Conversations on co-creation
At EIT Food, the consumer is at the heart of everything we do. And collaborative innovation is in our DNA. So it’s of little surprise that co-creation is high up on our strategic agenda. This month we sat down (digitally, of course) with Paola Giavedoni, Director of Innovation at EIT Food and Saskia Nuijten, EIT Food’s Director of Communication to interview them on their expert insights on the topic.
We hear a lot about co-creation, especially around the EIT Food Innovation Projects. For starters, could you tell us what exactly co-creation means for EIT Food?
Saskia Nuijten (SN): I believe it’s all about collaboration in its purest sense. When we talk about co-creation, we really refer to the identification, development and improvement of ideas that are shaped together with all involved. This process not only creates new value, it captures value along the way. Important is also that it starts at an early stage and goes through the whole project, truly engaging all stakeholders throughout.
Paola Giavedoni (PG): It is important to note how this differs from bringing in a stakeholder somewhere in the process. Co-creation is much more than just hosting a consumer panel. It must start at the beginning and continue through the whole project.
And just why is it so significant for EIT Food’s projects and for consumers?
SN: A trusted multi-stakeholder community approach is embedded in EIT Food’s mission to transform the food system. Because the consumer is central to who we are and our mission, we feel it also needs to be central to what we do. Part of the ambition of EIT Food and our partners is to activate the consumer. We do not see them as simple receivers of research and development, but rather an active part of the whole process.
PG: Co-creation allows us to make fewer mistakes in understanding what the market actually needs or what final users require. At the same time, it allows for innovations that can successfully impact the economy, environment and society. We end up with clearer, more focused and successful innovations being implemented.
In the end, we want consumers to become change agents in the transformation of the food system. This can only happen when they are deeply involved.
We are talking a lot about the consumer and the projects that you have mentioned all involve co-creation with the consumer. Is the consumer always involved?
SN: You’re right, this is often the case, but it should not be just the consumer. While we might traditionally think of co-creation as engaging with a consumer category, it is much richer than that. Co-creation should involve other relevant stakeholder groups, think of suppliers, users, colleagues or customers. The fact is, no single company or individual holds all the knowledge, ideas or answers. By bringing co-creation into all stages and involving all stakeholders, we can and do create better outcomes.
PG: We encourage exchanges from our project teams not only with suppliers and final users of services, but also farmers or associations. With co-creation the scope of the collaboration becomes much broader; we expect the outcome to be more robust and successful innovations to be brought to market. Again this differs from typical consumer engagement as is already well-known and practised in the FMCG industry.
Co-creation sounds great in theory, but how does it play out in the field? How can organisations actually achieve it?
PG: The results of co-creation are inspiring, if even often surprising, but in a very positive way. Essentially all key stakeholders have been involved in the outcome. In the upcoming year, we will continue to have co-creation activities in all our projects and offer targeted support to our partners. We do see an opportunity around introducing common tools and methodologies to be used in co-creation.
How do you see co-creation as part of your next project? Let us know in the comments and get in touch with us to discuss!