Prototyping Open Innovation Models for ICT-Enabled Manufacturing in Food and Packaging

Lead Research Organisation: Brunel University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Design


The aim of the Prototyping Open Innovation Models cluster is to design and develop a new crowd sourced food and package design and innovation platform comprised of a suite of ICT tools for state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and implementing "customers in the loop" co-creation product development processes. The platform and the tools will enable (i) Harvesting content from the crowd and lead users, (ii) Synthesising content into an actionable format, and (iii) Integrating design and production systems. The idea for the platform is inspired by behaviours that are emerging on social media sites that see participants congregate around a current issue (citizen journalism - Arab Spring), ICT problems (user fora), leisure activities (maker/hacker communities - Ikea Hacker, Hackerspaces, food hacking), knowledge (Wikipedia), citizen science (Nasa's Stardust@home), and create and share content around such aspects.
We are in an age of participation, where consumers no longer need to be on the periphery of development. Companies are increasingly finding that ideas and innovations originate from outside their organisations. 'Crowd-sourcing' is gathering pace, as companies seek to tap into the global knowledge base through their 'open innovation' strategies. Brands need to develop new relationships with Prosumers in which they may become a substantial part of the design and development process. We propose to apply this model of behaviour to explore opportunities for open innovation whereby a disparate group of individuals congregate around food and packaging design and production (two of the largest industry sectors in the UK). Packaging is not only a container, but it is one of the means of communication of the product that will make it recognized and remembered.
The platform and plug-in tools comprise a virtual food product development environment that aims to de-bottleneck and streamline the food innovation pipeline by a cloud-based software platform and through the use of open innovation models to engage the consumer in the product development loop. This will significantly shorten the time to market for such new products by aligning and integrating design, manufacturing processes and systems with people.
The objectives of the cluster are:
- To design, develop, test and evaluate open innovation models for food manufacturing with real case studies from our industrial collaborators focused on enabling conversation and collaboration between consumers and brands for developing new food products
- To design and implement mechanisms to feedback the 'Crowd's' needs and real world use, interaction and experience and translate these into design specifications of desired attributes for the food product they wish to consume, by collaborating directly with product development and manufacturing specialists
- To develop facilities to allow a range of formal and informal relationships (interaction models) to be managed in a manner that is sensitive to the issues of privacy, IP and responsibility
- To develop the methodology, ICT tools and a knowledge base to convert desired attributes of food into food product and packaging specification that can be produced and delivered to the consumer
- To develop responsive manufacturing models and an ICT toolset to enable fast response to new and emerging food products by flexibly aligning and coordinating manufacturing resource to such needs
- To implement and integrate all tools and methodologies into a collaborative cloud-based ICT platform enabling the digital collaboration between consumers, product developers and manufacturers
- To conduct a series of feasibility studies identified jointly with our industrial partners to test and demonstrate our approach, methodologies and ICT tools
- To conduct a series of workshops, seminars and outreach activities to disseminate our findings and methodologies and develop and extend our industrial user network

Planned Impact

The annual spending on food and soft drinks in the UK is £172 billion spanning many product categories. This translates to annual contributions of over £80 billion in revenue to the UK economy which is approximately 7% of GDP. It is the UK's largest manufacturing sector employing over 3.5 million people across 196,000 enterprises in the supply chain. Food packaging plays an integral and vital role in the food manufacturing and supply chain systems and plays an important role in achieving greater sustainability in the food industry in order to meet a raft of EU environmental legislation and measures. The food supply chain alone is responsible for 22% of the UK greenhouse gas emissions creating 19 million tonnes of CO2 every year. The proposed research meets the aspirations and priorities of the ICT-enable Manufacturing Call. Our multidisciplinary team brings together designers, manufacturing engineers, and computer scientists. Centred on 'customers in the loop' we will achieve real-world change within the 'engineering design in the digital world' challenge. Our ambition to achieve economic, societal and environmental change meets the aspirations of forward looking reports concerning the food industry, the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme with its recognition of the importance of Manufacturing Informatics, and the challenges set out in the BIS Growth Review Framework for Advanced Manufacturing. Our programme will address product design (food manufacture and food packaging) and service innovation (development of ICT platforms) within the food industry. It is anticipated that our ICT platforms for the development of food product and food packaging design will encourage the growth of a service-led ICT-manufacturing sector within the food industry thus enabling the UK food industry to continue to maintain its standing as the largest manufacturing sector in the UK.

The research cluster will develop cloud-based ICT platform(s) that will enable customers to design food products and food packaging and move away from products manufactured for consumers to products that are designed by consumers. Design consultancies and stakeholders in food manufacture and food packaging industries will utilise crowd sourcing to; a) develop more informed food products with respect to customisation, healthy eating and sensory experience of food, and b) develop food packaging with respect to consumer design, sustainable materials and reconfigurable manufacturing processes. Consumers will benefit through improved products based on customer preferences. Wider societal and environmental benefits will accrue through healthier eating, and reduced waste across the value chain. From a wider perspective we anticipate the platform will provide the foundations for use by other industry sectors including fast moving consumer goods, home furnishings, and assisted living.

Our programme has been designed to closely involve representatives of all stakeholders whose expertise is required to execute the proposed research and ensure its take-up by end users. From the outset the programme will engage with a number of stakeholders in food production and food packaging through a series of feasibility studies, networking and outreach activities, in addition to the cluster's formal industrial collaborators. In terms of technology transfer, we anticipate using software licensing agreements to commercially exploit the ICT platform and tools with respect to design consultancies and stakeholders in food production and packaging sectors. The programme of research will ensure the UK food manufacture and food packaging sector continues to deliver products that will meet future consumer demand and continue to remain a competitive industry by de-bottlenecking the food innovation and manufacturing pipeline.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/K014234/1 01/02/2013 02/01/2014 £1,827,278
EP/K014234/2 Transfer EP/K014234/1 03/01/2014 31/07/2018 £1,673,747
Description Novel devices, scales and algorithms generate data which can be used to A) engage people in creative food idea generation, B) recommend existing commercial products which suit the individual consumer, and C) to drive a real-world, continuous manufacturing plant to produce the desired product in real time.
Exploitation Route It is not possible to say at this time.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Description Research collaboration with Premier Foods 
Organisation Premier Foods Group Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project team has been working in loose collaboration with Premier Foods.
Collaborator Contribution The time and expertise of staff. Access to specialist sensory panels.
Impact No outcomes as yet, as work is still ongoing
Start Year 2013
Description Food Design Thinking during London Design Festival 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Led by the RCA team, the project hosted an exhibit called 'Food Design Thinking' at London's Borough Market, as part of the London Design Festival. Research work and a user study were featured in the exhibit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Imperial Festival 2017: Food of Tomorrow: Imperial Fringe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Open Kitchen took part in the Imperial Festival 2017 to showcase the tools in development and to test with people. The College's free annual festival returned to our South Kensington campus on the 6th and 7th of May giving the public an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and explore the latest research. The Imperial Festival is comprised of interactive science, research demonstrations, technology demos and creative performances: Flying robots, immersive art and delicious food.

The Festival provided something for all ages to enjoy, from live interactive experiments, new technology demonstrations, in-depth talks, lab tours, musical and dance-based performances, and creative workshops within zones themed around Robots, Superbugs, Health & Body, the Future, and Energy and Environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Open Kitchen probe study 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Open Kitchen element of the project hosted a series of studies in July, August and September at London Borough Market.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Openfood featured in BBC 'Click' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The exhibits in the Food Design Thinking event during London Design Festival were featured in BBC 'Click' 'Your Face or Mine'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017