovation in industrial R&D. Problem definition tools, such as QFD (Quality Function Deployment) and focus groups, idea generation techniques, such as brainstorming and lateral thinking, and others, are increasingly used by the Food Industry, and we could take them as a starting point. However, problem solving, and particularly the use of scientific/technological principles outside the specific areas of food science & technology, are lacking expertise of similar calibre in our industrial sector. At present, solving design problems is mostly left to the individual expertise of developers, the ability to find outside information, or laboratory/pilot experimentation. This report is therefore particularly concerned with this dimension: how do we solve design problems?

A very promising concept has been proposed and tested in other industrial sectors, known as TRIZ. We will start by looking at this theory and build the systematic innovation concepts from there.

1.1.1. A brief history of TRIZ

TRIZ was developed by Genrich Altschuller, a Russian physicist and naval officer. The 1940’s find him beginning his career at the patent office of the Russian Navy. Trying to feed his inquisitive mind in a place where there was not much happening, Altschuller looked around at all that wealth of information, of innovative ideas to solve thousands of problems, and set himself a task: to find out how people solve problems. Would each patent be the result of a genial individual and unrepeatable discovery? Was there a general philosophy or scientific method underlying inventivity? Is invention an art, or is it a science with its own underlying principles being applied over and over again?

Answer this question yourself. Is inventivity an art, which requires a natural, born, artist (the “inventor”), or is it a science, that can be learnt by decoding its basic principles? Do you have to be born an inventor, or can you learn to be one?

Patents were very good “raw materials” for this task, because they were written in such a neat way: what is the problem? why are there no successful (or satisfactory) solutions? why is this new solution suitable (or better than others)? how does it work? Altschuller processed patent after patent to systematise all this information and found that:

  • patterns of technological evolution were repeated across industries and sciences. The type of problems that were solved in each given sector followed a similar pattern over time, which indicated that the evolution of scientific and technical knowledge trailed a similar path of development regardless of the specific area in question.

  • solutions to problems could be described as the application of a limited number of general principles to specific situations. Once you raised yourself above the detailed specificity of a problem and expressed it in general terms, you started to see that solutions to problems were repeated across industries and sectors.

  • many problems basically involve a contradiction between conflicting factors (for instance, something needs to be bigger to be more productive but smaller to be cheaper; something needs to be heavier to include more functionality but lighter to be more efficient, etc.). Conventional solutions were compromises between the conflicting factors: a true innovation resulted from solving the conflict completely, and this was done by applying an appropriate scientific effect that allowed us to get rid of the conflict. Innovations usually resulted from applying an effect that had proven its success in other fields of science/technology time and time again.

What do you think of these conclusions? Do you think that you can solve problems using the same scientific effects that others used in very different industrial processes? Or does it look to you that each area of science and technology has a totally different environment to any other, and knowledge is sector-specific?

Altschuller initially proposed 40 inventive principles. According to him, hundreds of thousands of patents that addressed engineering design problems could be summarised in the application of one (or more) of 40 basic effects. He went further than this, and proposed a contradiction matrix, listing 39 factors that could be in conflict (for instance, weight of moving object, weight of stationary object, power, ease of operation, etc.). In this matrix, you can find for each intersection of two factors which general principles out of the 40 can be used to solve this conflict. Do you have a problem between, say, the length of a moving object and the duration of the action? Does the object need to be short for some reason, but that causes the duration of the action to be insufficient? Look at the contradiction matrix and you find that problems of this nature have been inventively solved by applying principle number 19, which is: “Periodic Action”. This may mean something like: a) instead of continuous action, use periodic or pulsating actions; b) if an action is periodic, change the periodic magnitude or frequency; c) use pauses between impulses to perform a different action.

The key to combining thousands of patents in such a concise way was the ability to interpret the problem in the “general terms” which give us access to the underlying scientific principles / effects, and then the ability to translate the solution back to the specific level of our problem.

Altschuller realised that he had found something that could have enormous impact on technological development, and not only on problem solving. As patterns of technological evolution repeat, you can foresee the direction of evolution of technologies by visualising where you are in this pattern. Foresight becomes less speculative and more solidly based on reality. As patterns of solutions repeat across industries and sectors, you can, and indeed you should, benefit from solutions developed in other sectors of science and industry, and here was the tool

that allowed you to do this so effectively. After all, finding an innovative solution could be done by applying systematically a path of problem solving that led you towards a revolutionary result by moving up, then moving down, in the level of knowledge specificity that you work with.

Altschuller called it the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, which gives the acronym TRIZ in Russian. Forget about compromises, solve problems innovatively – you will be surprised how often an innovative solution can be found by deploying solutions that are already there – you just have to move up, then down, to find them. Anyone can be an inventor and a revolutionary innovator, you just need to master this process.

The rest of the story might have been different if Altschuller had been working elsewhere in space and time. In his context, Stalin’s Russia, his ideas on TRIZ actually led him to a Gulag. On returning to normal life after Stalin’s demise, Altschuller started teaching his method to fellow engineers and scientists, and the TRIZ school commenced. For decades, it was restricted to a discrete group of Russian engineers. They kept working on the concept, and more “inventive principles” were proposed for other areas of knowledge, such as geometry, chemistry, etc. TRIZ generated a set of tools, and not only problem-solving ones. After “glasnost” in the 80’s, TRIZ-trained Russian engineers found opportunities outside Russia to deploy their techniques in multinational companies and western society discovered TRIZ.

This “discovery” came at a particularly appropriate time, when management gurus were talking about knowledge management, the knowledge centred-economy, the importance of multidisciplinarity, of “learning with/from others”, and the value of know-how. Suddenly, TRIZ could become quite fashionable.

However, the method was not very easy or straightforward to grasp, and was not geared towards the way of thinking of western problem-solvers – it was fine for Russian engineers with abstract mathematical minds, but proved difficult to industry-minded people with little time to spare. Russian experts were claiming that you needed decades to become an efficient TRIZ user.

Fast and user-friendly solutions are key to success. It was a matter of time before experts moved ahead by applying knowledge processing systems and information technologies to produce tools that facilitate not only learning TRIZ, but also using it. With time, evolution took the original concept beyond TRIZ. Visiting the websites of the Invention Machine Corp. (www.cobrain.com) or Ideation International (www.ideation.com) is mandatory to see how far modern systems have evolved. Over 3.8 million patents have now been processed by semantic processing technologies.

The original concept has fruitified in many directions, as it evolved in a competitive industrial environment. TRIZ is particularly good as a problem-solving tool, but problem definition techniques are just as, if not more, important for the Food Industry. The crucial market success factors are the product targets (is this the right product for the market segment that we wish to reach?), and TRIZ is not so helpful to establish them, it is more suited to assist us in finding a way to solve the design problems of the product or process, once we have defined what we want to achieve. We might talk about “systematic innovation” in general, encompassing not only problem solving tools but also problem-definition ones, some emerging from TRIZ and its spin-offs, others drawn from elsewhere. There are applications of these concepts in a wide variety of situations: engineering problems, business problems, even developing university curricula. The TRIZ Journal at www.triz-journal.com can be consulted for scientific articles on a variety of applications of systematic innovation in general, again not restricted to TRIZ tools.

