Major research efforts into improving food technology often have priorities and objectives that do not address the concerns and needs of consumers and industry. This is because there is inadequate communication among food and beverage processors, consumers and researchers. Consequently, a large part of this research never actually ends up improving the products that people eat and drink. Other examples exist.
With six participants from ten European countries, the Specific Support Action SMEs-NET will work to establish the roots of a permanent European network linking small-and-medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the food and beverage industry with research institutions and with consumers and nutritionists. The objective is to provide consumers with better and healthier food and beverages through more demand-driven scientific research on food safety innovation, nutritional value and raw materials and technology.
THE FOOD INDUSTRY’S SME BACK-BONE
The food and drink industry is the European Union’s largest manufacturing sector, with a turnover of €810 billion (EU-25), 90% of which is generated by SMEs. Since SMEs account for 98% of the sector’s 35 000 businesses, they are the backbone of the overall food chain, with solid relationships with all the other actors operating from farm to fork and vice-versa. Consequently, they are ideally placed to help bridge the communication gap separating the stakeholders in food quality and safety, namely, primary food producers, consumers, scientists and processing SMEs.
SMEs-NET intends to reach at least 20% (7 000) of the most representative SMEs, either by branch or by geographical area. Coordinated by SPES GEIE, of Italy, the project has six participants. In addition, eleven national food and drink federations are members of SPES GEIE and will participate through it. The 14-month project will lay the foundations for SME participation in future EU-sponsored R&D, in the form of a permanent consultative network of all stakeholders, as well as policy-makers and relevant public administration bodies. It will also contribute to establishing a strategic research agenda for the European Technology Platform ‘Food for Life’, targeting the needs of food SMEs.
Sectorial working groups will study local industry RTD needs, identifying the most urgent technological and nutritional issues, and consumer expectations. The goal is for each group to understand the other groups’ concerns, needs and interests. Stakeholders will discuss findings in a series of regional meetings in Spain, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The project will disseminate findings and other materials throughout the networks and at the EU level.
BETTER COMMUNICATION FOR BETTER RESEARCH
SMEs-NET will boost SME participation in food research, while bringing into clear focus the socio-economic and cultural aspects of such research. The project aims to help break a vicious cycle in which new food technology is prohibitively expensive for SMEs to adopt due to the high cost of learning complex new tasks, training personnel, and communicating with consumers. It targets improving the low adoption rates for innovative food processing methods and technologies among SMEs.
List of Partners
- Spread European Safety (Italy)
- Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (Belgium)
- Federalimentare Servizi (Italy)
- Agriconsulting (Italy)
- Progetto Europa Regions (Italy)
- Tecnoalimenti SCpA (Italy)
- Full title:
- SMEs networking European food quality and safety stakeholders
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Daniele Rossi,
Spread European Safety Geie
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Alessio Vassarotti,
- EU contribution:
- € 700,000
- Specific Support Action