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INNOVATING THROUGH TRADITION: POSITIVE RESULTS FOR THE REGIONAL PROGRAMME “INNOVATION SICILY”

The "Innovation Sicily" Programme is aimed at stimulating innovation in the Sicilian regional economy, through the creation of cooperation networks among Small and Medium enterprises. The programme ended in 2006 and presents its first results.

The Regional Programme of Innovative Actions “Innovazione Sicilia” (2003-2006), approved by the European Commission with Decision of 20/12/2002 and funded under the European Regional Development Fund, has ended last December. The Programme was aimed at stimulating innovation in the Sicilian regional economy, through the creation of cooperation networks among Small and Medium enterprises, research centres, universities, business support services, local administrations, financial intermediaries. The RPIA “Innovazione Sicilia” has been coordinated by the Sicilian regional government, namely through the Dipartimento Programmazione, the Assessorato Agricoltura e Foreste and the Assessorato Industria. It has been implemented also with the support of a technical assistance team and an independent evaluator. The Programme has concentrated most of its financial resources by supporting “Innovative projects and cooperation networks”. A total of €4.000.000 has been earmarked for 6 innovation projects aimed at promoting innovation through the creation of cooperation networks in the field of agriculture, agro-food industry and crafts. All projects have been selected through calls for proposals, in September 2003 and July 2004. All projects have concluded their activities before December 2006. Some of the projects have asked for an extension of activities, within the Programme eligibility timespan. Half of the financed projects concern the olive sector. Two projects are aimed enhancing bio-technological characterization and traceability of Sicilian olive oils. A third project aims at disseminating innovative techniques for preserving table olives. The remaining operations deal with the processing, packaging and logistic of the agro-food sector, namely by promoting innovative products made by using low-value raw materials. Another project deals with innovative farming methods in the poultry sector, particularly with respect to traceability and feedstuff. The last project concerns the research on innovative chemical techniques for the stocking of cereals used in the production of bread and pasta, in order to prevent the spreading of pests. The RPIA Innovazione Sicilia also promoted a feasibility study for the establishment of a fund for innovative companies and produced a good practices manual aimed at fostering the uptake of the innovative methodologies and techniques at regional level. In conclusion, SMEs participating in the various project consortia successfully identified and exploited new business opportunities but needed the innovation providers (research company) to develop and monitor the necessary technology. The cooperation network model introduced in Sicily through the “Innovazione Sicilia” Programme can be seen as part of a greater effort to boost innovation in those sectors (agro-food) where connection between RTD producers and companies is often weak. Moreover, the experience of the Sicilian programme shows that in today’s globalised market it is possible to create new products that can give added-value to traditional sectors (agriculture) and create even new markets by anticipating needs and tastes, particularly when there is a high demand for bio-products and healthy and typical food. More information on the “Innovazione Sicilia” Programme, including all documentation and main project outputs, can be found at the web address www.innovazionesicilia.it

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Italy