Part of the broad Food and Agriculture Initiative, the Food Innovation Centre was launched last week to a gathering of more than 150 food and dairy industry heavyweights, representatives from Monash University and the Victorian government, and a vast array of other organisations involved in the Australian food sector.
Based at Monash University, the Food Innovation Centre is a world-class facility operated by industry and innovation practitioners, supported by specialised research and expertise across all of the faculties at Monash University, with the backing of the Victorian government.
The Centre supports Australian organisations through all phases of the food and dairy development process, with a focus on de-risking and accelerating innovations for domestic and export markets.
Its global network includes one of China’s largest diversified food groups.
Industry support was evident at the launch, with the likes of Richard Trembath, Lion’s Quality Research and Development Director, praising the effective collaboration of industry and university academia and reinforcing Lion’s on-going commitment to the Centre. Similarly, Andrew Pekin, GM Technical at Chobani, indicated that they were expanding their two-year collaboration with the Centre across a range of their brands. Other brands that have already benefited from their involvement with the Centre include Burgen and CSR.
The launch highlighted the breadth and flexibility of the services available to Australian businesses at the Centre including acting as a sounding board to sense check new ideas to providing training to build innovation capacity and expertise within teams and across organisations. Interestingly, whilst the Centre was originally conceived to support the food industry, other FMCG sectors have also used the Centre to support their innovation programmes.
Some of the many resources available at the Food Innovation Centre were demonstrated at the event. Simplots’ Elsabe van Niekerk was one of many who saw immediate opportunities in being able to dynamically view on shelf new packaging formats and to interactively test the sales and logistical implications of different layouts in the context of their competitors. The 3D printing and consumer eye-tracking technologies also drew excitement, particularly from organisations that had previously not had access to these types of resources.
Through the Centre, organisations can also tap into the work of relevant Monash PhD students. Kevin Beaman, MD of Proportion Foods, saw this as a unique opportunity for smaller organisations to leverage elite research resources in a highly cost effective manner.
The common goal of ensuring the long-term domestic and international success of the Australian food and dairy industries has united a diverse range of partners and are already achieving remarkable results. We can only hope that other sectors can learn from this outstanding innovation.
Mark Fletcher is Director, ShopScience.