This text explored in particular the problem-solving ability of TRIZ. For more details, the Proceedings of the workshop associated to this Accompanying Measure can be consulted, with cross-referencing to the most fundamental TRIZ texts. The online TRIZ Journal is also a good starting source to find more information (at www.triz-journal.com).

1.1.2. A conceptual framework

A personal perspective may help to visualise a wider context than simple problem-solving novelties.

I do not see TRIZ as just a tool, albeit an effective one, crucial for the overall systematic innovation concept. The reason why it is so appealing to me is more fundamental. I propose that we take a TRIZ-type look at evolution, move a little bit away from our specific concerns regarding Research & Development, and hover above to get a bird’s eye picture of where we came from, where we are, and where we think we should be going from here.

I suggest that we really start in the beginning. Let us take Ancient Egypt. This was an integrated culture: everything was tied up to everything else. Astronomy, politics, religion, agriculture, wealth, health, architecture, everything had to do with everything else. The first great architect (Imhotep, ca. 2600 B.C.), who is accredited with giant leaps in pyramid building technology, was the great vizir of King Djoser of the 3rd dynasty, high priest of Amon, and founder of Egyptian medicine – that’s like being architect, prime-minister, Pope, astronomer, mathematician, and still find time for a Nobel prize of medicine. This does not mean that he had an expertise is several, independent, areas of knowledge: he used everything together (e.g. use mathematics to apply astronomy in architecture and get a religious result). You cannot understand Egyptian religion without astronomy, nor politics without religion, nor agriculture without astronomy (how else could you predict the floods of the Nile?). And incidentally, if you believe that it was easier then because there was less knowledge to grasp, you try and come up with a suitable process to build a 138 m high pyramid composed of 2.5 million blocks weighing 2 – 70 tons each (that’s over 90 million ft3 of stone masonry, more than all cathedrals and churches of England put together, and enough to build 30 Empire State buildings), and do it in less than 30 years – this is Khufu’s feat, with the Great Pyramid of Giza (4th dynasty, ca. 2500 BC). If Imhotep or Khufu had written a “Handbook of logistics” I guess we would still be using it in University. Or perhaps not, because we might think that the book had too much astronomy and religion in it, and not enough logistics, as we would not understand how things that to us are so different could be understood jointly.

This embracive approach passed to our civilisation after filtering and enhancing by the inquisitive Ancient Greeks. This was a time when everything was still tied up to everything else. However, when we now look back, we tend to see different Greek scientists as initiators of different individual disciplines, as if dispersion came then, because we apply our modern way of thinking to interpret history.

With the industrial revolution, specialisation was really necessary to advance knowledge. It was no longer feasible for one single individual to grasp everything that was needed in all areas of knowledge. As we moved ahead, breakthroughs implied a high degree of specialisation.

We now live in a highly analytical era, where knowledge is composed by a very large variety of individual disciplines that have been developing largely without communicating too much between them. We think this is right, because this is how progress has largely been made: someone who knows a lot about computing makes a better computer. When faced with a problem, we analyse it to death, and that is how we get rid of it. If we solve a problem by avoiding it, we risk being labelled “cheaters” because we did not use an accepted scientific method to tackle it. When we need an integrated result, we assemble a multidisciplinary team – we have the expert geologist, the expert electrical engineer, the expert marketeer, etc. Sometimes, we need to smoothen the interfaces, because the level of specialisation increased so much that different experts started thinking and working in different ways, and it may be difficult to match expectations with deliveries in a multidisciplinary team (just think of all the anecdotes between engineers and marketeers).

Let us now assume for a moment that this is the right way to keep going. Experts know more and more about less and less, to increase specialisation so that breakthroughs can keep being made. Some time ago we just had biologists. Since Pasteur, we have biologists and microbiologists. What about now? biologists, microbiologists, physiologists, molecular biologists, geneticists, …?

Think of an example. Did it ever happen to you something like talking to a microbiologist about what you think is a microbiology problem and he tells you – “sorry, but that’s a molecular biology problem and I’m a physiologist, I don’t have a clue”?

What about the future? Will we have an expert for genetic engineering of type A, another for genetic engineering of type B, etc.? Will everyone have to be working that way, scientific research as well as industrial R&D? And then when we need to assemble a team to come up with an innovative product/process, we have to bring together 137 different individuals? Where will it stop?

I suggest that just like sometime in the past we came to the conclusion that we could not keep being all-encompassing integrated thinkers and required analytical thinking and specialisation, we see ourselves going way over the other extreme now. We desperately require integrating skills, the ability to pull together different areas of knowledge and get a result, without necessarily being ourselves experts (perhaps we could say “over-experts”) of each and every issue involved.

In this context, TRIZ seems to be an interesting starting point. It is at least a tool that is pointing in the right direction at this moment of evolution of science. When we move from our specific problem to the “general level” of TRIZ, where we identify the contradictions, principles and effects, we are moving to a different level of knowledge, where perspectives are more integrated. By using TRIZ, we get the type of perspective that Imhotep or Aristotle used to have. We should seriously think about improving our capacity to integrate knowledge in order to design new products, new processes, and new solutions. However, we cannot do it any more without proper tools, because we cannot possible store all relevant pieces of information in the mind of one single individual, perhaps not even in those of a team of manageable size. I do not expect TRIZ to be THE solution for this, but I know of no other place where we might start that seems more appropriate. And now that we have so many efficient information systems around, what else do we need?

1.2. Does the Food Industry need the concepts and tools of systematic innovation?

1.2.1. Systematic innovation and food research

Do we know enough about food products and manufacturing processes, or do we need to keep investing in experimental research to find out more? If we know enough, than we should be able to do anything; if there is something that we cannot do, than we need to perform experimental research.

If you agreed with the last sentence entirely, you may be thinking in terms of a linear relationship between finding something through experimental research and being able to solve a problem – if there is something you cannot do, you need to perform research to find a solution.

What do you think? What expectations do you have concerning research? If we spend twice as much in finding new knowledge, will we get twice the results? And if not, why not?

One only finds a solution for an important problem when one searches for it, and one can often find valuable scientific information which does not solve any pressing problem. Research funding agencies have been trying to improve the linearity between research output and solutions by forcing research to be targeted at solutions – we call this a problem-oriented approach. It is valid for applied research only, of course, but food research largely gets that label these days. This might seem a positive step for the tax payer, who has been supporting public-funded scientific

research, while it makes public and private (company) research funding more difficult to differentiate. It also means that food researchers no longer look for funds with their research areas, now they use a portfolio of problems to solve instead. Exception is made, or course, to fundamental scientific work involving biotechnology and genetics, and public-good related research (e.g. food safety, food and health, allergenicity).

