The 2014 Knowledge Alliance project FoodLab has successfully completed its three years term, by helping strengthen university-business collaboration in the field of agri food and enabling the launch of multiple products and businesses. The project gathered 15 partners that are composed of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), SMEs, and professional associations from the agri-food sector, around the local Vaucluse Department’s (France) Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI).
The ‘food innovation incubator’
Innovation in the food industry via cross-sector collaboration had been an active topic for each of the partner organisations involved, however, the common challenge persisted: Their activities did not manage to turn the student projects into companies, and even if it did, the numbers remained low. Thus they identified two main project objectives, as to attract graduates to establish their own businesses, and place their innovative food products in the market.
To achieve this, the consortium organised their activities in three streams: Working on to consolidate industrial needs via identification of innovation needs of food companies, developing new educational content through set of courses dedicated to entrepreneurship and business creation, and launching an online platform to select and present all the useful tools the potential entrepreneurs might need. During the project, participating HEIs found the opportunity to strengthen their curricula, with all introducing project based business courses that focus on the different steps to creating a product or service: concept, prototype, business plan, industrial plan, and commercial plan. While the long term impact of these activities are yet to be seen, the project has already triggered the launch of several initiatives in the participating countries.
Innovative food products meet the markets
Some of the success stories include e.g. VeSage, a vegetable based cold-cut product of high nutritional value and that is composed of healthy ingredients, the food company Ici&Là started by ISARA Lyon students and that produces eco-innovative frozen ready cooked meals made from green lentils, and Sorbos, the edible and flavoured straw developed in collaboration by a young company in Barcelona, and the Food Technology Department at the University of Barcelona. As well as the project website that contain all outputs, FoodLab Moodle Platform is still active and running for those who like to benefit from the online courses, as well as tools and instruments that can support them in creating their own business.
Among others, the project has published a white-book that compiles set of competences that should be reinforced in order to develop a successful spin-off, comparative analysis of Intellectual Property regulations from European countries on academia/ business project co-development, and online tools to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. The project and its outputs have recently been highlighted at the ALIBER ALIMENTARIA 2018 conference, one of the world’s most major food and beverage reference events. According to the news in the project website, the project is presented together with similar EU projects. E.g. FooD-STA and Food4Growth.
To learn more about the FoodLab project and its results, read the full case study here.
This blog is based on a case study originally written by Olivier Mallet (Technopolis Group UK).