There are lots of food entrepreneurs out there who have spotted a gap in the market and created a genius product. I’ve loved watching Gizzi Erskine and James Averdieck and all the great food ideas on Cooks to Market, Sky Living. It’s well known that the road to market for food entrepreneurs usually involves a long, hard slog as well as a lot of financial risk. We think one answer could be the growing trend in the business sector, Open Innovation. A term used when businesses work collaboratively, sharing risks (strategy, innovation and new product development) as well as sharing rewards. Could it be an effective route for supporting would-be food entrepreneurs who have great ideas and reduce risk for them?
In the food industry, Open Innovation only usually occurs where patents can be applied to a new food technology or design. That way a transaction can occur. Something that can’t be copied is licensed from one party to the other. Could this model work with a ‘good idea? The difficulty is that you can’t protect ‘a good idea’ if it doesn’t have a design or advanced technological element. Non Disclosure Agreements are useful, if you have the funds in place to back up a legal case should anyone try to use your confidential information.
Coming from the arts sector, Jane and I are used to working in partnership with other organisations most of the time, across museums, galleries, the public, private, charitable and voluntary sectors. Strategic partnerships permeate every bit of our business. Not for financial gain, but from an absolute belief that we’ll be stronger together than apart and that the sharing of knowledge and ideas will create something better and attract more people to it.
Personally, we would love to see Open Innovation in the food industry supporting the sharing of great food ideas at all levels. It would need a recognised model of protection and support as well a greater level of trust in the industry. Ultimately though we believe collaboration between businesses and consumers, through licensing or joint venture agreements remunerating both parties, would take products to market quicker and make them more vibrant, innovative and ultimately more competitive within the global marketplace.
If you want to be a food entrepreneur, or are living the dream already, if you’re an IP lawyer or work in the food industry, we’d love to hear your comments on Open Innovation. Let us know what you think.