The year of 2014 has been the year of the knowledge based bioeconomy. Never before have we realized better the importance of science and innovation in tackling the grand challenges of food security and developing a sustainable bioeconomy. Matís has had emphasis on the blue bioeconomy and plays a key role in that field, domestically and internationally.
In our globalised world, international collaboration among scientists and entrepreneurs is a key to building competive companies, resilient economies and prosperous societies. Science and innovation do not only increase resource utilisation and support product and service development, but also support marketing and improves value chain transparency and coordination.
Food production is one of the most important parts of the bioeconomy and food safety is the basis of value creation in that field. In 2014, Matis had an outstanding collaboration with the German institutions BfR and LAVES in building our food safety analytical capacity. With the support of the Icelandic minister of Fisheries and Agriculture and the German minister of Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture huge steps were taken toward an even more food safe future for Icelandic consumers and buyers of Icelandic food products worldwide. It is my pleasure to thank our collaborators for their excellent work and support.
Collaboration with our Nordic ”cousins” has always been important to us Icelanders. It was even more so in 2014 than most years, as Iceland chaired the Nordic Council of Ministers, with main focus on the Bioeconomy in the Chairmanship Program ”Innovation in the Nordic Bioeconomy“. The opportunities in the Nordic and Arctic bioeconomy were the focus of conferences organised by Matís, ”Nordtic – Nordic Bioeconomy and Arctic Bioeconomy” in June and ”Arctic Bioeconomy” in November, with keynote presentations from dr. dr. Andreas Hensel and dr. dr. Christian Patermann. It is important for the Nordic countries and their neighbours to stay in the forefront when it comes to seizing the opportunities and mitigating the risks related to changing climate conditions in our part of the world, not least when it comes to the bioeconomy. Creating favorable conditions in those areas for innovative companies, and thereby job opportunities for highly skilled knowledge workers, will play hand in hand with increasing the value of biological resources and increasing global food security, both being high on the international political agenda.
Growth of international operations at Matis was characterizing for 2014. International collaboration widens our scope, keeps the scientists at Matis world class and supports value creation in the food and biotech industries domestically and abroad. But international projects do not only support scientists and established companies. They also enhance real regional development with spin-off companies, job opportunities and international market relations for small companies. Farmers and fishermen coming in contact with designers and developers are some of the success stories we can tell from our international operations. Bridging the gap between academia and industry as well as between Europe and N-America are other success stories.
Icelandic seafood producers have a reputation of high quality and responsible utilization. Matis is proud to have collaborated with them through the years to obtain that reputation. Seafood producers, as well as other food producers, thrive from innovation and we should be proud to communicate the innovative nature of food production. If we continue to be aware of both the potential risk of innovation and the importance of food safety, innovation will be a part of the Icelandic seafood identity in the years to come.
Consumers today are smart. They want real information about their food. Food safety scandals, increased education and the power of social media have changed the food industry for good. And those kind of changes will continue, as consumers become more and more aware of different choices, trade barriers are broken and e-commerce reaches new heights. The consumers of tomorrow will require scientifically obtained information on nutrition, chemical contamination, health effects, social responsibility and environmental impact of food production. With that future in mind, I believe science and innovation will become the currency of tomorrow´s food industry.
Sveinn Margeirsson, CEO at Matís.