The FINE Action Programme

Posted: 7 March 2007 | Giorgia Valli (Aster s.cons.p.a.), Alessandra Folli (Centuria-RIT), Linze Rijswijk, Joep Koene (Development Agency East Netherlands) | No comments yet

Having outlined the origins and aims of the Food Innovations Network Europe (FINE) in the latest issue of New Food, you can now read about the group’s Action Programme and plans for cooperation to achieve their goals.

Having outlined the origins and aims of the Food Innovations Network Europe (FINE) in the latest issue of New Food, you can now read about the group’s Action Programme and plans for cooperation to achieve their goals.

Having outlined the origins and aims of the Food Innovations Network Europe (FINE) in the latest issue of New Food, you can now read about the group’s Action Programme and plans for cooperation to achieve their goals.

Food Innovations Network Europe (FINE)

European food clusters are combining their efforts to make the European food sector more competitive through innovation and cooperation in the FINE network. The aim of the FINE network is to enhance investment in Research and Technological Developments (RTD) and to strengthen cooperation in and between food clusters. The project is financed by the European Commission through the sixth Framework Programme within Regions of Knowledge 2.

The FINE network consists of the following eight agrifood clusters:

  • East Netherlands (The Netherlands)
  • Scotland (UK)
  • Flanders (Belgium)
  • Rogaland (Norway)
  • Wielkopolska (Poland)
  • Emilia Romagna (Italy)
  • Castilla y León (Spain),
  • Øresund (Denmark and Sweden).

Analysis and potential of the food clusters

In 2006 the first part of the project was carried out by formulating policy recommendations in each cluster to stimulate R&D investments and innovation in the food sector. These recommendations were based on an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, including good and bad practices and current regional policies. The food clusters learned from each other’s approaches and strategies. Results were reported earlier in New Food Issue 4, 2006.

Why are clusters important for innovation?

The FINE partners consider clusters as an effective environment for innovation and the implementation of new concepts. The philosophy is that clusters often have a certain degree of specialisation and that within clusters, research institutes, regional government and the private sector interact in a natural way as a result of long lasting and well developed collaboration in projects and business development. SMEs are well represented and are an essential part of the ‘cluster organism’. Numerous SMEs operate successfully in the European food sector but they need to continuously improve their innovative capacity to ensure they maintain competitive advantage in a very demanding, global market. Promoting and profiling regional food clusters will be very important in supporting further innovation and economic growth.

Action Programme

The second objective of the project is to define an Action Programme for cooperation between the different food clusters. The Action Programme will consist of collaborative projects, with participation from players in several regions, connecting industry and research organisations across Europe. Through cooperation partners will benefit from each other’s knowledge and complementarities. The Action Programme will address three types of projects:

  1. RTD projects. These are likely to focus on topics such as health or functional foods, food ingredients, aquaculture, traditional food and food & tourism
  2. Developing new RTD infrastructure. These may include projects such as the development of a food incubator network, shared regional facilities for SMEs, and food technology demonstration and educational centres. One example would be a facility for testing new concepts and food products for public and company restaurants
  3. Networking and promotion actions to foster dedicated RTD. These may include projects to enhance industry/science relations and increase the level of technology transfer in the food sector

What are the needs and interests for extending collaboration among the FINE partners?

The various partners in the clusters – after consulting their stakeholders – indicated a number of areas for potential collaborative projects which could be developed in the FINE Action Programme. Three examples of topics for each cluster are given:

East Netherlands (The Netherlands)

This region has a special focus on improving the RTD infrastructure and would like to invest in start-ups and spin-offs generation, a European food incubator network, and food innovation technology demonstration and educational centres.

Scottish Enterprise (UK)

This region has interest in a programme on healthy/functional foods, the development of a Food & Health Innovation centre, and aquaculture.

Flanders (Belgium)

Flanders’ focus is on frozen food/technology (because there is a very strong technology and manufacturing cluster), functionality of food ingredients, and white biotech.

Rogaland (Norway)

Here, the focus is very much on improving the RTD infrastructure, a food technology demonstration and educational centre, a European food incubator network and research on food ingredients, with a focus on residual products from aquaculture.

Wielkopolska (Poland)

The main interest of Wielkopolska is on start-ups and spin-offs generation, shared regional facilities for SMEs and healthy and functional foods.

Emilia Romagna (Italy)

This region is particularly interested in developing RTD projects at the European level in the following priority topics: healthy and functional foods, food ingredients and chemical, physical & microbiological analytical methods.

Castilla y León (Spain)

Castilla y Léon aims to develop RTD projects related to tracking and healthy and functional foods, and to the stimulation of companies, especially SMEs, to participate in RTD initiatives.

Øresund (Denmark and Sweden)

The Øresund region would like to strengthen industry-science relations paying special attention to improving technology transfer and stimulating SMEs to participate in RTD. Other priorities are first mover investment projects for food processing facilities for the future, and the development of the functional food industry.

Generally speaking the top three items for future collaboration are:

  • Healthy and functional foods
  • Food ingredients
  • Shared regional facilities for SMEs

Enlargement of the FINE network:

A variety of organisations have expressed an interest in the FINE network. FINE is extending its network and is inviting other food clusters to participate in the Action Programme. The first step is connecting food clusters from France, Germany and England. The growing FINE network will contribute to a long-term collaboration between the food clusters in Europe which will help to realise the Lisbon objectives. For more information about participation please contact the coordinator, Development Agency East Netherlands (see

FINE has established a relationship with the European Technology Platform ‘Food for Life’ for the European food industry. ETP has developed a vision for 2020 and beyond and is now developing a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and a detailed Implementation Plan that describes research, training, education and dissemination activities. We will ensure that the Action Plan developed by the FINE partners is well aligned with ETP’s Strategic Research Agenda as we move forward.

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