Open Innovation Challenges

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ENGINEERING
Engineering

Low Cost Snack Preparation Platform

AWARD: $20,000
Client is seeking inventions for low cost appliance and the food components that would go into the device for prepared food consumption. Devices of interest can be single or multi-purpose, capable of heating and cooking a single type of food or be used to deliver a range of food products for snacking. This challenge has 21 pages of info to help you focus on a novel solution.
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MATERIAL SCIENCE
Material Science

Building a Better PET Bottle

AWARD: $20,000
Create an invention that improves PET plastic bottles and methods for their manufacture. Plastic beverage bottles are very widely used. For many beverages - water and carbonated sodas – the bottle constitutes a sizeable fraction of the total cost of goods for the finished product. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most commonly used plastic for producing beverage bottles. The bottles are made in a two-stage process: injection molding of PET resin into a mold to form a tube-shaped preform, and then blow molding of the preform into the completed plastic bottle. Improvements are desired that a) use a one-stage process of directly going from PET resin to finished plastic bottle without having to go through a preform step; and/or b) produce a bottle having reduced overall weight while still retaining sufficient barrier and containment properties. Keywords: PET, polyethylene terephthalate, blow molding, injection molding, low density, light weighting
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WATER
Water

Water Recovery from Dry Snack Manufacturing

AWARD: $20,000
Create inventions that enable the reuse of evaporated water captured from dry snack manufacturing. Dry snacks, a category of ready-to-eat snacks, are made by dehydrating input food product with high water content. The result is a dry snack product and a stream of unused wastewater which can be liquid disposed through a sewage system or steam released into the atmosphere through a stack. Snack chip deep fat frying is a common method of producing dehydrated snack food. In this process, raw vegetables or tubers are cooked in hot oil. During this process the naturally occurring water in the raw food is replaced with the cooking oil. This challenge is focused on the reuse of steam waste streams from dry snack manufacturing such as deep fat frying. Technology that can economically capture and treat the steam to produce process-quality water could reduce plant operating costs by decreasing the potable water input and improve the ecological footprint of dry snacks manufacturing. Keywords: Water recycling, water conservation, waste heat recovery, wastewater recovery, food processing, ready-to-eat snacks, dry snack processing, potato chip manufacturing, corn chip manufacturing exhaust stack condensate.
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DESIGN
Design

Stacking Snacks

AWARD: $20,000
Create inventions to enable the stacking of snack products for efficient packaging, transportation, and breakage reduction. Irregularly shaped and fragile snack products, such as potato chips, are generally packed randomly in flexible bags filled with gas; however, such packaging solutions have a number of drawbacks, including the tendency of fragile snack products to settle during shipping and handling, leading to breakage, and problems arising due to the presence of excess air and moisture in the bags, resulting from the increased void space. These drawbacks negatively affect consumer perception and experience. Products which are compact and stackable are highly efficient for packaging, transportation, and storage (e.g. crackers, cookies, or fabricated snacks); accordingly, technologies are needed which allow for the compacting and stacking of cooked snack products such as potato chips. Client seeks inventions that will improve the process of descrambling, reorienting, aligning, compacting, and stacking of fragile cooked snacks for efficient packaging and transportation, as well as breakage reduction. Keywords: Snack products, potato chips, breakage, fragile, irregular shape, inconsistent sizes, efficient packaging, compaction, stacking transportation.
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MATERIAL SCIENCE
Material Science

Microwave Susceptors

AWARD: $20,000
Microwave susceptors have long been used in microwave heating of food. Since its first commercial use in the 1970s, the basic susceptor - a thin metal film coated on a PET substrate - has remained essentially unchanged. While the basic susceptor technology has enabled many innovative package designs, many challenges remain. Good temperature control, including temperature self-regulation; differential temperature control where different parts of the package are heated differently (e.g. multi-compartment microwave containers); and heating uniformity - both surface uniformity and heating of the interior of the food can be problematic with current susceptors. The challenge seeks the invention of new susceptor technologies for addressing the above problems and for improving the overall microwave cooking experience. The recent trends in food preparation, the emergence of new materials and process technologies such as graphene and 3D printing, the development of new and low cost sensor technologies, and new understanding of microwave technology including metamaterials concepts present great opportunities for obtaining new and disruptive susceptor technologies that can greatly enhance the microwave cooking experience to enable new innovations in food preparation. Keywords: Microwave, microwavable food, susceptor, microwave absorption, transmission, reflection, temperature self-limiting, magnetic induction, Curie temperature, phase transition, phase changing materials, nanoparticles, metamaterials, multitextured food, packaging, thermal runaway, resonance, skin effect, sensors.
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CHEMISTRY
Chemistry

Improved Sucrose Inversion

AWARD: $20,000
Create improvement in the process for converting sucrose to glucose and fructose. Sucrose inversion is the process of converting sucrose to a mixture of equimolar amounts of its component monosaccharides, glucose and fructose, via a hydrolysis reaction. The product "invert sugar" is a valuable sweetener with wide applications. Three primary commercial methods of sucrose inversion are: acid hydrolysis, enzymatic hydrolysis and ion exchange resin system. Each faces its respective challenges. Improvements are desired that allow efficient and cost-effective sucrose inversion for the production of invert sugar of high purit to be used in the food and beverage industry. Keywords: sucrose, invert sugar, glucose, fructose, hydrolysis, acid, enzyme, invertase, ion exchange.
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ENGINEERING - MECHANICAL
Engineering - Mechanical

