Innovation as a Service: Accelerating NPD with a ‘collaborative and extrovert mindset’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Outsourcing innovation without 'unnecessary explorative meetings' GettyImages-BrianAJackson
Outsourcing innovation without 'unnecessary explorative meetings' GettyImages-BrianAJackson

Related tags Innovation Npd R&D

Innovation as a Service (IaaS) is a concept gaining steam in the food sector. According to Dr Raphaëlle O' Connor, founder of IaaS start-up iNewtrition, this reflects a mindset shift as the industry embraces more collaborative approaches to open innovation.

iNewtrition, an Ireland-based food innovation consultancy, launched last month. The start-up aims to offer agile consulting services to food businesses through an IaaS model based on two pillars: constant availability and complete flexibility.

The business, the brainchild of founder Dr Raphaëlle O' Connor, comes in response to shifting attitudes to innovation.

“The food industry is moving from a traditional ‘introverted’ approach and ‘closed-door’ culture into a more collaborative and extroverted mindset welcoming open innovation and external stakeholders in order to accelerate product development and amplify transparency to build trust with consumers,”​ Dr O’Connor told FoodNavigator.

This new attitude is being propelled by evolving needs and increased pressure to ‘fast-track’ innovation. Dr O’Connor also sees emerging food technologies, the need to build consumer trust through traceability and ‘authenticity’, and the emergence of start-up and challenger brands as enabling this movement towards a ‘more inclusive industry’.

A ‘leaner’ approach to outsourcing

In her 25 years of experience as a food scientist and technologist, Dr O’Conner has worked as an entrepreneur with start-ups and SMBs, and also managed global and strategic food innovation projects for multinationals including Wyeth, Pfizer and Nestlé.

It was during her corporate experience that she had the idea for a new type of agency. “Working with consultancies, we would typically go through long onboarding processes, many exploratory meetings and elaborated offers, before actually starting to work. That often killed momentum, which is very important with innovation projects. That's when I realised there had to be a better way."

Companies can get in touch with iNewtrition at any stage of their innovation journey, from ideation to post-launch and scale-up. “We provide just the right amount of support they need, without necessarily a full project management contract, or the usual back and forth of emails and meetings.”

iNewtrition operates through a network of technicians, academics and entrepreneurs from different parts of the world. Their expertise includes consumer behaviour, market trends, food technology and regulatory compliance. According to the food entrepreneur, there is a growing need for such knowledge to manage projects and teams successfully.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the company’s development focus is concentrated on many industry hot topics.

These include: alternative protein sources that are sustainable, functional and nutritional; ‘clean-science’ principles; ingredients that are naturally functional with health benefits. “Those concepts ultimately must support the launch of nutritional products that are aligned with sustainability and meet customers expectations,”​ Dr O’Connor elaborated.

What benefits does IaaS offer?

Dr O’Connor told us that IaaS delivers three principal benefits.

Firstly, it offers expertise on demand. “Flexibility is the keyword. Depending on the needs of customers, IaaS can provide end-to-end support, or simply help to overcome specific bottlenecks,”​ she explained.

This expertise is available ‘24/7’, she continued. “IaaS works with companies around the world with a network of consultants available remotely 24/7. Customers can schedule a consultation with an expert and get immediate actionable insights without lengthy onboarding processes or unnecessary explorative meetings.”

In addition to flexibility, IaaS is also ‘cost effective’, according to Dr O’Connor. “Customers can outsource just the services they need and keep managing the rest internally.”

In particular, this can make IaaS particularly appealing to SMEs and start-ups who don’t have the R&D budgets or in-house expertise comparable to large corporations. For large corporations, there is also a benefit, Dr O’Connor continued. IaaS can support corporates who are ‘trying to promote an entrepreneurial and agile culture’.

“IaaS is supporting established brands to reinvent themselves leveraging external innovation opportunities to avoid cannibalisation of the product range and portfolio,”​ she observed.

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