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“Spot-on topics that yield valuable knowledge”

22 March 2017 -  “Currently, health and sustainability are by far the greatest themes in the food sector,” says Krijn Rietveld, Senior Vice President Partnering for Innovation at DSM and member of the board at TiFN: “Consequently, the new TiFN programmes are spot-on , designed to yield valuable knowledge that contributes to a healthier and more sustainable society.”

Rietveld works on starting up and developing innovation-led partnerships within DSM’s food division: “We are a global market leader in important ingredients in food. To hold onto that position we need to take the lead in innovation. This means a great deal of investment in R&D. In addition, we collaborate with the world’s leading lights in our professional fields. For example, we have built relations with MIT and, among others, the universities of Munich, Delft, Leuven, Wageningen, Groningen and Maastricht.”

The perfect vehicle for joint ventures
Rietveld notes that the sector devotes much of its energy to the development of healthier products and sustainable production methods: “In the past, it sometimes seemed largely that lip service was being paid to those principles. Matters are really different now and industry wants to take big strides forward. We assist our customers – virtually all in the world’s top 40 food producers – to reduce the quantity of sugar and salt in their products without sacrificing flavour. To do this we have developed sugar and salt substitutes as well as natural flavour enhancers based on yeast and yeast extracts.” In terms of sustainability, DSM works on products that will increase the efficiency of production processes. For example, a DSM enzyme enables a brewer to bypass a cooling stage in the brewing process. This translates into a 5 to 7% energy saving for the brewer. “However, the sector still needs to make significant progress,” expresses Rietveld: “I believe the solutions will be feasible only if we collaborate in developing them. TiFN is an ideal vehicle for joint ventures of that sort. TiFN engages the best experts in a programme and provides focus through its strict programme management. We benefit from this as an industrial partner, because the project is kept on track, and it means we can expect optimum results.”

More investment in TiFN programmes

At present, DSM is taking part in four TiFN programmes: Cardiovascular Health, Muscle Health and Function , SHARP-BASIC and Perceivable Benefits. Notably, none of the programmes is directing a specific focus of attention on the development of ingredients. Rietveld: “We are investing in the projects in order to develop underlying knowledge – often together with our customers. If this allows us simultaneously to develop a new product then all well and good, of course, but that is never the most important goal.” Nevertheless, Rietveld does not discount that this might change in the near future: “We want to invest more in TiFN programmes. We also have a great deal of interest on the subjects of minimal processing, clean labelling and fermentation technology. We have direct commercial interests in this and, consequently, we are keen to invest in robust research programmes in those fields.”

Shorter post-graduate projects
Rietveld advocates a secondary format for TiFN programmes: “Programmes often last up to four years. Sometimes this is too long for us. Particularly with strategic subjects in mind, it’s a good idea to provide shorter programmes of two to three years as well. Research in programmes of that sort is carried out by post-graduates. We’re then able to amass new knowledge more quickly and thus also respond more quickly to developments. I don’t think that DSM would be alone in benefiting from this.”

A unique type of partnership
Rietveld notes that TiFN is unique in terms of bringing together leading players in the field of nutrition: “There is intensive programme collaboration between Wageningen, Maastricht, Groningen, NIZO and others. We benefit from this by having leading experts in the project teams who work well together. This owes itself in part to distances within the Netherlands, but it’s worth noting that you seldom come across this degree of cooperation in other international partnerships.”