Interregional cooperation for competitive and sust.. (I4Food)
Interregional cooperation for competitive and sustainable regional food industries
Start date: Dec 31, 2011,
End date: Dec 30, 2014
I4Food project has gown out from the changes have taken place within European food producing industry. The fundamentally different playing field this sector is facing now is characterised with increased international trade in food and beverages, significant changes to traditional markets and consumer expectations. Whilst on one hand it is needed to participate in the European and in the world market, on the other there are constraints to contribute to European and regional social-economic-territorial cohesion and also to stimulating and making European food industry itself more innovative, competitive and sustainable. When assessing these challenges, several issues are to be considered: food industry means employment opportunities in regions where high value added sectors are not present, could be a source of innovation and economic cooperation for regional SMEs. By exploiting safe, healthy and regional food products SMEs may target new market areas, attract investments and skilledworkforce into their regions, simultaneously preserving their environmental values. I4Food regions are all affected by these challenges. To respond properly, they have their own development strategies to adjust/develop accordingly.Project partnership covers wide European area (N-E-S-W) of 6 regional authorities/bodies of 6 EU member states, with comparable strategies/good practices in common food industry sub-sectors. The Lead Partner comes from an East-European (HU) convergence region.The project addresses INTERREG IVC Programme priority innovation and knowledge economy, and is dedicated to entrepreneurship and SMEs. Partners set as their overall objective to improve their development policies for competitive and sustainable regional food industries and SMEs based on European wide experience exchange. Sub-objectives and activities target 6 policy areas: employment-jobs, innovation-knowledge, regional business cooperation, acces to finance and markets, safe-healthy food products andenvironmentally conscious SMEs. By focusing on key regional strategies, key SMEs and actors, key actions and key good practices of their food industries, they develop a common understanding of food industry challenges based on regional analyses and by joint learning in the form of manual and study visits. To exploit findings, partners improve their regional strategies with implementaion plans and good practice transfers to strengthen innovation capacity of food industry SMEs, influence the EU-wide policy context of food industry with recommendation on the six policy areas mentioned. Effective communication serves the involvement of policy and decision makers at regional, interregional and EU level. By this the horizontal and vertical networking capacity of I4Food partner regions also develops.I4Food results are more effective regional development policies targeting the increase of competitiveness and sutainability of the food industry SMEs at regional and EU level in 6 policy areas. Achievements: I4Food is an INTERREG IVC project focusing on making the regional food industries (through the development policies of the concerned regions) more competitive and sustainable. For this purpose the project partnership of six regions started to map their regional food industries in terms of key startegies, key SMEs and actors and key actions. By the end of the 2nd period 2 interregional Working Group meetings (at Pécs, HU and at Joensuu, FI) were organised, where partners discussed the method of regional questionnaires (to provide for a general overview), regional study (to go into details, especially in six [employment-jobs, innovation-knowledge transfer; access to markets and finance, regional business cooperation, safe-healthy-place based products and environemtally conscious SMEs). By the end od December 2012, 6 regional questionnaires, 4 regional studies and 12 regional good practices were avaible. The main messages according to the six policy domains - at this stage of the project implementation are the following: - employment-jobs: dilemmas as employment vs. competitiveness, education (secondary, high) vs. market demands, presence of unemployed youngs and olds is a problem, conditions are to be improved (so as agro-food job is to be seen as a career), brain-drain from other sectors is significant, - research-innovation: funding and infrastructure are available, though there is a primary agro-food production focus, hence it is low level penetration towards food processing, - regional business cooperation: clustering, cooperatives are available, top-down and bottom-up approaches also, but cooperation is neede to be taught, - finance and markets: focus especially is on domestic markets, there are difficulties with exporting, small SMEs could deliver limited production, access is poor to finance (incl. EU grants), market prices are low, , coupled with markdown of prices, there are long supply chains and logistics problems, - safe-healthy-place based products: problem is the absence of regional brands and low or non-presence in big retail chains, quantity problems of local foods and their low prices do not support increase, - environment conscious SMEs: there is lack of stable legal background, though ISO and HACCP system are applied, environment is often seen as investment, use of by-products should be supported. I4Food partnership also organised 5 regional experience exchange events (3 in Lyon, 2 in Pécs), and expertise work is vivid within the project and among the partners. The first year ended with some outputs missing (2 regional strategies, 6 good practices), but the mapping and identification phase could be considered as completed. In terms of project management the partnership had two Management and Steering Committee meeting (again in Pécs and Joensuu), where minor budget changes, reporting issues, project management praqtiques were discussed. The partnership submitted it 1st project progress report on time. By the end of the 2nd period (December 2012) all Partners had their First Level Controllers appointed. Lead Partner took part in three programme level meetings (in Coppenhagen for project management, and in Sofia for project communication). In terms of communication the logo, project design, the website and the communication plans are available, the 1st newsletter is ready and sent to 850 addresses, the roll-ups and the 1st project brochure are still on the way. Besides the project kick-off conference in Pécs, one attendance on one other event was realised, and the Lead Partner took part on the INTERREG IVC Open Days events in Brussels.I4Food communication plan, logo and project design are ready, readers may obtain fresh information on the project website at: www.i4food.eu.
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