Client: Britvic Soft Drinks plc

Type of event: 2 day residential conference

Group size: 60

Venue: Clare College & Trinity Hall

Date: 14-15 November 2017

Background

Britvic is a leading soft drinks company, with operations in Great Britain, Ireland, France and Brazil. Across these four markets, the company has developed a strong portfolio of its own iconic brands, including Robinsons, Tango, J2O, drench, MiWadi, Ballygowan, Teisseire, Fruité, Maguary and DaFruta.

In 2017, Will Whittaker, Head of Liquid Development in R&D at Britvic Soft Drinks Plc decided to hold the first Britvic Technical Conference for all R&D teams to focus on connecting, amplifying and embedding technology. He chose Cambridge as a location and hoped to invite scientists from the University as speakers and session leaders at the event.

Brief

Will says: “We were working with a very short lead-time as we only decided in July that we wanted to hold the event in November. We contacted Meet Cambridge in the early planning stages, who understood our needs immediately and helped to find a suitable venue. They were very responsive and the service surpassed expectation.

“The choice of Cambridge as a location was key in order to gain access to academics who were happy to commit their time and the conference was focused on industry challenges rather than just being specific to Britvic”.

“Very importantly, Meet Cambridge was also instrumental in connecting us with Dr Phil Catton in the Strategic Partnerships Office at the University of Cambridge so we could discuss involving academics and potential collaboration. Their long-standing relationship with this Office was a huge benefit to us, not only in identifying a keynote speaker but also to start our relationship with the University”.

“Following the introduction, I briefed Phil on our areas of interest and approach to deliver innovation including novel technologies and sustainability. He then arranged lecturers to come along as speakers and to lead breakout group discussions. He identified a group of interested academics who understood the research requirements and how to build future partnerships.”

Event

“In holding the conference at an academic venue, we were giving our R&D staff the opportunity to go back to the raw science and think outside the box. As a world class academic institution, Cambridge provided the perfect background to do this and the setting within a College took people back to their student days. We deliberately wanted a different feel to the event, rather than holding it in an anonymous hotel.”

“This was commented on by attendees who found both the location and the speakers inspiring – two have decided to return to studying and are planning to undertake PhDs.”

“Although most of the event took place at Clare College’s Gillespie Centre, dinner was held at Trinity Hall which was also a great venue. We had initially anticipated around 80 people attending but it ended up being nearer 120 as most of the Cambridge University guests came along. Fortunately the team at Trinity Hall was flexible to accommodate our brief.”

Feedback

“This conference played a critical part in building our relationship with Cambridge University – it was the first building block and launched our partnership. Both our R&D specialists and the academics gained from the collaboration and the feedback we received from participants was fantastic.”

“The outcome is that we are in the early stages of starting research projects which came out of the conference in partnership with Cambridge University academic researchers. These projects may take a while to get going but the Technical Conference started the process in a dynamic and exciting way.”

Engagement, Impact and Legacy

Dr Phil Catton, Strategic Partnerships Office, University of Cambridge said:

“Britvic hadn’t worked with the University of Cambridge before but felt they would benefit from input at their Technical Conference to help inspire the team and encourage further innovation. At the outset they weren’t sure how to go about this and what was and wasn’t possible. Meet Cambridge brought us together so we could explore collaboration, not just for the conference but more importantly for the longer term too.

“When I met with Will, from Britvic, it was clear there was huge potential for some really interesting collaborative research projects. To help kick start the process, Will and I worked together to organise their Technical Conference, sourcing speakers both from the University and the wider Cambridge business ecosystem, including for the keynote address. We also organised a large, facilitated workshop session, involving five parallel sessions each with 10-15 Britvic engineers, scientists, managers, and other professionals, and half a dozen University colleagues.

“This really was a win-win situation: Britvic had exposure to our academics, and our academics were able to find out more about real industrial challenges. By bringing together these groups, we were able to generate stimulating discussions with both sides challenging each other, which was immensely valuable.

“The seeds for future research collaboration have been sown and everyone involved is enthusiastic about the potential. I look forward to seeing the results in due course.”

Images courtesy of Britvic Soft Drinks Plc.