Interview with Frank GANA – Digital & Innovation Director at CITEO

Interview with Frank GANA – Digital & Innovation Director at CITEO

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1- Could you tell us about your position and CITEO’s activities related to packaging?

I am the Innovation Director of CITEO. As such, I have two primary functions: the first one, which is a common mission for all CDOs, consists in helping the company becoming more agile, inventing new business models, innovating and digitising. The second one is specific to CITEO’s activity: it consists in helping the whole sector following the same dynamic in order to find – as soon as possible – economically sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

These missions involve – for packaging stakeholders – developing efficient services for our clients as well as accompanying the sector: our mission is to help different players to put innovation at the service of the issues they face. We help them to collaborate with each other and with all the people involved in the value chain.

2- You launched in 2016 the Circular Challenge under the aegis of Ecofolio, could you explain the goal of this competition?

Circular Challenge is a competition that aims at identifying start-ups which projects have the potential to provide an answer to environmental and/or regulatory problems of our clients. Beyond this competition, our commitment is meant to last. The important thing for us is to select these innovations in the most relevant way, then help them to consolidate and grow so that they meet the industrial constraints of our clients. Finally, our goal is to give them more visibility to develop partnerships with our clients and enable the latter to turn innovation into a means of adaptation and anticipation of environmental challenges and regulatory evolutions.

3- The event has recently been held for the second time, could you summarise the list of innovations related to packaging which have been awarded in 2017?

Innovations that have been awarded this year tackle different issues on the value chain of circular economy and are in line with current societal trends: new outlets for plastic waste, improvement of sorting methods, out-of-home consumption and new materials, replacement of plastic cups. Regarding packaging, start-ups that have reached the final do carry solutions that can potentially lead to significant changes in the sector. “Do Eat”, for instance, created edible packaging, Jean Bouteille promotes returnable and reusable packaging for food stores while “Tipa”, an international startup, is developing biodegradable plastic packaging.

4- What societal themes impacting the packaging world do you identify through this competition?

The current trend of “consuming more sustainably”, which keeps all political, economic and financial players and citizens busy, can be found in this competition.

This year, we noticed a particular interest in the “zero waste” trend through projects aiming at reducing the quantity of packaging or improving their biodegradability.

Another example: societal changes that support collaborative and functional economy appear in this competition through projects dealing with deposit and reuse.

Finally I would like to mention the growing interest in the subject of “materials”, especially plastic, through projects aiming at improving recyclability and finding new ways of recycling plastic.

5- You know the world of start-ups very well, which are often the source of innovation. How could this kind of innovation become part of the packaging world while also being able to face commercial reality? 

In an increasingly complex world, the different players are interdependent and must learn to get to know each other better in order to meet the economic, environmental and societal challenges of tomorrow.

As an eco-organisation, we can be an important intermediate since we are at the crossroads of all stakeholders.

To take but one example: start-ups sometimes do not know very well the industrial constraints that players face. They think that a manufacturer can change its way of working without thinking of the operational difficulties and financial impacts that it can represent.

We help them to better integrate those constraints to facilitate initial contacts and partnerships with our clients.

On the other hand, we distribute information to our clients to provide them with new possibilities of innovation, in a partnership context.

The role of the Innovation Director consists in fostering these commercial relationships to reduce the environmental impact of packaging.

In other words, we are applying an ambitious policy of Open Innovation on a large scale given our status in the sector.

6- In a world which is constantly evolving faster and faster, do you think that projects conducted by start-ups could disrupt the packaging world in terms of innovation?

Start-ups have disrupted all business areas, including industrial fields (automotive, energy, aeronautics industries), food and service sectors. The packaging world will be no exception to the rule. The question is to know how we can do something together so that these changes occur at the benefit of all stakeholders rather than at their expense, as it happened on other markets such as the musical one, which is still hardly recovering from the economic crisis that followed the advent of the digital.

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