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packaging in 2015 collaborative innovation will be key


stefan casey, business innovation manager &ndash retail, food and packaging, the retail institute, contemplates the year ahead.collaborative innovation will be key to reaping the rewards of packaging&rsquos new possibilitiesinnovation is a word used by many but never truly understood &ndash indeed, it is often undervalued. i am often asked where the next game changing innovation will come from, be it in a particular pack design, a feature, a process or new material &ndash the list is endless. but what does innovation truly mean what does it mean for a brand owner, a retailer, any organisation across the customer supply chain or indeed for the very institution i work withinnovation can mean everything and nothing, but only through greater collaborative innovation partnerships will we continue to create great packaging and product success stories. the most successful partnerships we see are those which involve the whole supply chain with a mix of internal and external experts.the &ldquoshare a coke&rdquo labels to the more technical &ldquoabsolut originality&rdquo cobalt ink bottles are just some of the fantastic examples of collaborative innovation we are witnessing. we are seeing a rapid growing trend and hunger for innovation, which for most organisations has suffered from economic rationing at best over the last decade. yet in both these examples it was a collaborative partnership that pushed the boundaries of possibility.there are so many opportunities for innovation in products and packaging but it can be daunting to know where to start for any organisation. the situation is further compounded by the fact that most organisations lack the internal structure to effectively innovate due to departmental silos and lack of crossdisciplinary communication.through our work, we continually find that most organisations are sitting on a wealth of innovative ideas for products and packaging and breaking down internal departmental silo barriers is the first step and will produce shortterm successes. however we advise organisations to not only look internally for innovation but at their existing supply chain as most suppliers are continually innovating. they have equally suffered with continual cost reduction demands from brands and retailers over the last decade so a collaborative understanding and transparency would strengthen the relationships and increase their innovative capacity.there has been a noticeable rise in internal innovation roles and teams which are breaking down these barriers and forming effective relationships across the supply chain. although to fully develop a successful innovation platform it requires specialist collaborations with innovation partners who have the ability to have a wide impartial perspective. the retail institute is one such partner but many the retail institute we get to understand an organisation and its suppliers to quickly identify opportunities for innovative products and packaging or new partnerships with new emerging suppliers. alongside this we monitor external factors such as consumer trends, cultural diversity and technology adoption which can impact upon the innovation space. this trajectory of change can be clearly seen in the rise of the omniscient customer with the merging of the physical and digital worlds through quick response, or qr, codes and more recently augmented reality acting as portal interfaces on packaging and print. it&rsquos taken almost a decade for customers to adopt this technology but the time is ripe for exploitation.near field communication nfc and apps are two huge innovation drivers their diversity, multiple application use and ability to bridge the digital world with the real world is currently only limited by our creative imagination.retail banks have shown the power of industry collaboration earlier this year, with the launch of the paym app to create a standard for mobile payments. large initiatives such as this help the customer adopt a particular innovation quicker. the fmcg and retail industries right across the supply chain could work together to address the sea change of consumer needs and wants to provide innovative solutions.the journey to innovation enlightenment will always have its sceptics procurement will always maintain innovation is nothing more than a costly exercise where there are more failures than successes. these will continue to provide barriers, but they can be negotiated. the more organisations can work collaboratively to innovate, the greater the reward. naturally some innovations are better than others and i hope that some would consider benefits outside of stimulating our visual sense and engage more or have some other added sustainable or functional benefit.&nbsp