Conference Report: Developing Systematic Innovation in the Food Industry

By: Ellen Domb,

The conference Developing Systematic Innovation in the Food Industry was held at the University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, November 26-28, 2000. The conference was organized by Jorge C. Oliveira, with the support of the European Commission 5th Framework programme (Quality of Life key action). The conference provides a very useful model for other industries that need to launch innovation activities across a broad front.

There were over 50 participants from academia, industry, consultancy, and industrial research and development services, from 18 nations. The first day's program began with presentations on TRIZ, on analysis of innovative ideas, and on innovation policy. See Figure 1.

Background on the workshop goals and objectives Jorge Oliveira, University College Cork, Ireland

The History of TRIZ Ellen Domb, PQR Group, USA

Three basic concepts of TRIZ (contradiction, resources and ideal final result) Kalevi Rantanen, TRIS oY, Finland

Systematic innovation in food technology Ellen Domb, PQR Group, USA

Experiences with TRIZ for non-technical problems Veit Kohnhauser, BMW Engines, Austria

Robust multicriteria analysis of innovation processes: application to cheese production Jean Renaud, ENSGSI, INPL -Nancy, France

Innovation in enterprises: facts and figures -a cost effective innovation cycle Sean McCarthy, Hyperion, Ireland

Powerful and structured innovation using contradictions for gaining orientation

H. Linde, A. Rehklau, U. Neumann, Univ.. Applied Sciences of Coburg, Germany

A study on the potential of systematic innovation in the Irish Food Industry Barry Winkless, University College Cork, Ireland

TRIZ and related software available on the market Ellen Domb, PQR Group, USA

TechOptimiser: problem solving using knowledge to increase innovation Derek Kilroe, Invention Machine Corp., UK

Figure 1. Program of presentations. Several of these papers will be reprinted in the TRIZ Journal in the coming months.

The conferees were then organized into 5 work groups with delegates from each of the types of organizations in each group, to discuss initiatives for introducing systematic innovation into the food industry. Topics included the following:

One TRIZ technique that was used in some of the workshops was to focus on the contradictions that are found in food technology--how to make food in large quantities that tastes "home made" or how to have the texture of high-fat food with the nutritional benefits of low-fat food, etc.

The organizing committee then merged the recommendations of the 5 work groups and developed common themes for the group to develop further. The discussions then continued on what work should be done, by what agencies, to make systematic innovation available to the entire food technology industry.

As a result of this conference, several exciting actions are taking place:

  1. Faculty from some of the universities are introducing TRIZ into their courses (in one case during the same week as the conference!)
  2. Proposals will be developed for several granting agencies to support the development of case studies that can be used to demonstrate the application of TRIZ to specific food industry issues. This will likely entail a combination of training with case study work. Multi-disciplinary teams will be formed to develop these cases and document them in forms that will be useful for both industrial and university training.
  3. Proposals will be developed to apply TRIZ (and other complementary tools, as needed) to foresight exercises of strategic issues in food innovation and consumers
  4. A small working group will initiate preliminary work on adapting the concepts of the 40 inventive principles from a “food” perspective
  5. A correspondence network will be formed of people interested in systematic innovation in food technology, to share information and to do the work of developing these industry specific examples of TRIZ applications. Anyone interested should contact JorgeOliveira,

This conference is a promising beginning to the propagation of TRIZ and other ideas throughout the food industry, using the existing mechanisms of the academic, research, and industrial communities, and is also a model for other industries. The TRIZ Journal will report on the progress of this work as it develops.

Figure 2. The organizing committee. Front row: Laure Morel, Jean Renaud. Back Row: Geoffrey Morris, Tadeusz Matuszek, Jorge Oliveira., Veit Kohnhauser, Kalevi Rantanen. Not shown: Ellen Domb (taking the picture), Mary McCarthy-Buckley, Charles Daly.

Figure 3. Organizer Jorge Oliveira immediately after kissing the Blarney Stone. Karen Gadd, TRIZ instructor for Oxford Creativity, a TRIZ Journal sponsor, just before kissing the Blarney Stone. Irish legend says that one who kisses the stone receives the gift of eloquence. (In the cold rain, the kisser grabs the poles and leans backwards over a 75-foot drop to kiss the stone!)

NOTE: The Book of Proceedings and a Report entitled “A Research Strategy for Developing Systematic Innovation Tools in the Food Industry” will be prepared and made freely available. They should be ready by February in hard copy and a month or so later on the website of UCC, Faculty of Food Science &Technology. Jorge Olveira, will be happy to receive expressions of interest on such documents, to build a contact list for when they’re ready.