Here we look in rather more detail
at a couple of projects - what was involved, our advice and what has happened since:
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Initiative on Food
This was set up in the
early 90's to see how the UK food gap of some £7 billion might be reduced.
Our brief was to consider
whether the fragmented nature of British agriculture matters and if so what to do.
In order to do this
project, we looked at all the key farming sectors and interacted heavily right across the
food chain i.e. Farmers, processors and retailers.
It involved all the key
skills of marketing, strategy, policy analysis and communication. We used a variety of
approaches; formal interviews, Focus Groups and Workshops.
Our basic conclusions were:
- Fragmentation is costing
British agriculture dearly especially in Red meat. Farmers must see themselves as part of
the food chain. Indeed, there is a yawning gap between the requirements as articulated by
end users such as retailers and the understanding of these needs by primary producers.
However, the latter was not true in fresh produce.
- The best manufacturers can
make the virtuous circle of an integrated supply chain work - but producers must be
involved (and most are not) and current marketing groups are not sufficiently market led.
- Our recommendations focused
on the 3 L's - Leadership (by the industry), Light (via communication) and Leverage
(programmes by government to accelerate change).
- We believe that significant
changes in line with these recommendations have been made - though of course not just
because of our advice! But there is still a way to go and many of the ideas and proposals
Read the Executive Summary of
our report in full,
and optionally download the document to read off-line
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Institute of Food
IFR has a budget of some
£16 million per year and, in relation to other BBSRC institutes, has a relatively low
level of external, non-core income. This position needs to be put in the context of the
higher proportion of resource which is directed at Food Safety which generally is
supported via the public-sector.
We were asked in 1996 to
work with IFR over 12 months to increase industrial funding.
Our activities included:
- Customer discussions - to
find out both the opportunity for increased support of IFR science and to understand user
perceptions of IFR.
- Specific seminars on
- Organising visits by
scientists into food companies and factories.
- Greater focus on need and
opportunity when clients visit IFR.
- Improved use of the client
database, focused visit programme and managed follow-up of such interaction.
- Communication around the
Institute of where to find market intelligence.
- A general focus on a more
client oriented culture in the IFR, via all these activities.
- Provision of more accurate
forward workload estimates by department.
- Identifying some
Naturally not everything
worked and nor did all the scientists welcome our ideas with open arms. However, some two
years on, there have been some very positive outcomes:
- External income has almost
doubled from less than £1 million to nearly £2 million.
- There is now a vibrant
culture in pursuit of external funding.
- Intellectual Property (IP)
management is far more active and under the control of the IP Management Group on which
PMS still sits.
- A more strategic approach to
the formulation of the IFR science programme (including core and external funding) is now
Naturally, these outcomes
are based on a whole range of policies, actions and decisions taken in IFR over the last
three years or so. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that we had more than a little to do
with many of them.
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