News Items - International Association of Packaging Research Institutes
New growth and new priorities: IAPRI since 2000
The concluding section of our three-part history of IAPRI over the 50 years of its existence focuses on the two decades since the millennium.

After Anders Soras, who was President from 1996 to 2004, Kees Sonneveld, based at Victoria University in Australia, took on the role, with Marie Rushton as Secretary General.
Changes at this point included the introduction of corporate membership. Previously, the ‘purist’ approach of the IAPRI  founder members had steered a course away from the more commercial side of packaging research. But now there was increasingly recognition that much of the corporate sphere demonstrated the same quality and rigour in its research as the independent institutes and university departments did in theirs. Nestlé Packaging Research joined as the first of this new membership category in 2005.

Thomas Goedecke of BAM, Germany, became President in 2009, with Marie Rushton remaining as Secretary General. By the following year, IAPRI membership had reached 76, including associate and new corporate members.
In 2011, in an article celebrating the association’s 40th anniversary, Board Member Kennert Johansson of Innventia (now part of RISE), Sweden, outlined the broadening of research themes over the years. In the case of his own institute, this had meant moving from a primary focus on testing transport packaging to wider materials testing and development. “Then, the last 15 years or so saw sustainability and consumer questions growing in significance.”
Another former Board member, in this case still actively involved in IAPRI, Renee Wever of Linköping University recalls his first IAPRI event in Tokyo in 2006. “Most papers were, as I recall, on the technical side: packaging dynamics, materials science, and so on.” As Johansson did back in 2011, Wever recognises the indispensable and central position that these research areas enjoy, but like him, he notes a shift to include other important themes.
“Over the years we’ve seen a growth around more human-centred subjects such as pack design methodology, ergonomics and marketing,” he says.
As Johansson also pointed out in his discussion, peer-reviewed papers were introduced for the first time at the 2011 Berlin Symposium. They have been a key feature of IAPRI events ever since. “Peer review in its broadest sense and academic excellence were at the heart of the original organisation – and remain so today,” he wrote.
Another innovation from this period which has stood the test of time is the IAPRI exchange scholarship, generously sponsored over the years by corporate member PepsiCo. The opening of the applications process for the 2022-3 scholarship was announced earlier this month, offering a major opportunity for a graduate researcher from one IAPRI member institute to further develop their chosen project at another.
While several Working Groups (WGs) were already well-established by the years after 2000, new additions to the list have always reflected evolving areas of interest among members. The Packaging & Consumers WG, one of the more recent, is among those to have yielded joint research, over the years, as Wever (who has helped to run the group) explains.
Bringing this process up to date, a reappraisal by the Board has now led to a redesignation of WGs as Communities of Practice (CoPs). This is not to diminish the importance and relevance of their role in any way, but more closely reflects the reality of how they operate, as current Secretary General Ed Church explains.
“IAPRI CoPs are groups of individuals within the membership who share a common interest, concern, or a set of problems in a particular area of packaging, and who come together (face-to-face or in a virtual environment) to fulfil both individual and community goals,” he says.
As Church makes clear, anyone from an IAPRI member organisation can join a CoP. As well as Packaging & Consumers, the list of current CoPs reads as follows: Distribution Packaging; Sustainable Packaging; and Active & Intelligent Packaging. A new Packaging Education CoP is under development. “There is a strong emphasis within IAPRI on building up their effectiveness,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the term ‘Working Group’ is now being applied instead to smaller, more focused groups appointed by the Board to address specific objectives or challenges. The first of these is the Social Media Strategy Development WG. As Church states: “Social media is of critical importance, especially for the younger and upcoming generation of members.”
A second WG is currently being created with the objective of developing strategies for better dissemination of IAPRI members’ scientific research.
According to Corporate Board Member Paul Singh of Packaging Forensics Associates, there have been broader changes, too, which have affected the membership profile and some of the priorities within IAPRI. “The addition of many members from Asia has expanded the association’s global nature,” he says.
Other specific changes have had smaller but no less tangible effects. “When those serving on the Board were no longer restricted to managers or department heads, this opened Board positions to others at the member institutions,” says Singh.
But despite its greater size, diversity and global reach, and through all of the disruption and troubled times of the past two years, the welcome and support offered by IAPRI members has not diminished.
Reminiscing about his first Conference in Tokyo, Wever says: “I see many of the faces from 2006 still around.”
He adds: “All of us are very welcoming to new packaging researchers, whether from new member organisations or early-career.”
Regarding IAPRI’s role, Wever again takes us back to his reasons for attending the Japan Conference. “I had realised that, for anyone studying packaging academically, IAPRI is the place to be,” he says.
The aims of IAPRI; to establish and advance professional and personal relations, share information and obtain peer review with respect to methodology, analysis, and potential outcomes at early stages of research projects, and contribute to the academic recognition of education programs on packaging have continued on since the beginning. They are enabled by publication of a newsletter, Communities of Practice information transfer and the IAPRI website. But number one is the networking opportunity offered by IAPRI world and member conferences, that also provides an interaction with publishers to facilitate the recognition and publishing of the scientific and scholarly work presented.

Jay Singh, IAPRI's current President says, "It has been a dynamically changing fifty years since the beginnings of official formation of IAPRI, but what brought together just a few institutes and a university is still as true today as it was  in 1971."

Published: 12/28/21