Arla Foods opens new global innovation center in ‘Silicon Valley’ of food development and innovation

Arla has officially opened its Arla Innovation Centre, in Skejby, Denmark.

Arla Foods’ new innovation center in the Agro Food Park, in the Skejby district of Aarhus in Denmark, officially opened today.

The dairy farming cooperative said it aims to be the most collaborative innovator in the $400bn global dairy market, and expects the new facility to play a central part in Arla’s pursuit of its strategy, Good Growth 2020, by adding more value-added products to Arla’s markets around the world.

Sven Thormahlen, senior vice president of research & development at Arla, told DairyReporter that staff have been at the new Arla Innovation Centre building for a couple of weeks “to get the place up and running” before the official opening by Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark today.

Thormahlen said the facility has a permanent staff of 150 people, and they will work on between 30 and 50 innovation projects at any time.

“We had a research staff in a different facility in Brabrand (near Aarhus), they were moved into the new research center, and then we welcomed new colleagues that come from new product development and marketing to work on innovation,” Thormahlen said.

“It's a beautiful place to work.”

Different approach

Thormahlen said from an architecture and equipment point of view, the building is designed to “stimulate versatile interaction, ad hoc groups, it's designed so that people from different disciplines can come together and work.

“It is quite unusual in the way that it is designed - nobody has a fixed desk here, there are no offices, it's open space, and it has many different workspaces and work areas, there are project rooms, there are creative circles, an auditorium, meeting rooms, sitting areas, laboratory space - a mixture of different elements that allow us to work in different ways.”

Building details

The building consists of a small and compact dairy pilot plant, a wide range of laboratories, the Consumer House, the Customer Collaboration Lab and modern office facilities designed to support creativity and cross-functional projects.

“At the heart of the building is the pilot facility where we make innovation prototypes on equipment that is a small scale equivalent of what we have in our dairies,” Thormahlen said.

“We can make all product categories from cheese to fresh milk to yogurt to fermented products, so we make all these in the pilot plant, which is modular, so if we decide to make something that we haven't made in the past we can move in new equipment.”

The Arla Innovation Centre is designed as a carbon-neutral building, excluding the process areas.

Water saving fixtures have been installed throughout, and the building has a total of 525 m2 solar cells on the roof for the production of renewable energy.

Location near partners

The location of the Agro Food Park was important to Arla Foods.

Aarhus has set out to become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of food development and innovation, and Agro Food Park is designed as an ‘innovation ecosystem’ for the international agriculture and food industry.

Currently, 75 companies and institutions, are at the site, and Thormahlen said collaboration with neighbors is important.

“Our next door neighbor is going to be Aarhus University, they are bringing all their food related science,” he said.

“We also have a network of international collaboration partners, and universities, we have close relationships with Aarhus University and also Copenhagen University, we have strong collaboration in Sweden, and around the world, and the new center allows us to being these innovation partners to Skejby and work with them within our premises.”

Benefits for Arla UK

Tomas Pietrangeli, managing director of Arla Foods UK, said the new center would help with the Arla UK Strategy 2020, as Arla in the UK already works collaboratively with the global innovation team and UK strategic customers.

“We can now accelerate the time it takes from concept to shelf for new or improved branded and own-label products to UK consumers.”

Achieving goals

Arla Foods CEO, Peder Tuborgh, said a quicker route from idea to finished product is expected to be of high strategic value to many of Arla’s food retailers and foodservice customers across Europe, USA, Asia and the Middle East.

“Arla serves retail and foodservice customers around the world, and we are very excited to offer our customers a greater involvement in the innovative process,” Tuborgh said.

We believe in open innovation, and our new facility sets the perfect stage for that kind of collaboration.

“We are investing heavily in innovation to respond to this global demand. The work that will take place at our new innovation centre is crucial to us achieving our goals.”

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