Guest post by Tamami Komatsu
What is bibimbap? Just a fun word to say? Or is there more than meets the tongue?
The Future Food Institute (FFI) has branded its food hackathon, Bibimbap, after a
Korean, mixed rice dish. Why? Because the model proposed by the Institute, follows a
culinary metaphor that imitates the four steps used in preparing the dish. Step 1: gather
a group of people with different skills, background, and expertise around a common
objective. Step 2: peel back the layers that make up the challenge and envelop team
members in order to come up with “raw” ideas. Step 3: chop up the different
contributions and mix in the best parts to create a foundation for the final product. Step
4: cook your idea and let other people taste it.
This is the second Bibimbap run by the FFI, who had done its ﬁrst event on April 11th, in
Milan, in partnership with Alce Nero.
This second edition of Bibimbap took place at Alma Graduate School under their MBA
Food and Wine program, providing the perfect setting for the challenge. The University
of Bologna, the oldest, functioning University in the world, dating back to 1088, created
a natural juxtaposition between the old and the new, tradition and the future, particularly
suiting the challenge whose focus was on the concept of tradition and the innovation of
tradition. This edition’s challenge was aimed at starting a real food revolution of the
catering industry, in order to create new, sustainable services that reinforce a food
culture based on the principles of healthy living, respecting the environment and paying
attention to the quality of food and the experience.
Institute for the Future, knowledge partner of the event, created an insightful one-page
map providing different questions or areas to focus on, complete with steps for coming
up with a prototype for the event. The map was based on ﬁve innovation zones: better
food governance, resilient ecosystems, celebrated cultures, stronger economy, and food
secure cities. Each innovation zone included four entry points to address the area:
models, tools, people and metrics. At the beginning of day one, the participants chose
which questions they would be hacking over the next 48 hours.
The days were structured around segments of team work, mixed in with mini, guest
lectures from stakeholders in the food industry, and experts including: Tim West from
Future Food Tech, Rebecca Chesney from the Institute for the Future, Lucio Cavazzoni
from Alce Nero Group and others who provided inspiration and useful information for the
At the end of day two, two teams tied for ﬁrst place, “Slower is Healthier” and
“Rethinking Canteen”. The ﬁrst project is a boutique canteen imagined for big
enterprises to relax, eat healthy food and create relationships. The second project is a
booking app empowering users and allowing canteens to plan the demand, establish
dynamic pricing and a dynamic offer, as well as encouraging the creation of a
community. The two winning teams won a 4-month mentorship program from You Can Group to make this change a reality, 4 months of hospitality at the co-business space
COB, and a Restaurant entrepreneurship workshop organized by Alma Graduate
School with a super starred Chef.
Third place went to the Food Action Production team. The project is a movement of
people who try to convey the message that eating healthy food in a sociable and fun
way is good for everybody’s well-being. They won 1 month of hospitality and experience
in Working Capital’s tech incubator during their acceleration program.
As Tim West said: “The future of the world is in transparency. In hackathons, the truth
always comes out. The community will promote you, if they see trust and honesty in
what you do.” So we can really better the world through sharing our thoughts, passions
and supporting good ideas.
So, why do these kind of events?
Events like this are useful for the process as they use disruptive innovation strategies to
create solutions that hack away at existing paradigms in order to project future
scenarios. This is translated into immediate impact by a shift in mentality in the
participants and the organizations who partner with these events as they understand
where to align their personal or business strategies. Beyond this, the real and
immediate takeaway for participants is the network of new connections they walk away
“The biggest value of hackathons are the people you meet and the environment that is
created. The idea is to play and be creative, but the core takeaways are the connections
you make during the event and the community that is created,” says Rebecca Chesney
What does the Future Food Institute do?
The Future Food Institute is a non-proﬁt organization, created as a spin-off of You Can
Group, that seeks to study, research and analyze new trends around the world with the
aim of helping food system organizations plan for a better long-term future for people
and the planet.
The FFI works to empower food entrepreneurs by helping them tackle food
problems and use them as leverage points to drive economic development and
foster growth. In support of its mission the Institute, provides future food insight to
governing institutions and is building an entrepreneurial task force to support food
system innovation. Among other things, the Institute is opening a kitchen incubator
FUTURE FOOD LAB to provide a space for rising food entrepreneurs to test their
products and food concepts.
Tamami Komatsu has been collaborating with the Future Food Institute in their research and development department since the beginning of 2014 and in other projects launched by You Can Group. The Future Food Institute seeks to study, research and analyze new trends around the world with the aim of helping food system organizations plan for a better long-term future for people and the planet.