Estimated reading time 3 min

Food industry promises more good years

Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme and the Finnish Food and Drink Industries' Federation reveal more about the food industry's recipe for success.

Published

Commercialisation of top expertise brings many advantages

Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme (ERA) and the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation reveal more about the food industry’s recipe for success, specifically how the Finnish food and nutrition sector strategy published last spring will be implemented in practice. Co-operation is now underway to boost the effectiveness of research and commercialisation. Being in the forefront in the development of smart food, which is one of the ERA programme’s main focuses, will bring benefits for the general public, the food industry and the Finnish economy. Food industry organisations aim at establishing a Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation in Finland, so that a strong food industry cluster can then be developed around it.

The food industry means business

Co-operation of an unprecedented nature is now underway in the Finnish food industry.
– This is Finland’s third biggest industrial sector, and agreement has now been reached within the sector on its potential. As a result, a plan has been drawn up to ensure the competitiveness of the Finnish food industry in the future, said Harry Salonaho, food industry leader, chairman of the Board of the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation and President and CEO of Valio.

– We consider the Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation and the co-operation among industry organisations extremely valuable and we feel it will bring value added to all the parties involved. The only way we can compete with the international food giants is if we work together. The research co-operation published today by Valio and Raisio is a good example of this, said Salonaho.

Maximising the use of resources

Food industry co-operation will be seen in ERA projects. In spring, a strategy drafted by 30 influential industry organisations was published; the aim is to turn Finland into a model country for healthy nutrition. Food industry researchers and businesses are now working together to make research, development and commercialisation more effective.

– There is far more expertise in the food industry than is generally understood. However, it is quite often scattered and that tends to undermine efficiency, says Anu Harkki, Executive Director of Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme, ERA. Then again, we do have excellent examples of successful commercialisation ventures. Crispbread, lactose-free dairy products, and the Gefilus and Benecol brands are all good examples, but there is still some way to go before we can become truly expert and efficient at commercialising innovations, Harkki adds.

– More focus, synergy and co-operation for the industry and more good years of life for people, says Professor Juha Ahvenainen, summarising the aim of the R&D&C strategy work (research, development and commercialisation strategy work) pursued by the food industry businesses and researchers. Success will require focussing on subjects for which there is demand and in which we have a solid resource of raw materials, expertise and entrepreneurship. The co-operation also includes aiming at preventing the most common national chronic diseases through food and nutrition. Enjoyable food that helps prevent heart disease and diabetes is smart food at its best.

Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation to act as platform for food industry cluster

Cluster status can be granted by the Science and Technology Policy Council of Finland to a sector of industry with economic importance that is prepared to invest in research and development and which is important on the national and international level.

– It is essential for the sector that a Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation be created in Finland. The model will create a good platform for a food industry cluster. We intend to apply for cluster status in 2007, says Harkki.

In practice, the Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation would be evident in the form of more intensive co-operation than hitherto, pre-commercial research in foodstuffs and nutrition coordinated by the parties involved, technology transfer, forceful subsidies for commercialisation and above all, by avoiding overlap. Companies would focus efficiently on actual product development and commercialisation in their particular field.

The Strategic Centre would function in the form of projects in a virtual organisation; new physical walls and units would not be built, but the existing ones would be used more efficiently than to date and co-operation among companies would be stepped up.

– Finland is already a model country when it comes to food safety. We have some 3,000 companies in this field all around the country and they provide jobs for 13% of the Finnish workforce. We want to make it clear beyond the boundaries of the food industry itself that Finland’s food supply chain contains considerable resources. In the industry, we are poised for completely new R&D&C work. It is always worthwhile investing in good and healthy food, says Salonaho, describing the motivation behind the new Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Further information

Harry Salonaho
Chairman of Board of the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation, President and CEO of Valio
Tel. 010 381 2001
harry.salonaho@valio.fi

Anu Harkki
Executive Director of Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA
Tel. (09) 6189 9458
firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Juha Ahvenainen
Development Director, Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme ERA
Tel. (09) 6189 9267
firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Published