Supported by the European Union, the European Technology Platform on Food for Life aims to bring together stakeholders in the food and drink sector to achieve major advances in research and development thanks to an injection of funds.
Indeed, the platform is one of many European Technology Platforms (ETPs) launched recently by Europe to play a key role in the lead up to the forthcoming Framework Programme for research (FP7), and to help the EU achieve its Lisbon ambitions - to be the world's knowledge powerhouse by 2010.
"Platforms… represent a powerful mobilising force,"Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potoènik told industry leaders at a seminar encouraging ETPs to get behind his 'knowledge for growth' initiative.
"They can build the necessary scale of effort to achieve the major advances in research and development," the Commissioner added.
As the largest manufacturing sector in Europe, the agro-food industry will play a key role in pushing the boundaries of science and the economic development in Europe.
The industry transforms over 70 per cent of the EU's agricultural raw materials, and employs over four million people.
In addition, the industry supports some 280,000 companies, of these 99 per cent are SME's.
Opportunities for innovation in the food industry will be driven by a range of factors: consumer demand for quality, convenience, diversity and health;and expectations of safety, ethics, and sustainable food production.
"Findings from the platform will lead to new products for the consumer," a spokesperson for the CIAA, the industry body for the EU's food and drink sector, tells FoodNavigator.com.
The CIAA is one of the major stakeholders in the platform that also includes food institutes such as the Dutch Wageningen University and research centre, the UK's Institute of Food Research, and Bonn University, as well as major firms like BASF and Unilever.
There is little doubt that innovation is the key to taking the food industry forward, and proving its capacity to continual competitiveness.
And the food industry, facing growing pressure on innovation to sustain growth, must ensure it saps all the possible funding it can obtain.
At the ingredients end, suppliers in Europe appear to invest between about 2.8 per cent and 12.9 per cent of their sales on R&D.
The food makers are spending less percentage wise, between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent. In its year end results Nestle recently cited R&D costs up 0.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent of sales, or CHF1.4 billion on total turnover of CHF 87 billion.
Recent figures on research and development (R&D) expenditure from Europe's statistic's gathering body Eurostat show that overall investment is now nudging the two per cent mark.
In 2002, R&D expenditure accounted for 1.93 per cent of GDP in the EU 25 - an increase of 0.11 per cent since 1998. The overall increase is not huge, but a number of countries have seen a significant growth in investment.
The Technology Platform concept first came to light in relation to the Barcelona Summit, where Europe's leaders agreed on the 3 per cent (of GDP spent on R&D) objective, an action taken to help put Europe on track to achieving its Lisbon Strategy of becoming a knowledge powerhouse by 2010.