When looking at boxes of Ferrero Rocher pralines, Kinder chocolates or Tic Tac mints, R&D might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Nevertheless, it plays a central role in Ferrero’s activities. “Innovation and R&D is part of our DNA,” confirms Fábio Mora, the group’s Senior Vice President Open Innovation. “We have over 1,000 staff members around the world employed in R&D and technical functions.” Their work spans over a wide range of areas: agricultural practices, biotechnology, advanced nutrition, smart packaging, protective design and advanced manufacturing solutions, to mention some examples.
Ferrero’s global headquarters, located a stone’s throw away from Luxembourg’s international airport, houses the innovation centre with its laboratories and showroom where the HQ staff can test and try new innovations, in synergy with the company’s innovation centres in Alba (Italy), Singapore and Chicago. “However, our main role is to provide the strategic vision for the group’s R&D work and to guide our open innovation activities,” Mr Mora points out.
Innovation and R&D is part of our DNA.
Ferrero’s objective is always to codevelop and test new technologies together with partners, including start-ups and SMEs, as well as big corporations, universities and scientific centres of excellence. The company’s specialised scientists assess early-stage technologies and then pursue the most promising ones in cooperation with others. It currently has active collaborations with 250 R&D and innovation partners across the world.
This includes several local open innovation partnerships in Luxembourg. “Our partners here include, for example, a packaging materials solutions specialist that is an important partner for the labels we use across the world, and a major chemical company that notably specialises in sustainable chemistry used in agricultural coatings. We are also open to and working with companies in other sectors such as tyre production – a little more surprising, perhaps, as our products are very different, but we share an interest in polymers.” Ferrero is also working with the government and various incubators to support the development of the start-up environment.
Accessing the globe
Ferrero has operations in more than 50 countries and almost 40 factories. The Italian company has been present in Luxembourg since 1973 when the founder, Mr Michele Ferrero, chose Luxembourg as his base for reaching Germany and France – the company’s most important markets at the time – and for following the chocolate innovation taking place in Belgium. Due to its central European location, the Luxembourg office grew continually, and in 1997 all headquarter operations were located here. Today, more than 1,400 people from 62 different countries work at the HQ.
“Luxembourg provides easy access to all European capitals and makes it easy to connect across the globe,” says Mr Mora. “We also have access to an amazing pool of talents that helps us to constantly innovate.”
We have access to an amazing pool of talents that helps us to constantly innovate.
He explains that from a business perspective, the company has access to a range of different resources in the country and, most importantly, strong networks and good conversations with the government and different institutions. “They are all available and keen to talk, and this makes a whole difference when it comes to innovation. The best innovative solutions are always born through cross-fertilisation of the visions and ideas of different businesses and organisations in an open innovation environment. In Luxembourg, we definitely have all that.”
Photo: © Luxinnovation/Michel Brumat; Ferrero