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Innovation Networks of Cork, Resins and Edibles in the Mediterranean basin

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - INCREdible (Innovation Networks of Cork, Resins and Edibles in the Mediterranean basin)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-04-30

In the Mediterranean basin, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) are an important source of wealth for the inhabitants of rural areas. However, their real potential is not always used or captured appropriately, nor it benefits local populations as much as it could. Allowing forest managers, local communities and entrepreneurs to sustainably leverage the potential of their NWFPs would help activate rural economies, reduce rural abandonment and increase the capacity to manage and protect forests against natural hazards, such as forest fires. Making this possible requires improved practices as well as social, technological and policy innovations. A problem faced by actors involved in the value chain of a given NWFP in a given region may have already been solved in another region or a neighboring sector. However, without a proper exchange platform or support, knowledge and technology transfer barely occur. This is mainly due to the absence of dedicated communication channels, to the geographical span of the Mediterranean basin and to language barriers. The main objective of INCREDIBLE is to facilitate regional and trans-regional cooperation, knowledge exchange and to promote a culture of innovation in five key NWFPs: cork, resin, aromatic and medicinal plants, wild nuts & berries and wild mushrooms & truffles. It identifies and shares common challenges, good practices, success cases and relevant knowledge to help address the most pressing needs and greatest opportunities for innovation along the different value chains. It offers training and inspiration for innovative business development and will produce policy recommendations for better regulation of NWFPs at regional, national and EU levels.
The INCREDIBLE project succeeded in creating and animating five international innovation sub-networks (iNets) on cork, resin, aromatic and medicinal plants, wild nuts & berries and wild mushrooms & truffles. Each iNet is present in four or five Mediterranean countries, either Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, and currently involves between 300 and 500 stakeholders across the whole value chain.
At the beginning of the project, the iNet stakeholders were consulted in a series of five scoping seminars (one per iNet) about the current situation of their sector. As a result, we could write a narrative on each sector, have a more complete map of each value chain and, most importantly, compile a list of priority issues and problems to be solved, some of them sector-specific, others transversal. As expected, stakeholders in other regions already had solutions for most of the issues or could provide good practices or success cases that would foster the innovation required to solve them. In order to allow this exchange, INCREDIBLE organised a series of free events, in different locations, for any interested stakeholder: one-day science to practice events for practical knowledge transfer and two-three days’ interregional workshops combining seminars and debates, field trips and farm-to-farm innovation activities. INCREDIBLE is also preparing a series of cross-cutting seminars to address transversal issues such as territorial marketing, innovative business models and information and communication technologies applied to NWFPs. Work is also underway to organise a policy forum to generate policy recommendations at the EU and national levels on improved governance on NWFPs. Finally, entrepreneurs will have the chance to develop their business idea by participating in an open innovation challenge: the best business ideas will be awarded with a five-day business and social innovation acceleration service.
To record all the relevant information exchanged in these events and to facilitate access to already existing knowledge, the INCREDIBLE project is developing an online, open access knowledge repository. It will summarise existing knowledge about managing NWFPs, from forest tending to final consumers, in the form of factsheets.
To achieve all this, the iNet coordinators, co-coordinators and local contact points are in constant communication with the stakeholders, mainly through the monthly events bulletin, the biannual newsletter and the project website and social media, that offers news, blog posts, a list of all events as well as a place to download the main project results. The task of the iNet coordinators, co-coordinators and local contact points is supported by an expert innovation facilitator. He supports them in having a fruitful and more dynamic relationship with the stakeholders.
The INCREDIBLE project has succeeded in establishing five international innovation networks of more than 300 stakeholders each across the Mediterranean basin before the first half of the 3-year project. By the end of the project, the stakeholders will have had the chance to participate in at least 45 science-to-practice events, 15 interregional workshops, 3 cross-cutting seminars and 1 policy forum. A knowledge repository of at least 250 factsheets about NWFPs managing will be online and freely accessible. For those not having the chance to attend the events, reports, infographics and testimonial videos will be available on the project website. Additionally, policy makers will have a white book on NWFP governance to guide them towards regulations more suitable for the development of the NWFP sector. Finally, 10 entrepreneurs will have enjoyed a five-day business and social innovation acceleration service that would help them to commercialise their business idea or to improve their current business.
Globally, the INCREDIBLE project will have helped to strengthen the importance of the NWFP sector in rural areas of the Mediterranean basin and will have created five international communities of stakeholders that would be willing to continue collaborating in the future.
Stakeholders gathered in Soria, Spain for the scoping seminar for the Wild Mushrooms & Truffles iNet
Participatory mapping techniques at the INCREDIBLE General Assembly held in Padova, Italy in Decembe
Fresh truffles were the focus of an interregional workshop in Ioannina, Greece.
The INCREDIBLE Open Innovation Challenge will support innovative business ideas.
INCREDIBLE Science to Practice event on cork held in Sardinia, Italy, September 2018.