INNEXUS – Entrepreneurs in Food Innovation
For more than 8 years Innexus links the North Netherlands food industry to strengthen strategic development in business and human resources. An important “guiding star” is the Healthy Ageing Network that opens numerous opportunities for the food industry.
In 2006 ten food companies in the Northern Netherlands joined forces in an organisation named Innexus. The idea was that middle and small sized companies are generally well connected to their own market and customers, but lack strength in strategic development of overall business and of human resources. Many SME companies do not see potential competition or potential opportunities coming till it is too late to act. The cooperation certainly would allow the members to jointly develop the strength of a multinational company by teaming up the companies competences. Several seminars with expert speakers were organised and helped the management and experts of the member companies to recognize the changes in business.
Thanks to the Healthy Ageing Network most companies oriented themselves on the numerous opportunities that arise in the market and services in “healthy food” and the products and methods to make them available to the youngest till the eldest customers. As most members export their products to neighbouring countries and other parts of Europe it is also expected that the concepts that are developed will also generate business in the export markets or lead to sustainable business with partner companies in European countries.
In the meantime Innexus changed character gradually: it started with ingredient companies, but the overlap in activities appeared to be too narrow to generate enough synergy. A wider group of companies got involved first producers of consumer products and now all companies that consider the food market, in one way or another, as their business area. That is companies that develop or market ingredients, end products, engineer equipment or design production lines of provide all kind of services in marketing, sales, logistics or human resources. The common ground for business development is much broader and crossovers of innovative technology become easier.
Although Innexus is a network for companies by companies, it is obvious that a strong link with the environment is needed. Contacts with the regional authorities are facilitated by the fact that Innexus represents a larger group of food companies. It is appreciated that communication through one voice is helpful. However within Innexus more time has to be spend to formulate common views on strategic issues, this is not always easy as the interest of individual members may differ.
Another essential interface is formed between the industry and the knowledge institutes and educational institutions. Both sides are committed to cooperation, but the languages and cultures differ greatly. The Innexus dream is that young students do participate in projects in food industry and based on their practical formation can contribute in innovation in products and processes. This requires the educational methods and projects to be designed in a way that they are pragmatic, result oriented and challenging to students. The academic curriculum for that matter must be adapted to the needs of the student who becomes involved in real life projects. Innexus is in a constant dialog with the universities of applied science in Leeuwarden and Groningen, as well as with the vocational educational institutions in the region.
The past 4 years an innovation initiative called “Food Circle” was jointly set up by institutes, Innexus and one multinational company. Some 12 projects were developed and executed in which the viability of new technology was researched or new product groups were developed. The project teams consisted of students, professors and experts from the companies. The cooperation proved to be fruitful and interesting to all participants.
The coming years Innexus expects to widen its base both in the horizontal chain as well as in the vertical chain. The emphasis lays on business development, both through product and process innovation, and on the development of “human capital” in current staff as well as future staff. It is obvious that this task can only be successful in close cooperation with authorities and institutes. For more information see: http://www.innexus.eu/