Navigating the future and unveiling innovation at the Food Supply Chain Summit

April 16, 2024

As SIAL Paris celebrates 60 years in 2024, the show has organised a series of SIAL SUMMITS that will tackle key issues impacting the agri-food industry. On 22 October the Food Supply Chain Summit will take place, delving into the food supply chain in the face of post-COVID-19, the current economic crisis and geopolitical upheavals.

Navigating the future and unveiling innovation at the Food Supply Chain Summit

The Food Supply Chain Summit is organised in partnership with SprintProject, specialist in start-ups and open innovation. SIAL Newsroom spoke with SprintProject partner François Deprey about this partnership and what visitors can expect from the Summit.

François Duprey
François Deprey, SprintProject Partner

SprintProject is a partner of SIAL Paris 2024. What does this partnership involve?  

We discussed several levels of partnership with SIAL, the first being innovation. At SprintProject, we specialise in helping large companies get in touch with each other and identify innovative solutions, particularly among start-ups. We have a lot of content on methodology, on the ability to identify and assess the relevance of a solution proposed by a start-up or other players to major accounts and customers. 

This expertise was quite compatible with the challenge that SIAL Paris had for its 60th anniversary—to increase its capacity to include a village of start-ups that represent the transformation of agri-food while really targeting start-up profiles that will be of interest to all visitors to SIAL. 

When you want to showcase innovation, you have to find a good place for innovative players, bearing in mind that SIAL also has a very strong background in product innovation. The idea is to get innovative companies from all over the world to come here, and SprintProject’s expertise lies in its ability to identify start-ups. So SIAL told us they’d like to have a panel of start-ups including younger ones, more established ones, some from Europe, France, and all around the world, and be able to have a representative sample of the transformation issues and the different innovation trends impacting the business. So that’s what we did. 

SprintProject is really specialised in open innovation and bringing together major groups and start-ups, and we suggested SIAL carry out a specific study on “How Open Innovation Can Drive Food Industry Transformation Through Smart Collaborations”. The idea is to be able to make this connection and see how working collaboratively can be positive for the industry in the future. So that’s the second level. We have a lot of content, and we’re fairly specialised in quite a few areas, whether it’s data, AI or supply chain issues. SIAL was planning to hold its summits on a certain number of themes, with the possibility of having panels of experts, witnesses and subjects that will be of interest to the players attending SIAL Paris. So that’s what we’re doing—encouraging discussion on the subject. The supply chain is  an area that brings together a lot of different players within the food industry. 

What themes and challenges will be discussed at the Supply Chain Summit? Why are these subjects so important for the food industry? 

The themes we want to tackle are the supply chain, or perhaps the better term would be the value chain, in the sense that the idea is to take a holistic approach to supply chain issues. When we refer to the supply chain today, sometimes there is a tendency to think of transport and logistics, lorries, supply, etc. In reality, the supply chain goes beyond this in the agri-food industry to include everything ranging from farm to fork. This is an area in which the food industry has suffered a number of crises in recent years, whether it be Covid or the war in Ukraine, with supply issues, inflation, and shortages of certain ingredients. This is also the impact of the supply chain. We know that the agri-food supply chain is linked to production, but it also involves products that come from all over the world, which are processed in certain areas and then resold. It’s very complex, with many intermediaries, and it’s difficult to trace the ingredients. It is very ecosystemic. The difficulty in tackling this issue is to be able to understand the overall impact. We wanted to try to approach this from several angles. 

The first angle is that of a long-term vision: it is a reality that the agri-food sector has a very significant geopolitical impact. Behind this geopolitical impact is also a supply chain that crosses several countries, with zones where raw materials are produced, zones where they are processed, and zones where they are consumed. The idea is to approach this issue from an impact angle. For example, there will be 10 billion human beings on the planet by 2060. The question we asked ourselves was how are we going to create a resilient supply chain, adapted to the challenge of feeding 10 billion people, bearing in mind that we already know that there are 8 billion of us today and there are 1.5 billion, depending on the year, who don’t have enough to eat, and others who perhaps have too much, and so there are issues with the food supply chain, with resources, fish resources for example are a real problem, and major production issues. We want to raise the issue by saying that we need to look at this problem in terms of the value chain, with a supply chain that is highly complex, highly international, sometimes local, sometimes not. Products travel around the world, as do supplies of certain raw materials. How do we go about reducing the potential impact of this?

We wanted to set the debate around two themes. There are two transformations at work, in just about every sector, which are affecting the agri-food industry. The first is the dimension of decarbonisation and the carbon impact. What are the possible trajectories for agri-food industry players? What solutions are they devising to decarbonise? If we look at this in the context of the supply chain, what is at stake? Putting aside the question of production, because we know that production is where it weighs most, i.e. agricultural production, there are also supply chains with transport in lorries, by train, home deliveries, etc. It all has an impact. How are we going to decarbonise this supply chain? 

The second issue is digital transformation and technological improvement. What are the technological opportunities that may exist to improve these supply chains, automate them, make them more resilient, make them more traceable and what technological means are available to players trying to improve their operations, their impact? These are major economic issues. Players in the industry are looking for interesting technological solutions for automation solutions for example. The idea is a generic framework of global socio-economic issues and then two themes, one focusing on CSR transformation and the other on the digital and technological transformation of the sector. 

How will the topics of this Supply Chain Summit meet visitors’ expectations? 

The three issues we’re talking about have both short- and medium-term implications. These issues are at the heart of the transformation. Today the challenge for a show like SIAL Paris is to look beyond the trade fair, and they’ve been doing it for some time with product innovations. The particularity of supply chain issues is that they affect just about every level of economic equilibrium for a food industry player, as I mentioned earlier. The impact of inflation, raw material sourcing, the ability to find a supplier, etc. are all key factors. There are major traceability issues, we can be very efficient at processing products but behind that we have the challenges of delivering in real time, connecting with consumers, being able to supply consumers, etc. The supply chain has a lot of facets and is really at the heart of the issues facing players in the food industry. And by extension, it’s an important part of the sector. The challenge here is to show the extent to which the supply chain affects these players, and that there are solutions, there is innovation.

Innovation in the agri-food industry is often seen mainly as innovation in products, but in fact there is also innovation in processes, in particular to respond to the strong constraints that many of these players may have on lowering their carbon footprint, reducing their impact in terms of water, trying to ensure that they have policies of this nature and then also issues of modernisation and innovation in their processes, so that’s more the digital dimension, automation, robotisation and all these issues there. The objective for leaders in the industry is to reflect on their field in the long term, look at what the challenges are, beyond their core business of manufacturing products, how they see their value chain and what testimony from other players in the industry will help them in these areas. We’re also trying to put together panels who can shed light on some of the issues and provide expertise.  It’s really about looking at the solutions that are out there, and which can potentially take up space on the shelf. The last objective is to have a coherent whole, and this is what we want to organise with the SIAL teams, a coherence between these summits and what they will find in the organisation of the show, but more particularly in this space dedicated to start-ups, with the idea that what we tell them on stage can be translated into concrete innovative solutions in the start-up village. 

Is there a message you hope visitors will take away from this Summit? 

There are two messages: the aim is for these discussions to be fruitful, for there to be collaboration and sharing, and for us to be able to generate ideas among them. Personally, I think that our real intention is to be able to bring content to the table that arouses curiosity and interest and that also interacts with the rest of the show. The second message is the idea that the subject of the supply chain, which can sometimes be considered a constraint, should instead be seen as a driver for performance, interest and innovation. We want to try and push these areas forward, once again with concrete impacts, particularly in terms of decarbonisation and the ecological and digital transitions.

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