Blog by Katja Sørensen & Camilla Kiørboe, Ploughmann Vingtoft

Increased focus on research and innovation in the food industry – but what about the rights?

The focus on research and innovation in the food sector in Denmark will increase over the next few years. Therefore, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council and The Danish Food and Drink Federation, together with some of the research institutes in Denmark and Danish producers of food, ingredients and foodstuff, have formed a food cluster and designed a new strategy for food research which is valid until 2030.

The formation of the food cluster is based on figures from the UN, which predict that the world population will rise by one billion by 2030, and the demand for food will increase by 50%. This new strategy for food research is described in the report “World-class Food Innovation towards 2030″, and the new food cluster includes prominent companies like Chr. Hansen, Arla Foods, Dupont, Carlsberg, Danish Crown, KMC, Marel and Foss.

Danish food products already enjoy a high reputation around the world, and with the new strategy in place, it is ensured that Denmark by 2030 is still one of the leading producers of food, ingredients, process equipment and services.

With a budget of more than 403 million euros (of which 268 mio. euros comes from the industry), Danish companies are already investing heavily in research and innovation compared with other major food nations. However, the food industry is already well aware of the need to continue investing in research and innovation in order to maintain competitiveness. This applies to all participants in the food cluster, both private and public.

The report “World-class Food Innovation towards 2030″ also describes the importance of converting investments in innovation into growth and development. However, the report fails to mention how Danish companies and research institutes can actually protect their research and innovation, which is a prerequisite for maintaining their competitiveness in relation to foreign competitors.

As pointed out previously in an article “Can Danish food companies use the patent system more optimal?” published in Danish Chemistry No. 11, 2015 the food industry is, generally speaking, characterized by a lack of focus on securing the rights to the research and innovation through patenting. Here, Plougmann Vingtoft shows how the number of European patent applications from the Danish food sector only account for 4.1% of the total amount of patent applications within the food sector – a relatively low percentage compared with other food and agricultural producing countries. For example, Switzerland, which has just about the same population as Denmark, has more than three times as many European patent applications as Denmark within the food sector.

When implementing the new food research strategy, Danish companies and research institutes should keep in mind that their investments create value and increases competitiveness. Whenever possible, new and further developments should therefore by protected by patents, trademarks and designs (IPR = Intellectual Property Rights). At a time where the boundaries for both digital and physical freedom of movement of products and ideas, are expanding every day, IPR will become increasingly important.

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About the author

Blog by Katja Sørensen, European Patent Attorney, Partner at Plougmann Vingtoft,
MSc Chemistry
Camilla Kiørboe, European Patent Attorney, CDPA at Plougmann Vingtoft,
BA Agriculture, MSc Biology-Biotechnology


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