Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Enhancing the innovativeness of food SMEs through the management of strategic network behaviour and network learning performance (Environmental impacts and total food chain)

Project acronym: NETGROW

Title of project: Enhancing the innovativeness of food SMEs through the management of strategic network behaviour and network learning performance

Research area: Environmental Impacts and total Food Chain

Contract No: 245301

EU contribution: €2 956 186

Start date: May 2010

Duration: 48 months

Status: on-going

Strategic network learning is of crucial importance for innovation as it enables the food company to expand its resource base and to absorb new trends and technologies. It is observed that food SMEs often fail to establish a strategic and efficient network. This project sheds new light on this issue by combining research actions at two levels:

  • the focal company level, investigating how attitudes and preferences determine the food SMEs individual network behaviour in order to achieve business objectives;
  • the network level, investigating the functioning of the network as a whole; how this results in innovation and economic growth, and how network stakeholders can improve the performance of the network.

The project combines scientific research with developing network learning tools of practical use to food SMEs, network organisations and policy makers. A broad definition of networks is applied, including networking with competitors, suppliers, knowledge centres and a variety of other actors through formal and informal linkages.

The research activities take three steps:

  • profound analysis of success factors and barriers for network learning. Particular focus is on the relationship between informal and formal networking and global networks;
  • network behaviour is analysed at the focal company level, providing insight into network characteristics affecting innovation and SMEs' preferences for different network designs;
  • a prototype tool is developed and tested to assess performance of the network at network level.

In the development stage of the project, the network learning toolbox will be developed, market-tested and launched. It consists of a set of instruments to enhance the capacity of SMEs, network organisations, and policy makers to improve network learning based on strategic network management. The strength of the toolbox lies in the confrontation of the developed instruments with the business perspective and two-stage testing within SMEs and network organisations. The main impact of the project activities lies in stimulating strategic behaviour of food SMEs, network organisations and policy makers in networks and in developing these networks.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Prof. Xavier Gellynck,

Organisation: Ghent University, Belgium,