Food Incubators Transforming Regions
Start date: Sep 1, 2015,
End date: Aug 31, 2017
Food and drink represents the largest manufacturing sector in the EU and encouragingly has sustained positive growth. Even during the economic downturn, levels of employment in the food and drink industry remained quite stable. The majority of the 287,000 EU food companies employing employ 4.25 million people are SMEs or micro-enterprises. While the sector has excellent potential for artisan and specialty producers to establish, the lack of access to food grade workspace is a serious and inhibiting barrier to entry (40% of emerging food producers found the lack of production space an inhibiting factor to business growth and of concern in terms of business effectiveness). Artisan food producers struggle to support the capital requirements of setting up a production facility (investing in a food production unit is second only to the establishment costs of a pharma clean room!). On the other hand, there is an abundance of underutilized properties in public and private ownership which could be re-imagined as vibrant Food Incubators but the promoters of same lack the skills and practical strategies to develop them. Food incubators have the unique potential to spur productive, inclusive & sustainable economic development. They provide a strong foundation for the creation and expansion of food businesses and jobs by helping communities, VET bodies, development agencies to revitalise underutilised buildings into powerhouses of food sector learning, innovation and production. At a time of rising social inequality, Food Incubators also offer the prospect of expanding employment in the growing food sector through educational opportunities for disadvantaged populations.
Food Incubators Transforming Regions (FITR) seeks to forge an effective & replicable model to provide the learning and strategic structure to develop food kitchens &incubators as enterprise, training and support drivers at regional level. The partnership involves 7 partners across 4 counties - UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Slovakia and will run for 24 months. Its rationale is clear .. while there are many VET responses for food entrepreneurs and SMEs, there is no VET in the theme of training tools for developing regional infrastructure and support structures that will stimulate food economies. FITR will comprise unique training curriculum and course materials to successfully establish and manage food incubator hubs to cater for the growing numbers of emerging food entrepreneurs who are in urgent need of a place to produce, learn and grow. It will target community drivers, development agencies and VET bodies. Developed by a compelling mix of academics & industry specialists, it epitomizes quality VET provision.
Our efforts are focused on three clear target groups:
a) Community leaders, Chambers of Commerce , SMEs and agri food groups who need VET resources & tools and strategic support from FITR Regional Partnerships to help them develop food incubators
b) HEIs and business development organizations that provide VET for the food sector.
c) Local authorities and public sector agencies that can support food incubators (financially and logistically in terms of providing land, buildings and other resources) to drive regional economic and growth.
The project will work to fulfill the following objectives:
a) Establish 4 sustainable, sector focused 4 Regional Partnerships to study and capture best practice in the development of Food incubators and through a Triple Helix leadership network (involving industry, universities, and regional development bodies) develop 4 Action Plans as the ultimate blueprint to develop physical food incubator hubs at regional level
b) Create and publish a “The Essential Toolkit to developing a Regional Food Incubator” to facilitate the replication of both the Regional Partnership and the Food Incubator across Europe. This will focus on "how-to” strategies for food hub establishment and
operation that are based on successful models operating in other regions and new concepts from the US (the market leaders in food incubators)
c) Create and publish a course curriculum, guiding VET practitioners on the topics and skills most needed to establish and manage a Food incubator.
d) Develop an intensive blended learning “The Essential Toolkit to develop a successful Food Incubator” course based on open education resources, targeting regional changemakers in local government, development agencies, communities, businesses, not-for profits and others interested in establishing food hubs
There is a clear argument for providing timely, tailored training to a food sector Triple Helix leadership network (involving industry, universities, and regional development bodies), building on their experience and enabling them to overcome the strategic and operational challenges of food facilities deficits. There is no such course available anywhere in the world despite the potential of the food sector.
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