The Food Pilot is an application and analysis center where the food industry can optimize their products and processes.
The food industry consists of many SMEs. For developing new products and processes it is not always possible for these small companies to invest in the necessary infrastructure. An ecosystem where infrastructure can be shared is seen as one of the solutions to this problem. In 2009, the Food Pilot project got started as a project of ILVO and Flanders’ FOOD. The purpose of the Food Pilot was to establish an application and analysis centre to serve all of the sectors of the food industry.
The Food Pilot provides tailored support - either from idea to product,
or for one specific step in the processing trajectory. Suppliers can also
demonstrate their newest technology or perform tests for their clients in the Food Pilot’s demonstration room, equipped with all necessary utilities.
Processing can be simulated using our semi-industrial scale production lines; product quality can be analyzed in the laboratory.
The concept of a shared and at the same time specialized infrastructure provides a unique innovation system where new products and processes can be developed, tested and validated for a broad range of companies in this sector in a non-competitive environment.
The Food Pilot currently has a team of 80 people, consisting of food experts and project leaders. The Food Pilot is operated by Flanders FOOD and the Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO).
The Food Pilot was funded with private funds and subsidy from VLAIO and EFRO.
Evidence of success
In 2015 a total of 23.677 lab-analyses were performed for 224 companies and a total of 332 pilot tests were performed for 104 different companies , of which 14% were foreign companies. 40 Percent of the companies are SMEs, 10% farms, 34% large enterprises and 16% of the work was for research institutes. The companies came from the following sectors: fruits and vegetables (20%), ingredient suppliers (13%), dairy (12%), meat and fish (11%), catering industry (6%) and others
A high level pilot infrastructure, analytical analyses and knowledge needs to be offered. A permanent investment in infrastructure and permanent knowledge acquisition is needed. Building and maintaining a good contact with the food industry and technology suppliers is crucial.
Potential for learning or transfer
The greatest potential for learning is the open character of the Food Pilot. Also the fact that the product and process development is suitable for both large companies as well as start-ups and SME’s.
Also the infrastructure facility is managed by well trained and educated engineers which are there to help the customers/companies in their needs. The plant is highly customer focused.
The portable and mobile equipment can be used on the customers site.
As it is a challenge to stay up to date about the latest developments in processing technology, sensor technology and trends in food a sustainable basic funding mechanism needs to be in place. The management authority of Flanders (VLAIO) actively supported the establishment of the Food Pilot financially together with EFRO. Also the recent expansion of the Food Pilot as been funded similar. The exploration of the Food Pilot by companies is often established in collective Interreg projects. This funding logic appears to be successful.