However, as knowledge grows exponentially, we should start finding solutions without requiring any experimental research. Should there not be a time when we can produce solutions at a faster rate than research outputs, because we can use already existing information to come up with results and ideas?

The figure above sketches this concept. It is inevitable that sooner or later knowledge will increase to such an extent that we move from the convex to the concave shape. If you believe that in terms of food products we have not arrived there yet, systematic innovation is not yet crucial to you: one problem = one research project; if you think that such a time has passed, than you might need to start deploying systematic innovation tools to facilitate your work.

1.2.2. Issues for academia

While generating new knowledge is as important as ever, being able to find and apply existing knowledge is increasingly becoming the most crucial hurdle in industry-oriented problems. The development of the knowledge economy sounds great for universities and researchers – we have the raw materials, so the future should be bright for us. However, the fact that everybody has to eat does not mean that farmers are very wealthy. Having raw materials does not imply profits – it does not even imply being able to sell. Academics and researchers have been very competent at generating new knowledge, but need to improve substantially the capacity to manage it and to work with existing knowledge across areas of science and technology in order to keep being competitive partners of industrial development. We should be moving from a knowledge-generating perspective to a knowledge-management perspective. Management includes raw materials, and they are a crucial part, but are not the full equation.

1.2.3. Issues for industry

With the average life cycle of a food product shrinking drastically, requiring an ever growing capacity to renew product portfolios, the interest of enabling tools that can facilitate product and process development, cut down development time, decrease R&D costs and improve the quality of the final result, needs no defence. Food companies do not look at R&D as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve an end, which is to innovate products and processes and to solve problems. Laboratory research in some core areas underpinning food products and food constituents has spiralling costs. However, the role of industry is not to generate research output, but to exploit it for commercial value. Exponentially increasing experimental research costs do not necessarily imply exponentially increasing industrial R&D costs. Furthermore, according to the Commission Innovation Survey of 1998, only about 50% of industrial innovation costs in European companies are R&D. If we manage knowledge better, we can be a lot more efficient in the innovation costs department, and really do more for less.

The Food Industry could benefit more from the knowledge accumulated by worldwide research across areas of science and technology if it would come in a usable form. The Design News Reader Survey of 1999 (KM World Report) reported that R&D professionals spend only 43% of their time actually developing solutions: a similar amount is spent just searching for information (10%) and reading it (33%). As information sources grow, finding crucial information becomes an unmanageable task for ordinary search methods. However, an effective interface between knowledge processed and managed in a directly usable form and the development tasks of industry requires not only an upstream connection, but also an appropriate downstream one. Does systematic innovation imply changes in the R&D working methodologies and the associated thought processes at the company level itself? Should scientific knowledge management dovetail with creativity management and company culture? If so, it is not possible to envisage the upstream development of scientific/technical knowledge management systems for problem-solving by researchers, that are then fed to companies: an active role is required for industry.

We have described systematic innovation starting from a novel problem-solving perspective and visualised this concept as a strategic approach to promote knowledge and technology transfer across areas of science and technology, and efficient retrieval and use of scientific information. We have described what we could call “technology intelligence systems” as not only a tool, but a whole different mental model at the base of industrial innovation. We concluded that this would allow us to cut down research costs, speed solutions and improve their quality, and if we combine this with appropriate problem-definition tools for consumer-oriented innovation, we will be able to deploy very effective working methods that give us more for less. We then established that this vision of systematic innovation is of crucial strategic importance not only to industry, but to academic and scientific research as well. We are convinced that we want to see this happening throughout the food industry and must now discuss how to materialise our vision.

1.3. How can we deploy systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry?

We must address a series of issues to answer this question properly:

  • Can the problem solving tools (e.g. TRIZ, semantic knowledge processing) that have been developed and applied largely in other industrial sectors be deployed in the Food Industry immediately, without any particular adaptation?
  • Do we need new tools, specific for biologically-based problems, which do not exist yet?
  • If we need these new tools, how can we develop them?
  • If we need to adapt existing tools, how are we going to address this?
  • What are the training needs for deploying systematic innovation tools?
  • Can we develop novel problem-solving tools/methods independently of problem-definition ones? if we need to develop them jointly, what is the best way to do it?

As we answer these questions, we will start to visualise the type of initiatives that we must organise to achieve our objective. How did we go about answering them?

2. Methodology

This Accompanying Measure brought together over 50 systematic innovation experts and academic & industrial researchers to address these issues in a workshop (the Proceedings can be consulted in another document).

The underlying concepts were first presented and explored with a set of keynote lectures in the specific context of the Food Industry. Experts in systematic innovation clarified the issues to alert food researchers and industrialists to the potential of this methodology, and food-related case studies were reviewed.

The audience was then divided for group work sessions. Five groups were organised in the first session, dividing the audience evenly, so that each group had a mix of the different backgrounds present at the workshop. Each group analysed independently possible answers to 2 questions: (i) What are the fundamental problems where a TRIZ-type approach could significantly improve current status? (e.g. food product development, inc. customer-oriented problem definition; food science knowledge processing; technology forecasting); (ii) What initiatives are needed to address these problems? (in research; deployment; training).

The workshop committee analysed the results of the various groups, and six areas of interest for developing future initiatives emerged:

(i). Case study on application of TRIZ in the catering versus home quality contradiction;

(ii). Development of TRIZ training programmes at Universities;

(iii). Development of a standardised method of analysing the impact of TRIZ in case studies;

(iv). Application of TRIZ methods in technology forecasting;

(v). Development of a series of case studies that involve the application of systematic innovation to food industry problems;

(vi). Translation of the TRIZ inventive principles to a food industry perspective (the “food inventive principles”).

The audience reassembled to discuss the findings and select the three most promising areas (iv, v and vi above). It then divided in three groups, according to the interests of each participant. Each group discussed follow-up work.

As a result of these discussions, the project co-ordinator answered the questions indicated in section 1.3, placed the suggestions in perspective to define a comprehensive view of the way forward in line with strategic objectives, analysed opportunities for networking and funding, and proposes a series of initiatives in this document. It is intended to disseminate the findings, harness the support and commitment of academic and industrial researchers/developers, establish a network, and develop the initiatives as opportunities materialise.

3. Proposed strategy

3.1. Needs

Let us address the needs by answering the questions of section 1.3.

· Can the problem solving tools (e.g. TRIZ, semantic knowledge processing) that have been developed and applied largely in other industrial sectors be deployed in the Food Industry immediately, without any particular adaptation?

Yes.

