Food Producers In County Tipperary Called To Submit Views

The TRADEIT Network, an EU initiative to drive growth in the SME food producers sector, led by Institute of Technology in Tralee, is calling on micro, small and medium food producers in Ireland to share their views and inform a key set of funding recommendations to the European Commission for the sector.

TRADEIT has been engaged in an EU wide consultation with small to medium enterprise (SME) Food Producers since 2013, via 9 hubs, to identify the innovation opportunities, needs and challenges of traditional food based enterprises. The final phase of the project involves the completion of a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) for the sector which will be presented to the European Commission. More than 150 small Irish food producers have been actively involved to date, 850 in total across 9 EU countries.

Irish micro and SME food producers are invited to input up until February 11th 2016 by contacting Professor Brian McKenna,  SRIA@tradeitnetwork.eu. The SRIA document may be requested from the TRADEIT website http://www.tradeitnetwork.eu/sria.

Dr Helena McMahon, TRADEIT lead at IT Tralee comments on the current situation with the submission urging all micro and SME food producers to have their say: “The outcomes presented in the draft Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) following almost three years are not as anticipated. It is clearly evident that the needs of these small to micro-SMEs differ greatly from the larger food industry and require specific innovation supports and actions. We urgently need further feedback from micro and SME food producers to ensure that their needs are met. This is a unique opportunity for small Irish food producers to share their views. It’s an opportunity to take control, drive their own support agenda and influence the shape of future funding in 2020 and beyond.”

Following the open consultation on the draft SRIA, feedback received by February 11th 2016 will be incorporated, and a prioritised list of investment needs submitted to the European Commission. This will include research and innovation objectives, specific research projects, research mobility actions, R&D infrastructure improvement, resource sharing, and the identification of potential joint collaborative research and innovation projects. The submission will be followed by an intensive dissemination campaign and discussions with key decision makers toward creating awareness of the needs of the sector and stimulating funding and policy discussions for the benefit of regional SME food producers.

The input of SME Food Producers is invaluable in the process to ensure that the SRIA document leads to useful development and innovation for SME food producers across Europe.

More than 90 per cent of some 1,100 food producing companies in Ireland are SMEs representing a greater regional spread than with any other manufacturing sector. The European food sector is made up of over 300,000 companies and 4.2 million employees and is Europe’s largest manufacturing sector delivering 14.6 per cent of total turnover with a value of greater than €1000 billion per annum. 98 per cent of the firms involved are SMEs accounting for 52 per cent of turnover and 64 per cent of employment and have an average of 14 employees. The sector has a positive and growing trade balance (€28 billion) but is highly fragmented and in terms of world market share the EU is underperforming.

In developing policies and funding schemes agencies frequently consult with industry associations, the result of which are outputs such as the EU Commission Food and Drink Industry Innovation Strategy documentation (e.g. Innovation Union, Horizon 2020, KIC Food for Food). Furthermore Europe-wide strategy documents and innovation agendas are produced by food industry led organisations and associations, such as the European Technology Platform Food for Life from which policy is drawn.  As a result the majority of the strategies and agendas developed focus primarily on the needs of larger SMEs and multinationals rather than the micro to small SMEs with 1 – 15 employees.

The TRADEIT project, which has been funded by the European Commission aims to address this by targeting the traditional food sectors to identify the specific research and innovation needs of traditional, craft and ethnic food producing SMEs to create visibility and a platform for directing future funding and policy actions towards these smaller enterprises. The issues repeatedly highlighted and emphasized by these small firms are business and organisational issues. These include, lack of time for dedicated innovation activities, lack of innovation awareness and access to new knowledge, skill and knowledge deficiencies on growth management, new markets and strategic internationalization and new business models and e-commerce.

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