Is it possible to conduct an academic and practical analysis of elements of the food innovation chasm as it exists in South Africa towards identifying products, processes and stakeholders for the design of an implementation plan towards utilizing existing, under-utilized or un-utilized solutions in new scenarios?
In terms of a number of national policy-based statements a well as rhetoric in the public domain, the term “innovation chasm” has cropped up regularly. This is true for the Department of Science & Technology (DST) via the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the now Department of Higher Education and Training and also the Provincial Government Western Cape (PGWC) as well as numerous other state, public/private and private organizations.
In the second draft of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (February 2011) of the DTI, this particular issue of the chasm is addressed. On page 76 three levels of intervention are suggested regarding commercialization, one of which is exactly something which this proposal addresses viz.:
Consolidation of existing commercial opportunities from research work previously carried out but which has not been fully commercialised and with respect to technologies that can be acquired in order to upscale production capabilities in defined sectors where opportunities exist.
These references or statements to the “innovation chasm” have different connotations, including those related to very broad issues and also, at the other end of the spectrum, very narrow ones e.g. international, continental, national and local. This is further narrowed per economic and industry sector. This is so for the food industry.
For the purposes of this post, the term “innovation chasm” will be deemed to include the following general concepts:
a. The gap between the fields of academic study versus the needs of the industry itself;
b. The existing body of knowledge with respect to these fields that had not yet been applied;
c. The existing body of un-expressed needs and potential solutions vested in experts in the field.
This project, if realised, would aim to deal with the concepts outlined above by:
d. Researching the literature and the industry for innovation gaps;
e. Matching unused solutions to existing problems as well as not-yet-identified gaps;
f. Identifying not-yet-explored problems and solutions relevant to this exercise.
A potential scope fo works for such a project would include the following:
1. ATS to agree with other service providers on the scope of the contract, projected work and costs related to this.
2. Sign an appropriately worded contract with all service providers involved, including primary and/or secondary funding agency.
3. ATS to coordinate all further activities, including construction of a project plan.
4. Identify appropriate academics, students, retired experts in the food industry (local and international), entrepreneurs, consultants willing to contribute and companies willing to add value to the project.
5. Construct an interview template for each category of person identified above in order to elicit information such as the following, keeping in mind that this relates to advanced technologies or ideas:
5.1 Related patents, especially unused patents, patents open to adjustment and re-patenting;
5.2 Potentially new products or product extensions;
5.3 Potential process adjustments or process development required;
5.4 Researchable problems, both science-related and otherwise;
5.5 Fields of study requiring investigation (short- and long-term);
5.6 Scientific literature in the public domain that has not yet been applied in a practical context;
5.7 Business models linked to commercialization of any of the above.
6. Identify and employ:
6.1 Appropriate expert interviewers relevant to a field or category of persons to conduct such interviews.
6.2 Appropriate patent-savvy experts to search patent databases.
6.3 Appropriate academics to search the scientific literature, especially journals and, more importantly, technical bulletins and conference proceedings to identify new opportunities.
7. Process the data and compile recommendations regarding bridging segments in the innovation chasm.
8. Moderate recommendations via an independent expert panel.
9. Construct an implementation plan based on recommendations (on the assumption of a conducive set of circumstances for success).
10. Construct final report and sign off project.
Key perofmance indicators for such a project would possibly be:
A. Scope of work constructed and put into Gantt chart format.
B. Agreements reached and contracts signed with service providers.
C. Project plan produced by ATS.
D. A list of target individuals/organizations and entities produced based on authenticated/traceable procedures and processes.
E. Questionnaire templates/guidelines constructed and agreed to with ATS.
F. Service providers appointed to conduct field-work.
G. Report produced by ATS encapsulating and summarizing data forthcoming from the exercise.
H. Final report produced after moderation process completed.
I. Project evaluation report produced by funders/ATS.
J. Decision made on how to execute or implement elements of the report.
Anybody want to join us on such a journey???