TRIZ can be used to solve equipment design problems in the food industry, as some examples given at the Workshop show. When the process design issue can be solved by the general engineering principles, it does not really matter whether the product is a food or something else. Handling the physical dimension of product attributes is also possible (see the Workshop Proceedings for examples). However, it must be noted that food processing sometimes involves contradictory results between processing targets and safety targets – improving processability cannot jeopardise safety margins. Applications are not necessarily straightforward: the biological dimension must be part of a systematic innovation system even if the problem and/or solution are not biological in themselves.

Some of the general principles can be interpreted in biological terms. Just as TRIZ principles have found applications in business problems (see the Workshop Proceedings and Mann, D. & Domb, E., TRIZ Journal, September 1999) or social problems (see Terninko, J., TRIZ Journal June 2001), they can equally be applied to food problems. Some examples of “food” interpretations of inventive principles can be found in Winkless and Mann, TRIZ Journal May 2001.

It is therefore possible, and highly desirable, to train food product and process developers in the use of systematic innovation techniques and tools and deploy them in food product/process development.

· · Do we need new tools, specific for biologically-based problems, which do not exist yet?

Yes as well!

Albeit the positive note given in the previous answer, the fact is that the ability of TRIZ to impact the food industry in the same way as other industries is far more limited by the lack of systematic information on biochemical and biological aspects. Seeing how neatly the existing inventive principles can be used in engineering design, one cannot fail to desire such a fine system to help us with biological problems. The semantic knowledge processing system of the Invention Machine Corp. does allow the possibility to find relevant patents concerning enzyme technology and biotechnology, which is helpful, but still falls short of what we might need.

Visualising the ideal scenario is not difficult: we would like to be able to solve problems with food products that involve multidimensional factors such as texture, flavour, shelf-life, enzymic activity, microbial activity, consumer attitudes, etc. just like we can do with current TRIZ tools in industries like car manufacturing or aeronautics. For the physical dimensions of the problem we are well served by TRIZ, but we cannot do the same with the biological dimensions. Instead of working from TRIZ to foods and translate the 40 inventive principles to illustrate them in food situations, could we work from the food patents and build “food inventive principles”? There are thousands of patents concerning food products – if they could be systematised, resulting in simple and effective

tools like the existing TRIZ principles of geometry, chemistry, etc., they would be of immense value to food product and process development. Or is it better to work with existing tools, adapt and develop complementing ones, as needed?

· How can we develop new tools?

TRIZ was originally developed by looking into thousands of patents, and so we could envisage going through every food-related patent one by one, with a food scientist eye. This is a difficult job to perform, that would take many years and for which it would be probably difficult to find funding. Academic researchers might not be very interested either, as the effort-publication ratio is not attractive.

There is also an obvious complexity in the system-specific nature of many effects (the same factor may cause different effects in different matrices depending on their characteristics). It would be logical to think that the food inventive principles that we are missing would largely have to be described at molecular level, not at the macro-level of whole food products. Food and nutrition research is moving in that direction, very much as would be predicted by the general laws of evolution of TRIZ (“move into micro-level”). This will help to visualise “food problems” at a level that would allow for a more effective systematisation.

The work involved would require an initial TRIZ training, to strengthen the capabilities of analysing functions of a system at a general level, which is the core of TRIZ.

We could envisage a systematic work of processing food patents one by one, analysing the functions of the systems involved, the contradictions and the factor-effect relations at the heart of each solution. This would lead to a systematisation of food patents in a series of inventive principles. Such work is very time consuming and of uncertain outcome.

· How are we going to adapt existing tools?

Adapting existing tools for “food” use would be faster and perhaps more efficient than working from scratch, albeit not so comprehensive. Using existing tools will inevitably lead to an increasing adaptation to the needs of food design problems. This will likely come more from the working methods than from the tools themselves. Therefore, instead of considering “what else do we need” in abstract, it seems more appropriate to use existing tools to solve real problems in industrial design, and extract from here needs for adaptations and complementation.

Promoting the use of TRIZ tools in food product and process design will lead to adaptations and identify complementary tools that might be needed to deal with the biological nature of foods.

· What are the training needs for deploying systematic innovation tools?

Whether we would be considering some new developments in TRIZ-type tools or limit ourselves to existing ones, training in basic TRIZ is essential. First and foremost, TRIZ is a new thinking model and grasping its concepts will assist developers to think more systematically, orienting towards functional analysis. At the workshop, experts in TRIZ have reported that developers generally find it difficult to learn and incorporate TRIZ tools into their working life when starting from software. The conceptual (theoretical) aspects are very important to ensure an effective uptake of TRIZ tools. The first training need is the concept, the thinking model, the way of working. Tools should come next.

The type of training courses run by TRIZ consultants seem a very appropriate starting point. The concepts are presented alongside practical sessions where the participants work out examples of their own choice. Organising this type of courses for food companies on a large scale throughout Europe would therefore be very beneficial.

In addition, it is also fundamental to consider the needs for systematic innovation from the point of view of the product design, particularly translating consumer needs and wants into quantifiable product targets. There are similar training programmes available for QFD, but this does not cover all the needs.

A comprehensive plan for hands-on training on systematic innovation tools in general may be needed to really make an impact in the European Food Industry.

Universities could have a major role in a medium term, if they would incorporate teaching of these subjects in their educational programmes. It would be far more effective in the long run if the skills required for problem definition and problem solving were already discussed and tested during undergraduate training. Education in industry-oriented areas such as food science and technology should devote particular attention to help graduates see themselves as problem-solvers, not just a repository of scientific knowledge. This could tie up very well with final year projects, design projects and new product development projects that some courses have in their curricula. Industry would welcome graduates already oriented towards problem solving approaches.

We envisage the need to promote systematic innovation training programmes to food developers working in industry, and to incorporate these issues in university undergraduate programmes.

· Can we develop novel problem-solving tools/methods independently of problem-definition ones?

No.

Ultimately, the success of innovation is the market success, and this does not depend on how effective or elegant the process design solutions are, except insofar as cost competitiveness is crucial and was improved. Once systematic thinking stirs creative and innovative thinking in process design problems, we wish to have an equally good systematic capacity to use consumer data to design products (manage consumers knowledge). The two dimensions, product design and process design, relate to problem-definition and problem-solving tools. We must develop the two interactively, it is senseless to focus on one side with the other being dealt with trivially. In knowledge management, this approach is called “concurrent product and process development”. Industry is already moving in product design tools, such as QFD (see Costa, Dekker and Jongen, Trends in Food Science & Technology, 2001, pp. 306-314). This could be put in perspective as part of a comprehensive systematic innovation approach.

Once we interiorise TRIZ concepts and excel at analysing the functionality of systems, we must expand our working abilities to integrate problem definition as well as problem solving, and develop our capabilities for product and process design concurrently.

