We ran a half-day virtual Project Planning workshop with 6 leading food brands to help Imperial College London, Quadram Institute and John Innes Centre apply for a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant to commercialise cutting-edge research to benefit public health.
Imperial College London’s Centre for Translational Nutrition and Food Research, Quadram Institute and John Innes Centre have been awarded a UKRI/BBSRC Seeding Award Fund to rapidly translate research outcomes into the food system. The research – had shown how a naturally-occurring genetic mutation in peas, leading to a different type of starch, could impact energy and glucose homeostasis in humans, and contribute to the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
After having successfully brought together 24 organisations from the entire food value chain to accelerate research translation into new food product through the Imperial Food Hack 2020, Imperial College London, Quadram Institute and John Innes Centre asked us to help with organising Roadmap Planning workshop with partner companies from across the food value chain as part of a UKRI – BBSRC Follow-on funding to commercialise their research and launch food products to benefit UK public health in the next two years.
Studio Zao organised a remote workshop with 6 food brands and 3 leading academic institutions using remote collaboration tool Miro and videoconferencing app Zoom.
Due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, we adopted fully-remote management of the preparation process.
Challenge Definition And Partner Engagement
- We organised video calls on Zoom to qualify partners, aiming to secure companies from across the food value chain with the technical and financial capacity to undertake new product development.
- We collaborated with the academic institutions to identify a set of challenges which are compatible with the framework for UKRI BBSRC Follow-on Funding.
- We virtually briefed all the selected partners on the grant application process and managed the preparation of their proposals. We worked closely with the companies to ensure they’re effectively demonstrating how they will bridge the gap between market need and research opportunity.
Bespoke Virtual Workshop Setup
Once we successfully built a portfolio of proposals from each partner, we proceeded with building a collaborative online dashboard with all partners’ proposals, project plans and funding requirements.
We designed a workshop to cover only the essential components of the grant application framework – User Engagement and Business Development, Individual Project Plans, Resource Requirements and Assumptions about other partners’ workstreams.
On The Day
We ran the half-day workshop remotely with commercial and academic partners from the following institutions:
- Top Academic institution Imperial College London
- Centre for research and training in food science and health Quadram Institute
- Centre of excellence in plant and microbial science John Innes Institute
- Healthy frozen food manufacturer Birds Eye
- Pulse and grain pioneer manufacturer Hodmedod’s
- Norwich based agricultural enterprise zone Food Enterprise Park
- Plant-based snack producer Novofarina
- Personalised functional food innovator Nordic Group
- Snack startup Liobites
Throughout the workshop, partners took turns to communicate their project plans and clarify any assumptions they have about others’ workstreams. In real-time, we edited the virtual dashboard to reflect their discussion and create an integrated roadmap for commercialization.
What We Learnt About Running Remote Workshops
Throughout the journey, we identified 3 success factors for running successful remote Roadmapping workshops:
- Keep remote workshops duration to under 3 hours. As virtual workshops are aimed at making tough decisions, participants are often tired and less creative after about 3 hours. Moreover, the attention span via remote video call is much shorter than during live workshops, where the ability of facilitators can often retain an engaged audience for the entire day.
- Virtual workshops are great for decision-making but require thorough preparation. Only by orchestrating a multi-stage proposal process with the commercial partners, we have been able to ensure all key information was ready in advance of the workshop, thus maximizing the small amount of airtime available.
- Use visual cues throughout, prepared by one entity. As all attendees are in different locations, and verbal communication can often be broken up, it has been crucial to guide discussions using simple language and graphical representations to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
By the end of the workshop, partners were able to align on their new product development plans and understand how their roadmaps can integrate with each other to form one coherent timeline.
The workshop catalysed a negotiation period to define detailed funding requirements and commercial agreements with academic institutions.
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