To survive financially and remain competitive, traditional food SMEs must boost their skills in business development and production methods in an effort to comply with existing European regulations and promote aspects of their products related to nutrition and health. The EU-funded TRAFOON (Traditional food network to improve the transfer of knowledge for innovation) project established a network focused on food products made of grains, fish, vegetables, mushrooms, sweet fruits and olives. The network brought together researchers, knowledge transfer agents and SME associations from 14 European countries. The aim was to foster the transfer of sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship in the traditional foods sector for the benefit of European consumers. Work began by mapping the needs of SMEs across Europe, and then matching these needs with available innovations. Over 55 training workshops were held to improve communication and transfer of innovations between research and food SMEs. Food producing SMEs received training in food production, food processing, packaging, marketing, labelling, certification, production protocols to assure food quality, food safety and environmental performance, legal issues and quality management. Training events also stimulated entrepreneurship and networking among food researchers and commercial take-up of food research and development results. Researchers produced strategic research and innovation agendas (SRIAs) for traditional foods at EU and national levels. EU SRIAs inform policymakers about future research that addresses identified SME needs throughout Europe. National SRIAs present future research needs of traditional food SMEs, especially in fostering rural development. Lastly, the TRAFOON team created an online information shop that contains all relevant information gathered and implemented within the network. It includes information about innovations in production and marketing of traditional food using regional raw materials. A book was also produced and is available free. Thanks to TRAFOON, SMEs will be able to conform to many existing European regulations and acquire new knowledge on improved technological solutions related to their products. All this will be done while preserving product tradition and authenticity.
Innovation, traditional food, food producing SMEs, TRAFOON, European food network, entrepreneurship, knowledge transfer, food science and technology