A force for good: Purpose-led food system transformation through ecosystem innovation

August 15, 2019

An interview with Dr Manfred Aben, the Global Vice President Foods & Refreshment S&T at Unilever Research and Development who will be discussing sustainability and innovation in the food industry at the 33rd EFFoST International Conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in November.

What challenges need to be tackled in your field to drive innovation or sustainability in the future?
The key challenges facing the planet are Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Water Shortage and Waste. It requires a full systems-rethink to move to a fully circular or even regenerative economy. Science and Innovation are key. Solutions will not be trivial, none of us can do this alone, and we have little time to waste. Agile Ecosystems are crucial. Getting the best ideas together and scaling them up fast will be a key unlock.

What will you be discussing at the EFFoST conference? Can you give a sneak peek?
I will be talking about the challenges that we face as an industry, the progress we are making and the invitation we extend to all innovative players, academia, startups, suppliers, government to work collaboratively and challenge each other to transform the foods supply chain.

How did you come to work in this field?
That is a good question! I started my career in Unilever as a knowledge engineer, and AI-guy developing knowledge-based systems, back in 1995. I quickly learned that by bringing people together with their complementary expertise, insights and experience, great innovations are possible. That has been the backbone of most of my career: connecting people to bring out the best innovation for a better world.

Manfred Aben was appointed Global VP Foods and Refreshment S&T in 2018, overseeing the development and application of new science and technology across the foods, ice-cream and tea business. He leads teams in the UK, Netherlands and India. He is Site Leader of the Unilever Global Foods Innovation Centre, that opens in 2019 in the heart of the Dutch Food Valley, Wageningen. Unilever is global company selling fast-moving consumer goods. Their aim is to make sustainable living commonplace by driving positive change and sustainable growth with innovative breakthroughs.

For more information on the 33rd EFFoST International Conference please visit our conference website.

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