InnovAcciones 360° was a project of open innovation and citizen participation in the food packaging sector. It aimed to turn citizens into drivers or players in RDI, with the ultimate goal of fostering innovation through a circular flow of information, from the end user of food packaging to scientists and SMEs. The novel aspect of this project was that ideas would come from citizens and, after a process of research and development led by scientists and companies, would return to citizens in the form of new and enhanced products.
The project was divided into several networking public meetings stakeholders from different areas. 1st Networking – Trends and Experiences: Researchers, businesses and consumers met together to discuss food packaging requirements and develop ideas for innovations to meet societal needs. 2nd Networking – Specificity towards innovation: Scientists and companies met to study the feasibility of potential R&D projects raised by citizens in the first round.
A wide range of stakeholders was included: scientist, businesses and consumers to diversify the sources of expertise and perspectives. The final selection of consumers included end users with different food packaging experiences (hauliers, homemakers, catering workers, and so on). Although gender was not considered as a selection criterion, it was balanced in the final composition of the panel.
At the end of the first networking session, all participants received a summary report of the full session, written in accessible language. Results of networking were broadcasted and covered live through social media. A final report was published in a specialised magazine.
Mixed groups encouraged stakeholders to reflect on their own needs, but also the needs of other stakeholders. When groups were mixed, reflection on benefits and risks was highly enriched due to participants’ differences in background and expertise.
This project marked an institutional precedent that has contributed to rethinking the relationship between researchers, citizens and industry. Researchers involved in the project valued the interactions and saw how such interactions could enrich their work.
Increasing interactions between stakeholders is positive and enhances outcomes. Citizens are willing to contribute to innovation processes and to discuss their needs and concerns with experts; utilising different forms of media can encourage and maintain their involvement. Though this project focused on the food packaging sector, it is transferrable to almost any industrial sector.