· What is the best way to develop problem definition and problem solving tools and methods concurrently?

Although it can be argued that existing tools are not perfected for use in food innovation, they really are more than enough to incorporate these methods and concepts straight away. Needs for adaptation and complementarity will be better identified from experience in working with the existing systems, and the eventual success of this type of approach will then make it easier to find support to embark on more comprehensive work. Also, the specific needs will be better understood and such work could be much more focused and targeted.

The same is true about the methodology for working the whole aspects of process and product design jointly, interfacing problem definition and problem solving. The WOIS technique promoted

by the WOIS Institute, Germany, is an example of integration of various of these tools for technology foresight (see the Workshop Proceedings). Other strategies have been suggested: e.g. AFTER (see Kowalik, J., TRIZ Journal, January 1997), Collaborative Innovation (see Zeidner & Wood, TRIZ Journal, May 2000). We must start to put these concepts and tools to work for food industry problems.

The best way to develop systematic innovation tools concurrently is to start by using those that exist to solve real problems, learn from experience, and build from there.

· Conclusion of the needs analysis

From these answers, and taking the suggestions collected at the workshop, we obtain the following picture for our needs list:

  • We should put systematic innovation tools to work in food process and product design straight away.

  • This will give us experience on how to interface these tools effectively, an answer that will likely depend on the nature of business and corporate culture of specific companies.

  • We will certainly feel specific needs for adaptation and complementarity to deal with biological dimensions of food matrices. We will then have a more focused perception of how to achieve this, which may avoid the need to work from scratch with food patents.

  • We should develop an objective way to assess the impact of this methodology in the examples used on food innovation to quantify and qualify benefits more clearly and incentive its uptake at a larger scale.

  • The starting point should be good TRIZ training with hands-on approach to master the most relevant concepts of the new thinking model. This must be part of a comprehensive training plan on systematic innovation tools, to further incorporate product design capabilities for consumer-oriented innovation. Our research strategy starts with training, which actually incorporates the initial work with case studies already, and is not separated from researching our needs for further developments.

  • There are two environments for such training:

-First and foremost, industrial companies: train the process and product developers while helping them to use these tools in their problems for the first time, as part of the training.

-For a wide longer term benefit, University programmes, preferably linked to product and/or process development projects for final year or postgraduate students: strengthen the capacity of Universities to deliver problem-solvers to the industry. It would be highly beneficial if such student projects would be developed in co-operation with industrial companies to provide a strong real-life orientation.

3.2. Initiatives to meet the needs

From the needs analysis and the discussions at the workshop, the following strategic initiatives can be outlined:

3.2.1. Design and delivery of a comprehensive training programme on systematic innovation tools for industry developers

The most common type of training model for QFD and TRIZ seems excellent: circa 3 days workshops where the concepts are presented in lecture sessions, worked out in examples

selected by the trainees, divided in working groups, in practical sessions, and then the experience is reviewed in wrap-up sessions. The training therefore combines learning with actual R&D consultancy coaching for deploying the concepts to solve problems of interest to each trainee’s company. There are consultancy companies in Europe, US and Japan that already offer a comprehensive range of courses that would allow industrial companies to select a number of different topics, according to their needs: TRIZ, QFD, Taguchi, etc. Therefore, the only thing that seems necessary at first is to incentive companies to hire trainers and move forward individually.

However, tailor-made training programmes are an option only to companies of sufficient

dimension to justify the costs. As training includes a practical, consultancy coaching, dimension, they are not expected to come cheap – a group of less than 15 people would have too high unit costs. Furthermore, training courses are only a starting point – developers must continue to work with the newly acquired tools to develop proficient skills, and there is a danger of losing momentum without a continuing interaction. Networking is important to maximise the benefits of systematic innovation training. The collaborative training model presented by Kalevi Rantanen at the workshop is a good one; networking can be virtual.

There is some merit therefore in trying to develop a standardised approach with an extended network, considering a series of workshops – perhaps 3 to 5, that would unfold over a period of 1 – 2 years to develop the various working methods, starting with TRIZ and ending with concurrent product and process design skills. These programmes would be organised geographically, drawing participants from various companies, thereby opening the access of SME’s to this type of training on a par with others. There would be a network including a pool of trainers in various regions, and a common programme that would be multiplied across Europe. A network of alumni would emerge, to provide continuing exchange and support beyond the workshops.

Another advantage of a comprehensive programme promoted by a network for the specific benefit of the Food Industry is that trainers will eventually develop a good set of case studies and adjust their training to the needs and requirements of this industry. As things are at the moment, the Food Industry is not a major target for systematic innovation trainers. There are many aspects of food products that can be easily overlooked or simplified by existing training materials, mostly because of the biological dimensions (safety and shelf life).

We therefore envisage the design of a training programme consisting of a number of workshops on complementing topics of systematic innovation that results from pooling together existing modular courses, perhaps adding one or two new modules if needed. This design should be made by a working group including industrialists and systematic innovation trainers, that would focus on the needs of the industry and the delivery capacity of the trainers. Running at least one pilot set will be needed to validate the programme – requirements for adaptation are likely to emerge (specially in terms of case studies and tools for working with consumer data). Then, it is just a question of delivering the courses around Europe, continuously monitoring and updating the contents and approaches as a result of the experience accumulated.

As this type of initiatives will certainly be more expensive than plain training, due to the practical, consultancy, dimension, the impact of pilot runs of the programme is very important for companies to decide on the value for money. There is no better selling argument that the impact factors of what we wish to sell. If we can bring down the costs of the pilot runs, this would be very important to be able to organise them. However, without additional funding from public agencies, the pilot runs would actually be more expensive, because of the course development costs, which is exactly the opposite of what we want for moving fast. Targeting this type of funding whether at national or EU level requires a strong and credible network and again we conclude that networking is crucial for success.

3.2.2. Development of case studies on the use of systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry for concurrent product and process development

Ultimately, this is the core activity that we would like to see multiplied throughout Europe: an expanding number of product and process development projects performed with ever-increasing efficiency using continuously improving systematic innovation tools and working methods.

Pilot case studies will be very important to commence, they are the seeds. They will provide objective impact assessment of the benefits, generate experience on best practices of using and combining various tools, and clearly identify additional needs for tools/adaptations. They will also be most useful for the systematic innovation trainers to improve the relevance of their training programmes to “food clients”.

The problem with developing cases studies for general use was immediately picked up at the Workshop: by its very nature the results are likely to be very sensitive concerning intellectual property value. If a given industrial company develops a very good example for one of their new products that they hope to be a success and give them a good competitive advantage, would they be willing to immediately show to others how they did it and what exact results they got? Even the formulation of conventional products that are on the market for decades is sensitive information. If the case study is a real problem with a very good result, we do not want to tell others about it; if we do not mind telling others about it, maybe the problem is not so relevant or the solution not that good, and so the case study is not very effective.

