Our first stop was a 'sunrise session' on open innovation - which was clearly a popular subject given the highly respectable turnout for a session starting at 7.15am on a Sunday...
While cynics might say there's something faddish about open innovation - it's much more than a buzzword on the conference circuit, insisted General Mills' open innovation guru Jeff Bellairs.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine how any food or beverage company that does not tap into expertise beyond the four walls of its R&D dept will last long as the pressure to get to market with bigger, better and more innovative new products faster than ever will only increase, he said.
"There is no choice. The world is changing too fast [not to embrace open innovation]."
But to get it right you need an OI champion in your company, decent lawyers to ensure that any deal you strike with a partner is a win-win for both parties, and a clear idea of what you want, he said. "We're not looking for [random] ideas, we want solutions to problems we have defined."
Tactical, or strategic?
Sometimes, open innovation can be tactical - working with others to accelerate the innovation process, make it more efficient, he said. Other times it can be strategic - identifying a partner that can help you take something completely novel to market first, perhaps using technology from an entirely different industry.
While some people within his organisation were skeptical at first, the figures speak for themselves, he claimed. Sales of General Mills products developed using connected innovation as a significant component consistently have performed better than those based purely on internal technology.
Click here to listen to our interview with Andy Zynga, CEO of open innovation matchmaking service NineSigma - which was bringing companies together to collaborate three years before the term 'open innovation' was even coined in 2003.
Pictured left to right: Andy Zynga, CEO NineSigma, Yao-wen Huang, prof. in the dept of food science & technology, University of Georgia; Jeff Bellairs, senior director, General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (GWIN).