Ice Production and Beverage Cooling

AWARD: $20,000
The systems and design of self-serve beverage fountain systems are subject to the limitations of traditional ice machine technology. Ice making equipment generally includes a large rectangular stainless steel insulated box, with limited consideration given to aesthetic design. Ice machines in the self-serve fountain system have two main functions: 1) the production, storage, and delivery of ice, and 2) the cooling of the beverage during dispensing. The technology used in ice machines is mature and requires significant disruptive innovation in order to provide greater flexibility in self-service beverage delivery system design. There is also a need in the beverage industry to reduce the overall size and footprint of ice production and storage in fountain system applications, while still maintaining current cooling capacity and providing an increasingly personalized experience for the consumer during beverage selection and delivery. Keywords: Ice, beverage cooling, ice machine, beverage dispenser, soda fountain.
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BIOCHEMISTRY
Biochemistry

Food Safety

AWARD: $20,000
Create inventions that improve the detection of pathogenic and spoilage microbes in food and beverages. Globally, each year thousands of people die and millions more become sick from ingesting food contaminated with pathogenic microbes. In addition, significant portions of crops and food products are lost to spoilage microbes. Technologies exist to detect these microbes, but may be time consuming, require destructive testing, suffer from sampling errors, and have difficulties differentiating between live and dead microbes. New technologies are needed that are non-destructive, accurate, rapid, and minimize sampling errors. Keywords: Bacteria, virus, mold, yeast, spore, culture media, molecular diagnostic, DNA sequencing, whole genome sequencing, antibody assay, immuno-assay, polymerase chain reaction, PCR, RT-PCR, qPCR, ELISA, EIA, food safety, food monitoring.
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MATERIAL SCIENCE
Material Science

Packaging Sensors for Shelf Stable Products

AWARD: $20,000
Food and beverage packaging utilizes low cost barrier materials to limit exposure to oxygen, moisture, and/or light, thereby providing a very high probability of freshness at the time and point of sale. Disruptive technologies, such as active, intelligent, and smart (AI&S) packaging, that provide significantly improved product packaging performance (with respect to shelf life and/or quality) per unit cost and additionally facilitate product distribution and provide information to vendors and consumers about quality and other parameters would provide cost benefits through supply chain and distribution savings. Client seeks disruptive packaging and low cost sensor or indicator technologies that have the potential to dramatically improve the product lifetime of shelf-stable food and beverage products in a 5-10 year timeframe. Client also seeking technologies that provide information relating to quality management, in-store product flow, consumer insights, and inventory awareness for supply-chain management of shelf-stable foods and beverages. Keywords: Active packaging, intelligent packaging, beverage, bottle, food, snacks, sensors, oxygen scavenger, antimicrobial packaging, shelf-life extension, preservation, freshness, quality, inventory control, modified atmosphere, temperature time indicators, integrity gas indicators, freshness indicators, pressure sensors, gas sensors, biosensors, smart shelves, polymer films, polymer coatings
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FOOD SCIENCE
Food Science

Non-Thermal Pasteurization

AWARD: $20,000
Non-thermal pasteurization technology increases shelf-life while creating foods and beverages with nearly the same taste, feel, appearance and nutritional profile of unpasteurized, fresh foods and beverages. However, the technology often costs more to purchase and operate than thermal pasteurization technologies. In addition, the shelf-life of non-thermally pasteurized beverages is less than similar heat-pasteurized drinks. Nevertheless, consumer demand for non-thermally pasteurized drinks is increasing. New technologies are needed to increase the shelf-life of non-thermally pasteurized foods and beverages while decreasing the cost of acquisition and operation. Keywords: High Pressure Processing (HPP), High Hydrostatic Pressure (HHP), Ultra High Pressure (UHP), Ultraviolet (UV) light, Ultrasound, Pulsed Electric Field (PEF), Ozone, Cold Plasma, Irradiation, Pulsed Light, Oscillating Magnetic Field, Electric Arc Discharge, Ultra-Premium Juice, Cold-Press, Beverages, Dips.
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BIOTECH
Biotech

Processing Bio-Based Composite Films for Food Packaging

AWARD: $20,000
Food packaging films protect and extend product shelf life by controlling the atmospheric conditions within the packaging. There is considerable interest in developing sustainable films of bio-based polymers containing micron- or nano-sized, bio-based fillers for food packaging applications. There is a need for viable and commercial scale methods for the processing and conversion of bio-based composites. Of particular interest are methods that can overcome the problems associated with high viscosities and high filler loadings, while increasing material compatibility and reducing agglomeration.
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MATERIAL SCIENCE
Material Science

Flexible-to-Rigid Packaging

AWARD: $20,000
The materials used to produce flexible bags offer effective barrier properties at a low cost to producers. However, many products packaged in flexible films and bags are subject to strenuous transporting and handling, which can lead to damaged products. To mitigate broken or damaged food, bags are filled with air or other select gases. Desired food packaging technologies offer the convenience, cost and performance of flexible bag materials while providing more efficient packing densities, while preserving the product quality and integrity.
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ENGINEERING
Engineering

In-line Food Processing Sensors

AWARD: $20,000
Product quality is a critical part of the food industry. Current quality control measures are done manually and are tested off-line slowing the generation of necessary data to properly monitor the processes. Real-time quality and process controls with near-line or in-line measurement techniques are required to produce data rapid enough to positively affect food quality. In-line food processing sensors are needed for select points in the processing systems for potato chips, tortilla chips, extruded products, and carbonated beverages.
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