We might apply one of the TRIZ inventive principles to solve this conundrum: principle 1 – segmentation (A: divide an object into independent parts). We could separate the intellectual property value from the commercial value, that is, separate design from commercial exploitation. First we have a working group developing a case study, obtaining a result and protecting it by filing a patent application. As far as we are concerned, we already have what we wish for our purposes, the case study. Then, anyone can license the patent if they so wish – members of the working group could do so for nothing or a symbolic fee, others for its full value, hence the developers have a competitive advantage if they wish to exploit it commercially. Can we do this?

  • If we have a team of systematic innovation experts, food researchers and one industrial company (or more in a complementing, not competitive, role) working one case study, this might work. Why would the company or companies be involved? Would they not prefer to do this on their own and have full protection of the results? There are such situations: for instance the EU collaborative projects. If the idea is still somewhat tentative, is originating somewhere else (a university?) and the outcome a bit uncertain, the fact that someone picks up part of the bill may be attractive. Otherwise, the industrial companies would have to pay the full development costs – something they prefer to do when the cost-risk-benefit ratios are clearly favourable.
  • Another similar situation is the “business” of incubation companies seen from the eyes of venture capitalists: start-up companies in incubators are like flowers growing from seed, and when they have matured sufficiently for the colours and aroma to blossom, the venture capitalists pick up those they like.

In the first case, we would envisage collaborative R&D projects submitted to the EU 5th Framework (for instance, a CRAFT-type of project) or to national agencies (like Enterprise Ireland in Eire). An active network will help to facilitate setting up such initiatives. The output of these projects could be a product/process patent. It is also possible to promote an overall project like a concerted action, managing various individual projects. The concertation level provides orientation and support on the deployment of systematic innovation tools, and each individual project generates its own intellectual property, belonging to the specific working group. This would be more effective than a series of loose initiatives running totally independently. We need a good network for this: systematic innovation experts to provide consultancy and orientation, food research performers, and industrial companies, each of which championing one specific project. The concertation level could be the subject of an EU proposal, while each individual project would seek funding in national agencies supporting industrial innovation.

In the second case, we could be working a bit more upstream. Many university food science and cognate programmes have a final year project that consists of a new product or process development. If some of these would be mentored by an industrial company, they could be worked with an industrial orientation, towards industrial goals. A given company could mentor various projects. Each will not necessarily lead to a good case study and relevant intellectual property value, but if we run a network all over Europe, we might end up with a number of good results. This could tie up with a motivating initiative for the students, like awards given by the network, for instance: best QFD analysis, best deployment of scientific effects to solve product design problems, best application of TRIZ concepts, best product optimisation with Taguchi

method, best Kansei-based design, etc. Stirring international competition would incentive each group to excel. The intellectual property value eventually generated would lie with the University and company involved in each case. Again, we need a good network with committed Universities and industrial companies, assisted by systematic innovation experts.

3.2.3. Development of a technology foresight exercise concerning the European Food Industry

One of the TRIZ techniques that stirred some interest at the Workshop was the ability to perform a foresight exercise based on “learning from others” instead of speculation.

A foresight exercise is very simple. We just need to answer three questions: where are we? where are we going to? how are we going to get there? (the “why” question is optional…).

The first and third are not very difficult to address objectively: where we are can be extracted from solid data; once we define where we are moving to, it may not be too difficult to objectively see the type of things that need to be done to get there. The speculative and highly subjective exercise is to answer the second question. Diametrically opposing views of where we are going tend to emerge from different individuals, specially if we are addressing very specific issues (consensus on “big pictures” are easier). Even the same individual can “change his mind” with time.

From the general patterns of evolution that have been repeating across sectors of industry and areas of science, TRIZ enables technology foresight based on simply saying that we will be going in the same direction that everyone always goes from the particular point where we now stand. This was performed for the Textile Industry by North Carolina State University College of Textiles (foresight on yarn spinning technology, see Gahide, S., TRIZ Journal, July 2000). The WOIS concept combines TRIZ with other tools to help specify “where we are” more comprehensively in a way that enables us to move to the “general level of knowledge” (see the Workshop Proceedings). Kowalik proposes a similarly comprehensive combination of TRIZ, QFD, Taguchi and functional cost analysis in the AFTER technique (Algorithm for Forecasting Technology Evolution Roadmaps – see TRIZ Journal, January 1997).

Performing a foresight exercise would provide a good case study on the application of TRIZ-type techniques and thinking models. This is a type of study that may fit nicely in the Accompanying Measures provision of the 5th Framework programme of the EU.

3.2.4. Development of “food inventive principles”

When TRIZ was applied to business problems and to social problems for the first time, the developers found it useful to start by translating the 40 inventive principles initially proposed by Altschuller to their specific environment. It is therefore logical to do the same thing for food processing as a helpful starting point to assist TRIZ training to food developers. The exercise consists of thinking about examples in the food industry world that fit each of the principles, which is to do exactly the opposite of what Altschuller did when he developed TRIZ.

This is a type of work that can be done by a small working group interacting virtually. However, it is important to note an important limitation: the original 40 inventive principles of Altschuller were not developed for biological problems, but for mechanical and engineering problems. The parallels that can be drawn from the food industry world may turn out to be too focused on equipment and physical problems, and will not necessarily include all relevant examples of inventive principles applied to foods. A food developer reading the 40 principles may think that there is not that much value in TRIZ because one might fail to find important things, and could find some that seem rather trivial. These “translations” are a good working tool, specially to explain concepts and interface food developers and systematic innovation trainers, but could have a counterproductive effect if they are shown as a final result.

What would certainly be of significant value would be a comprehensive set of food inventive principles, covering all effects of interest, from physical to enzymic and biological dimensions. After the original 40 principles, Altschuller and others worked on other sets of principles: geometry, chemistry, etc. – why not do it for food processing? It is reported that some Russian experts are working towards a set of biological principles. The Invention Machine Corp. software includes enzyme technology and biotechnology principles. However, so far there is nothing that was developed specifically with food in mind. The variability of biological behaviour in food matrices is a concern, and the adverse side effects of a given action are another (e.g. solving a process design problem that inadvertently results in decreased safety margins). It may be necessary to move to the molecular level to express “food inventive principles”. Furthermore, process design is only one part of the picture for the food industry, product design is just as, if not more, important. The food inventive principles would need to include not only “how do we design the process to meet product targets”, but also “how do we formulate the product to meet the targets”, and both these questions interact.

