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[H.C. Langowski, Director, Fraunhofer Institute IVV] Korea’s Food Industry and Korean National Food Cluster

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Today, we’d like to introduce an article about the future prospects of Korean National Food Cluster, highlighted by a global research institute. Fraunhofer Institute IVV is a German research institute that performs studies on food product commercialization. What would the institute say on Korea’s food industry and Korean National Food Cluster? Dr. Horst-Christian Langowski, director of the Fraunhofer Institute IVV and professor at Technical University of Munich, has presented the future vision of Korean National Food Cluster from a global market perspective.

 

The Role of FOODPOLIS in the Development and Growth of the Korean Food Industry 

Consumer demands in the food sector are as broad as they are diverse. In industrialized countries, the basic needs of consumers have been hitherto widely satisfied, with available food products ranging from low-priced basic commodities on the one side, to craft or artisanal products on the other. In view of this, the areas of research and development in the private sector are generally distributed accordingly, with commodities manufacturers focusing on process optimization and the use of cheaper raw materials, and the craft product sector preferentially directing their efforts towards specific product innovations. Moreover, the types of enterprises involved – and clearly also the scale of their revenue from successful innovations – differ: the commodities sector is predominantly the domain of larger, often global companies whose main target is cost-cutting. Here, even small improvements can result in large effects due to the sheer mass of production of commodities. By comparison, the specialized products sector is dominated by SMEs (small and medium enterprises), the basis of whose success is frequently the creation of new and innovative products to ensure that they remain ahead of the market. Here, profit margins, growth rates and publicity for the individual products may be much larger, but so too are the number of unsuccessful products which simply fail to captivate the market. Thus, true product innovations in the food sector are regarded as being more attractive, yet in turn carry a far higher risk.

So, what do we now observe in the current research infrastructure with respect to supporting both ends of the innovation spectrum? First, research and academic education strive to delimit basic and applied research with a common distinction between universities and polytechnic colleges. This scheme, which is especially embraced in the European culture, supplies process development departments in the commodities sector with well-trained specialists, but fails to support true product innovators who gain most of their skills as autodidacts. Consistent with this, universities and research institutes are highly capable of helping companies that seek assistance for process innovations and optimization, yet it is nevertheless hard, especially for SMEs, to find support for product innovations.

This situation dictates clear demands on funding policy and the overall structure of funded research in the food sector, namely that basic and applied research should not be given different rankings, and moreover the interactions between them should be improved and intensified. In fact, there is a great need for funding and other forms of support for product innovations to be enforced, especially to the benefit of small or medium-sized companies.

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This clearly presents a challenge, with the range of subjects to be covered by an appropriate research infrastructure being extensive, from the classical areas of food process engineering, materials engineering and packaging, up to questions of consumers’ preferences. Moreover, successful innovation cannot occur unless the adequate food quality and safety requirements are met, so these competencies must also be incorporated in the development processes throughout all stages. At Fraunhofer IVV, the specialized food and packaging institute of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest applied research organization, our daily business is to gather this range of expertise in order to address the challenges of the diverse projects currently underway. Often external expertise is sought, whereby we collaborate in many cases with different institutions from the academic sector, as well as other research institutes and industrial partners, often throughout Europe. This has its distinct advantages, as we are within a process of permanent exchange and renewal of our own expertise. On the other hand, this search for new partnerships can slow down rather than speed up the innovation process. Until now, it was hard – if not impossible – to find a food research infrastructure capable to fulfil these needs and offer the necessary access to combined competencies at a single location.

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In this respect, the clustering of cutting-edge facilities in the Korean National Food Cluster, incorporating food processing on a pilot plant scale, food quality evaluation, food packaging and other dedicated facilities that can be actively utilized by interested companies, sets a worldwide standard. The efforts of the Korean government are unprecedented, initiating a prodigious large-scale experiment for integrating research and industry that will be surely shared by many international partners.
Personally, I have no doubt that any partner participating in this pioneering endeavor will benefit greatly and I will eagerly follow the progress of this world-class innovative cluster.

 

About Fraunhofer Institute IVV 

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Fraunhofer Institute IVV is one of the individual Fraunhofer R&D centers in Germany. The institute specializes in: development of food ingredients, processed foods, food processing procedures, sensory test and packaging materials; evaluation of containers for take-out food and safety of packaging materials; recycling of package waste; and development of packaging procedures and packaging machines. Fraunhofer Institute IVV opened a branch office in Gangneung, Korea. Last year, The research institute participated in the International Food Cluster Forum where it introduced new global food technologies in last year.

※ The information above is also available in the 13th issue of FOODPOLIS.

 

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