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Value-added Innovation in fooD chAins

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VIDA (Value-added Innovation in fooD chAins)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

Explosive global population growth the coming decennia, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, puts impossible pressures on the food industry, and places huge demands on resources such as raw materials, energy and water. While efficiency of food production has improved exponentially over the past century, it is still not sufficient to support the predicted global population in 2050. A new mindset has to be developed in which more food is produced using less water and energy, and with a lower environmental footprint. This seemingly impossible challenge is one that must be met to ensure sustainability for the planet and VIDA is contributing directly to this. Global organisations have taken on this challenge. The UN has developed a set of 17 SDGs to try to focus attention on implementing the measures for changes. VIDA is relevant for the SDGs dealing with water, food and energy, (e.g. 2, 3, 6, and 12) promoting the use of EU defined Key Enabling Technologies (KETs - see Figure 1) in Agrifood value chains.

The VIDA project (Value added Innovation in fooD chAins) was conceived to create a food-energy-water nexus where these three sectors will benefit from links to the KET. The VIDA consortium partners identified ten challenges or project topics (see Figure 2). Direct funding was provided to SMEs via three types of vouchers (innovation, validation, demonstration), and SME applicants could obtain funding through an agreed process (Figure 3). This voucher scheme was designed to identify and accelerate the implementation of new and innovative ideas and solutions in the food sector, contributing directly to the 10 Challenges outlined above, while leading to savings in water and energy, thereby supporting the goals of circular economy. More than 3.3 M€ was made available by INNOSUP Grant 777795 for direct financial support to SMEs driving innovation in the food sector.

The VIDA objectives were:
1: To define and map the innovation capacity and needs among end-users, SMEs, innovation actors and experts in the food value chain, with respect to energy, water and KETs.
2: To tailor and maintain virtual and physical open innovation spaces for end-users, SMEs, innovation actors and experts.
3: To improve the innovation potential, coordination and cooperation of SMEs, and establish life-long learning opportunities
4: To drive the development of Demonstration Vouchers with large-scale, collaborative innovation and commercialisation projects.
5: To evaluate and validate the new industrial value chains created within the VIDA Nexus.
6: To raise awareness of the project activities and results among European stakeholders and define a sustainable long-term strategy for the continuation of consortium activities after the project ends.
In order to fulfil the project objectives and achieve a meaningful impact, the work of the project was divided into 7 WPs.
The core process of the project was to inform sector relevant SMEs of the upcoming funding opportunity, to help them with applications, process and evaluate the applications, and then guide and assist the SMEs selected for funding to the completion of the projects and ensure that the results are given a wide publicity. While this sounds simple, it requires a massive amount of coordination to achieve and run efficiently.

An expert panel with more than 45 members was created (WP1), tasked with identifying and describing 10 innovation challenges from the food sector to which SMEs could address their proposals. These innovation challenges had to be related to the resource efficiency topic and financial support was provided to successful applicants mainly through Demonstration Vouchers (DV). In parallel with this, there was the actual process of setting up and establishing the VIDA Voucher system (WP4). Three types of vouchers were conceived and applied in the VIDA project, namely:
1: Innovation support vouchers (max 5000 €)
2: Validation vouchers (max 25,000 €)
3: Demonstration vouchers (max 250,000 €)

The detailed terms and conditions for awarding these vouchers to successful applicant SMEs were discussed, defined and agreed. The process from application to evaluation and award, and subsequent financing and monitoring was laid down. It was the work of the VIDA consortium cluster partners to take this message of innovation support to the SMEs, and help stimulate and develop their innovation capacity (WP3).
Monitoring of the progress of the VIDA SME projects was done through collecting different KPIs to ensure that the SME projects were on track, and allowing for intervention by VIDA if help was needed (WP5). The tools used in the process of information gathering included the Clou5 platform.
The major achievement of this first reporting period is that the first call for vouchers was launched leading to 105 proposals being received for ISV, VV and DV. 7 online films (or webinars) about VIDA funding programmes were created in order to promote and explain the VIDA voucher scheme.
Through the development of the tools in WP5, VIDA has involved 260 participants in the webinars of which 118 are SMEs and 82 participants in working groups. VIDA can proudly state that during this first reporting period, 31 projects with a total budget of € 1.634.754,29 have been awarded covering all three voucher systems.
An active and efficient Communication and Dissemination process formed an essential part of maintaining cohesion between the consortium partners and SMEs (WP6).
The key objective of the VIDA project was to set up a scheme for delivering EU financing under the INNOSUP programme to support innovations within SMEs, through the awarding of one of three types of vouchers. With this, the work of the VIDA project will have been completed. The fact that VIDA has been translated from an idea to a working project takes it beyond the State of the Art, facilitating and providing funding opportunities for innovative SMEs in the agrifood sector.

At M18 a total of 56 SMEs are now receiving funding through 16 ISVs, 7 VVs and 8 DVs. 23 innovation actors participate in the awarded proposals, a high percentage of which are cross-sectoral. Of the eight awarded DV projects, five are cross border.

The socio-economic impact of carrying out the different SME projects cannot be clear at M18, and will not be apparent either when the project ends. The uptake of the methods and technologies which have been sponsored by the INNOSUP instrument, through VIDA, and how they have an impact in terms of the agrofood industry in particular or circular economy, SGDs and Green Deal in general will be measured in the coming years. What can be said is that there is a clear enthusiasm from the participating SMEs, who, without the INNOSUP support in many cases would not have achieved the developments they have. The results of the SME projects will be published in the coming period, and VIDA consortium members have pledged to help promote these innovations in the agrifood value chain.

Throughout the call period, up to M18, a significant interest and participation of SMEs was observed in VIDA. The total number of SMEs participating in different VIDA activities/events (e.g. working groups-40; webinars-118; counselling and advisory services to SMEs-185; Brokerage events-142-SMEs) demonstrated the effective communication/dissemination actions (WP6) and a significant capacity to attract and keep the SMEs’ interest during the time (WP3).