Upcoming CIRAS Innovation Summit Puts the Focus on Food

A Spring 2016 summit focused on fabricated metals.
A Spring 2016 summit focused on fabricated metals.

A program aimed at boosting Iowa industry one sector at a time will turn its attention to food next month.

CIRAS staffers are now finalizing the details for a November 15 innovation summit in Ames focused on the needs of food, beverage, feed, and grain processors. Similar to previous summits, the day-long event will include a morning session with short, interactive, technology presentations followed by an afternoon session in a tradeshow-like environment. Organizers say this format allows participants to learn about key technologies, then develop specific plans around how to implement them in their businesses.

Previous CIRAS summits, supported through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center Program, have focused on the plastics, machinery, and fabricated metals sectors.

CIRAS program director Pete Nadolny said food processors are a logical next place to focus given the breadth of Iowa’s agriculture-connected businesses and the depth of food-related expertise at Iowa State University. To name just a few possibilities, CIRAS believes some businesses will receive great benefit from Iowa State resources such as a recently created food packaging consortium or the pilot production facility at the Center for Crops Utilization Research. Such facilities give processors a quick, reliable choice to experiment with new products or packaging options, which can ultimately lower costs.

“It’s a mature industry, and the environment is changing,” Nadolny said. “This usually means it’s ripe for innovation.”

November’s summit comes on the heels of a similar March event involving 75 people from the fabricated metals sector.

Nadolny said companies approached CIRAS and affiliates with approximately 20 ideas for potential new projects or processes to improve their businesses.Roughly half of those are now being developed, he said. If the work eventually proves fruitful, it could create an economic impact measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Our focus is to help companies grow profits,” Nadolny said. “You grow profits through cutting costs, growing sales, or, ideally, both.”

For more information, contact Pete Nadolny at pnadolny@iastate.edu or 515-277-2471. To register for the Nov. 15 summit, visit http://register.extension.iastate.edu/fbfg.


A version of this article was published in the Summer 2016 edition of CIRAS News. To read more of that edition or others, please explore elsewhere on our website.