At the moment, this problem is ill-defined. We do not know yet what can be achieved with existing tools and translation of the general principles to food problems; we are not sure of what type of systematisation we would need for a comprehensive set of food principles; the knowledge of factor-effect relationships at molecular level is still being developed in some cases – there is a fair number of food patents that we honestly do not know exactly why they work the way they do, and that could give good results for some foods, but not for others (there is a fair amount of empiricism in food science, stemming from thousands of years of culinary experience). If someone would embark on such an ambitious task, processing food patents one after the other and building a systematic set of inventive principles, this would certainly be interesting. However, it is a massive task for an uncertain outcome of unknown added value (we do not know yet what we can achieve with existing systematic innovation systems). It therefore seems logical that this comprehensive effort will only arise if and when more experience in the use of systematic innovation for food product and process development would generate a critical mass of interest for such venture.

3.2.5. Incorporation of systematic innovation tools and problem-solving orientation in university programmes

It is worthwhile to challenge Universities and industrial companies to work together more closely to bring the new thinking models and work approaches of TRIZ and systematic innovation to the “food table”. What does industry need from university graduates? Science, technology & management capabilities? Surely! This is such a basic necessity that it almost goes without saying. But what is it needed for? What does industry expect its staff to be able to do with their scientific capabilities? To a large extent, industry wants them to solve problems. What product should we launch this year? How can we make this product a greater market success? What should be our business strategy for the next 5 years? How can we manufacture our product cheaply? How can we optimise our production? How can we minimise downtime? etc.

An essential point to remember is that while one needs a strong scientific (technological, managerial…) background to solve problems, one can have a strong scientific capability and be very poor at solving problems.

Problem solving has its own “science”. We are witnessing the emergence of what is called “knowledge science”: how do you work with your knowledge, and that of others, effectively? How do you incorporate the knowledge of consumers in product design? How do you get it in a way that you can indeed incorporate it in a product/process design? How can you deploy world-wide knowledge effectively, across sectors of industry and areas of science, to solve design problems (including optimisation)? what knowledge do you need to optimise your supply chain and how do you process it?

Most engineering and food science & technology undergraduate programmes in Europe promote problem solving skills to some extent in final year projects focusing on new product development or new process design. Some stress problem solving and knowledge integration in other parts of their training programmes as well. However, few seem to have moved towards training students in effective working methods and tools for systematic process and product design. How many university projects of this nature used a QFD analysis to design the products? How many thought about using Kansei to specify product design targets? How many used the Stage Gate process for managing their product development projects? How many used TRIZ to optimise the process design? How many used a robust design method, such as Taguchi, Pareto charts, etc. to optimise their products? etc. Should we not improve this?

From Altschuller’s work we know that one can learn to be an innovator. So, if we want more innovators in the Food Industry, we have to start teaching people to be so.

Where is the industry in this? It is too weak to address problem solving without a real-life orientation. We envisage the ability to solve real problems, with all its multidimensional complexity, not simulated problems that just illustrate a couple of points that we wish to put across. This type of student project work should be oriented by industry, the students should work with an industrial company to develop their design project. This is certainly the most effective manner.

Hence, we envisage the need for an active co-operation between universities and industrial companies for a long term sustainability of supply of innovators to the Food Industry.

Implementing this orientation lies with each individual University. A very effective starting point would be the incorporation of systematic innovation in product and process development projects of final year students, or postgraduates, described in section 3.2.2.

3.3. Action plan to promote the initiatives

3.3.1. General needs: creation of an international network

The core element of a concerted strategy is a network to co-ordinate and disseminate the individual efforts, and canvass for support.

A strong network is crucial for credibility and chances of success for funding. The strategies for R&D funding in EU and national programmes are continuously evolving. The best approach at present is not to find a sponsor with a programme to which we can submit one loose proposal and then gather partners specifically for it, but to have very clear ideas of what we want to do, have a very strong and credibly partnership who wants to do it, and then find the right sponsors for the various elements that we wish to materialise. Good ideas attract good support.

When conceiving a network, it is worthwhile to consider the opportunity of doing so in co-operation with associations that could provide solid anchor points, for instance, the ETRIA (European TRIZ Association) for the systematic innovation trainers and EFFoST (or IFST ?) for the food industry – our network could be an intersection between two associations and a joint project of them.

The action plan is the following:

  • Starting from the Workshop participants, assemble a team per initiative and establish a steering committee;

  • From the dissemination of this Accompanying Measure, collect additional expressions of interest and complement the teams;

  • Establish contacts with ETRIA and EFFoST (other associations if needed) to anchor the network;

  • Canvass EU and national agencies to explore opportunities for support to co-ordination activities, starting from virtual networking, and promote regular meetings;

  • Promote the various initiatives described below with appropriate partners, as opportunities arise.

3.3.2. Design and delivery of a comprehensive training programme on systematic innovation tools for industry developers

The type of work involved is reminiscent of the objectives of EU programmes such as Leonardo and national programmes for improvement of human resources and professional development. A concerted effort at international level to design and run pilot courses would need financial support, and it should be explored whether the Leonardo programme would be a suitable source.

The inclusion of this type of courses in professional development programmes such as those that may soon become mandatory for engineers, or that are voluntary (like the professional development strategy advised by the Institute of Food Science and Technology, U.K.), could help to potentiate the multiplier effect and achieve long term sustainability.

The action plan is the following:

  • Contact the Leonardo programme to check for best way to submit a proposal for designing and running pilot programme;

  • Gather interest from the network (trainers and industrial companies) and prepare proposal;

  • Through network partners, contact national training agencies to ascertain support at national level to complement, or replace, EU-level project;

  • Through network partners, contact professional associations (engineers, food scientists & technologists) to try to gather support for international and national proposals, as part of professional advancement schemes;

  • Contact large industrial R&D structures of major companies to ascertain willingness to move independently with their own staff, at their own costs, if international/national public agency support fails, or to complement it.

3.3.3. Development of case studies on the use of systematic innovation tools in the Food Industry for concurrent product and process development

It is worthwhile exploring both avenues described in section 3.2.2: industrial innovation projects developed collaboratively by small working teams, and university students process/product design projects developed with industry orientation.

There are therefore two action plans under this heading:

A)

  • Through network partners, assess willingness of companies and trainers in different countries to put together R&D projects to be performed by deploying systematic innovation tools by a small collaborative working team involving the industry, systematic innovation experts, and possibly food researchers from university and/or R&D institutes;

  • Through network partners, evaluate funding opportunities at national level for these innovation projects;

  • Establish contacts with the EU R&D agro-food division and/or innovation/SME programme to ascertain opportunities for concerted action to co-ordinate all national initiatives of this type (this may need to be running in parallel with the previous action).

B)

  • Through network partners, identify universities willing to participate in a systematic innovation orientation of all, or part, of student project/process development projects;

  • In each case, identify industrial companies willing to be involved as mentors/champions of student projects in areas/products of interest to them;

  • Organise a virtual network of project-workers and project-advisers (focusing on support on deploying systematic innovation tools);

  • Organise training on systematic innovation for the students, with particular attention to how these programmes will be funded;

  • Organise competitions and awards from the network (possibly through its anchor associations);

  • Canvass the Socrates programme of the EU to assess opportunities and strategies for funding co-ordination activities of the network and the students training requirements.

