A New Business Year – A Look at the Year Ahead

IFST’s business year started on 1 October and so it is an ideal time to signpost some of IFST’s plans for the year ahead. In fact, our strategy and business-planning process started back in January when the Board, the incoming trustees and the senior executive team holds a strategy workshop to start formulating our plans. Little did we know, last January, just how our plans would need to change during the year to accommodate the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That said, our underlying charitable purpose remains as it always has. You may have seen we have refined our mission or purpose to read ‘To recognise and empower food professionals by promoting excellence in science and its application throughout the food chain.’ Not only is this considerably shorter than previously but also reflects our more externally-facing and output-oriented way of working.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Looking at the year ahead, some of our key outputs – what we are already known and respected for – will continue the same (albeit, some will need to be adapted to be deliverable in a virtual environment if current restrictions prevail). For instance, we are already gearing up for our Spring Conference which, this year, will be on the theme of ‘Smart thinking and Smart working’. This will be held in late April/early May and will be announcing the actual timing of this in the next few weeks once we are clearer over the likelihood of us being able to deliver anything as a physical meeting.

Likewise, throughout the year, we will continue to host a wide range of highly topical and relevant webinars (along with, hopefully, real events) – some hosted centrally and some through our increasingly active Subject Interest Groups, our Working Groups and through our Branches. The volume of our webinars and events continues to grow and, from the feedback we receive, provides a valuable form of information and learning which forms the core for many professionals’ Continuing Professional Development. Hosting more events online has seen us reaching far larger audiences and, critically, we are now able to offer these to participants from all around the world.

Over the next few weeks, we recognise EU Exit is going to impact very many of our members in some way, and so we aim to focus our attention to creating and signposting reliable information from a food science and technology perspective to support our members.

With guidance from our External Affairs Advisory Group, we will continue to engage with relevant governmental departments where we can use our ongoing discussions to help contribute towards governmental thinking by providing reliable, independent food science and technology perspectives.

Horizon Scanning Survey

This month, to kick off our business year, you will have seen we’ve invited members to participate in a horizon-scanning survey. This is just the first part in an important exercise which will ultimately help provide us with clarity about the demands you, your businesses and the wider professional community are facing. This, in turn, will help inform our priorities in terms of the Institute’s scientific and policy outputs. As well as providing a focus for IFST, we aim to publish our findings early next year which we hope will provide useful perspectives for all our members.

Student Career LaunchPads

This November will see our ninth year of hosting Student LaunchPad events. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s LaunchPad activities, aimed at undergraduate students are obviously having to be hosted online. That said, this also presents us with a big opportunity to widen our reach to potentially encourage students from non-food science-based subjects and also from FE colleges.

Membership Survey Coming Your Way

In December we will be inviting all our members to participate in our bi-annual membership survey. It is critical to hear from you, our members so that we can be responsive to your professional needs. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service and benefits to you - please don’t miss this opportunity to provide your feedback and have your say.

So, as can see, even in the first business quarter of this year, we have a busy schedule of activities planned. We are already starting to plan a virtual Members Week for April next year when we will invite you to join us online to hear more about our activities, and hopefully get more involved.

We can but hope that, by then, we can start to return to some face-to-face meetings. In the meantime, we are still committed to growing the Institute and focussing our plans on how we can best support our professional community.