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Value-added Innovation in fooD chAins

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VIDA (Value-added Innovation in fooD chAins)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-09-30

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 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 identified ten challenges or project topics. Direct funding was provided to SMEs via three types of vouchers (innovation support, validation, demonstration), and SME applicants could obtain funding through an agreed process. 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 3.26 M€ was used to fund innovating SMEs in the food sector across Europe by INNOSUP Grant 777795.

VIDA achieved the following objectives:
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.
The VIDA project funded a total of 62 projects involving 106 SMEs throughout Europe, with a total budget of 3,26 M€ paid as vouchers. Overall, more than 87% of the total grant of VIDA was dedicated to supporting SMEs, surpassing by far the minimum requirement of EISMEA. Some of the results of the project and its funded beneficiaries are visible in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKfkYFnX7oA&ab_channel=WaterAllianceNL
Ten innovation food-related challenges were developed so that SMEs could address their proposals. Three types of vouchers were conceived and applied in the VIDA project, namely:
1: Innovation Support and Innovation Support Booster Voucher (max voucher 5000 €)
2: Validation vouchers (max voucher 25,000 €)
3: Demonstration vouchers (max project 250,000 €)

19 ISVs and 9 ISV Booster, 15 VVs and 19 DVs have been funded (total 62), while 106 SMEs participated in the funded proposals. We received a total number of 227 proposals (DV, VV, ISV) with the involvement of 422 SMEs. The cross-sectoral approach is one of the key elements of the demonstration voucher concept. All Demonstration Voucher proposals have fulfilled this requirement by involving partners from all relevant sectors (water, energy, KET, food).
From the reports provided by the Demonstration Voucher beneficiaries, it can be seen that:
- 14 projects were cross-regional
- 10 technologies have increased considerably their TRL, to above level 8.
- 3 technologies have been already bought by clients and the ones that have not, expect to start selling in 2022. That would lead not only to an increase of new jobs in Europe, but also to a big environmental improvement in the food value chain.
With the funds of VIDA, many SMEs in the food sector got the chance to improve their technologies and boost their businesses, becoming more competitive and visible in the food market. This means improvement in resource-efficient food production and processing had been reached. Therefore, all projects have a positive influence and environmental impact.
VIDA has had a great impact in facilitating technologies that demonstrate that they improve the agrifood sector. This means that this project has positively impacted the food value chain, in which some of the technologies and innovations supported by VIDA, have created new processes and systems that led to a more energy and water-efficient way of producing food. Some of them, already got to the stage of selling their product to clients in diverse countries, even outside Europe. In other cases, the SMEs have improved their innovations and impacts are still to be fully proven to go to the market phase. From the questionnaires gathered from the VIDA beneficiaries most of the SMEs are very pleased with the support provided by VIDA, because it allowed them to perform innovation projects that maybe would not have taken place and made them upscale their technology to a higher TRL and enabled them to sell their technology. Furthermore, 8 patent requests have been submitted during the execution of the projects As per the results of the study of the beneficiaries, the impact on new jobs has been good and moderate, but the impact on maintaining jobs is good. Still, beneficiaries mention in their comments that the forecast of job creation for the coming 1-2 years they see as very promising.
VIDA has actively promoted, communicated and disseminated the project using the project’s website (16,068 unique visitors since the website was launched), 6 press releases and 6 newsletters (456 subscribers). Since the inception of the website and the social media accounts, a total audience of 670 followers from various stakeholder categories has been reached.

VIDA beneficiaries confirmed the benefits of cross-sectoral and cross-border/regional collaboration especially in cases where the prospective end-user was actively involved in validation and demonstration processes. All beneficiary SMEs have made efforts in developing and implementing communication and dissemination activities which helped them extend their stakeholders’ reach. Some beneficiaries have noted that wide dissemination helped them reach different target audiences which also reflected in developing new business areas. In this context, the VIDA Alumni, a club of former VIDA beneficiaries, SMEs and partners, will help establish long-lasting business ties which can have clear financial benefits.
After 3.5 years of fruitful collaboration, the VIDA consortium has built a strong network that will be sustained through the VIDA Alumni network.
VIDA overview of the basic concpet