3.3.4. Development of a technology foresight exercise concerning the European Food Industry

During the preparation of this report, this line of action was already followed. A proposal for an Accompanying Measure called “Food Foresight – a comprehensive view of the development patterns of the Food Industry in Europe” was submitted to the 5th Framework Programme in February 2001 and approved in the meantime (action QLAM 2001 – 00085). Pending contract negotiations, it may be initiated in December 2001. The Project Co-ordinator is Prof. Jorge Oliveira, University College Cork, Ireland, and expressions of interest on this project are welcome.

The action plan is the following:

  • Prepare accompanying measure proposal and submit to the EU 5th F. P. (done);

  • Set-up working group (done);

  • Training workshop of working group on WOIS and draft work outline (to take place in Brussels in January 2002 – pending contract negotiations);

  • First workshop (open to outside participants) to present and discuss work outline (to be held in Brussels in January 2002);

  • Missions of the working group to US and Japan to gather expertise on TRIZ in forecasting, benchmark industrial food innovation, and explore novel consumer-oriented tools (such as Kansei engineering) (January/February 2002);

  • Second workshop (open to outside participants) to present and discuss first draft of the foresight exercise (to be held in Wageningen in February 2002);

  • Exercise to be completed by May 2002.

3.3.5. Development of “food inventive principles”

After the workshop, a group initiated work towards translating the general TRIZ inventive principles to food industry situations. In the meantime, B. Winkless has published his first findings (see TRIZ Journal, May 2001) and welcomes expressions of interest.

No work is considered in the immediate horizon on processing food patents. However, if funding opportunities for such a comprehensive work are to materialise, the network could address this issue and ascertain its timeliness.

The action plan is the following:

  • Set up working group;

  • Propose examples of the inventive principles in food industry problems;

  • Exchange information and review by the network;

  • Publication of the results (The TRIZ Journal would be the most appropriate).

  • Maintain the idea of systematically processing patents to extract food principles simmering (specially for biochemical and biological dimensions), pending opportune developments if and when appropriate.

3.3.6. Incorporation of systematic innovation tools and problem-solving orientation in university programmes

This is an initiative on which the network can advise, and even establish guidelines and recommendations, but it is up to individual universities/departments to take action.

The action plan is the following:

  • Initially, address this issue in conjunction with line of action 4 (section 3.3.3.);

  • In conjunction with the network anchors, promote discussions on strategic issues concerning education to the Food Industry, and eventually generate recommendations and suggestions for university programmes;

  • Publish these recommendations and disseminate them in the academic environment, with special attention to Universities with industrial advisory boards.

4. Conclusion

We cannot expect the European Food Industry to dramatically increase innovation output without significant and suitable human resources, who think creatively and innovatively but without increasing cost nor risk with such thoughts. We will never achieve that if everyone works only incrementally in their area of expertise with their own way of thinking.

We cannot expect the European food industry to multiply its innovation activities with the profit margins it works with unless very cost-effective methods and tools are deployed. We will not decrease risk and improve success in innovation if we do not have objective and systematic ways to incorporate the needs and requirements of the consumers in product design, and to solve the manufacturing problems of that design.

There is something in the “innovation equation” that does not add up. We could increase the innovation expenditure in the European food industry exponentially and reap noting but incremental benefits here and there. The basis has to change. We have to improve the working methods and the way that developers work, define, and solve their problems: we need the ability to think integratedly; to link design attributes with process solutions (not with process problems); to be able to “learn from others”; to work multidimensionally in an effective manner – we need better ways to manage and work with our knowledge and that of the consumers.

Unless we change something in how we do things, we will keep doing them in the same way, and keep having the same results. We will have “more of the same”. If we aim at incorporating more science and technology (more knowledge) in food products and keep doing it in the same way, we can only expect the level of success that we have been having so far. And that is not enough.

Let us propose a very basic benchmarking concept. Let us look at those who are highly innovative, at industrial sectors where innovation is the name of the game, at product and process designers who very actively and effectively deliver innovations. How do they do it? How do they work with knowledge and technology? And how can we do that in our own specific context?

This is the perspective of this report, and the strategy proposed aims at achieving this objective. We are not looking at how we work and make it better, incrementally improving here and there. We propose to aim at ideality, and then make it true as much as possible.

The “ideal” vision of an innovative Food Industry is very simple: consumer requirements are objectively translated into quantifiable product targets, these are met by an optimised manufacturing process designed effectively to comply with all design targets without compromising any of the relevant aspects of food products of that type, and all this is done mostly from scientific knowledge, with only some experimentation to produce prototypes and smoothen out the rough edges. In process design, we consider all relevant alternatives and choose the very best. In product design we may consider different aspects with equal facility: e.g. sensory, convenience of use, functionality (in human metabolism). Just imagine: marketing defines that we want a product that looks like this, tastes like this, and does this to the human body; and the product development team says “no problem”, and comes up with the result in a couple of months.

This “paradise” scenario may look too farfetched for food, but others do it. How? could we move in that direction as well?

Systematic innovation is not just TRIZ, but TRIZ is an excellent starting point to think differently, which will move us in the right direction. Product design tools such as QFD might be easy for a food product developer to master, but even they can be used a lot more effectively with the functional analysis capabilities that TRIZ brings to the thinking methods. We must implement TRIZ tools as part of our working methods, but develop in an equally strong manner the problem definition (product design) tools. While seeing TRIZ as an important starting point to promote systematic innovation concepts, we envisage a much more comprehensive development of systematic innovation tools, and we need to explore other emerging concepts in this area too.

The implementation of the initiatives outlined in this proposal could give a significant contribution to improving the innovation environment of the European Food Industry. This is such an embracive objective that it only makes sense to state it in the intent of building a network of industrial companies and R&D performers to develop and disseminate these initiatives. The value of a European network of food innovators and problem-solvers cannot be overstated. This Accompanying Measure created an embryo, but the development depends on the success of the network to continue to work together and bring more partners around specific initiatives to bring the work forward. It is considered that anchoring this network by linking to international associations in the food and in the systematic innovation area can be beneficial.

Let us move forward. Expressions of interest are welcome.

Endnotes:
1) Note: In presentation terms this is a slightly different version of the report. Any interested reader should contact Jorge if they wish an original format copy.

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Accompanying Measures Contract QLAM 2000 – 0093

A Research Strategy for Developing Systematic Innovation Tools for the Food Industry

Project Co-ordinator:
Professor Jorge Oliveira
Department of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition
University College Cork
Cork
Ireland
Tel: 353-21-4902748
Fax: 353-21-4276398
E-mail: j.oliveira@ucc.ie