FOCUS objective is to advance the capacity & competitiveness of SMEs in order to deliver innovative, novel & improved food products for national, regional & global markets. This will be achieved through implementing a robust set of activities accelerating "Triple Helix" collaboration resulting to innovation & technology transfer in the agri-food sector, exchange of experiences and analysis of good practices in the field. More specifically, FOCUS aims at:
-Establishing transnational Balkan-Med Agri-food Clusters of Excellence that will offer a consolidated mix of transnational activities: FOCUS Clusters, properly designed and operating under a coordinated manner, common defined objectives and plans of action, will foster linkages, collaborations & exchange among technology providers, agribusinesses, food SMEs, large enterprises, business support organizations, policy makers and academia, focusing on the competitiveness of SMEs.
The Agri-food SMEs represent an important part of the Balkan-Med economy and thus drive competitiveness and employment in the region. However, Agri-food SMEs throughout Balkan and EU, face significant challenges based on consumers' increasing preferences for quality, convenience, diversity, health regulations, food safety, sustainable food production and climate change pressures on production and resource management. The adequate adjustment of Balkan SMEs to these challenges require innovation in terms of food technologies, novel business models and building stronger links with industry, academia, public sector and the market. In this framework, FOCUS project aims at establishing transnational Agri-food cooperation links among agri-food businesses, research institutions, technology providers, policy makers and customers that will enhance technology transfer and food innovation in order to facilitate the upgrade of agri-food SMEs competitiveness and extroversion.
The project targets to promote SMEs' networking and structured exchanges towards the advancement of the enterprises' capacity to adopt new technologies & business models and introduce novel market-driven products & marketing ideas. This will be achieved through capitalizing on existing agri-food Clusters in the targeted regions and providing tailor-made services, training, seminars & networking activities that will enhance their knowledge base. The workplan includes analysis of Regional profiles, benchmarking of the existing Balkan-Med Agri-food support ecosystem and identification of novel technologies with regard to production of innovative foods, quality increase & meeting demands of EU regulations and consumers' target markets. The project's results will be mainstreamed to local & Balkan-Med policies & Action Plans, building Roadmaps & Policy Recommendations to facilitate research, innovation & technology transfer in the framework of Smart Specialization. The project will also trigger transferability & capitalization opportunities of project's results, offering prospects for exchanging knowledge, enabling technologies with relevant sectors that would generate innovative ideas, meeting the needs and expectations of the society & economy. The partnership, Involves key players of the research & business ecosystem (Universities, Regional Authorities, Chambers, Business Support centers) in Greece, Cyprus, Albania & Bulgaria, and holds the capacity to offer an effective business support environment that will contribute in transforming today's challenges (eg. the effects of globalization, resource depletion, global consumer trends) into viable & competitive business opportunities. The project seeks to apply novel technologies (food processing, packaging, waste management) to a vast variety of local sectors such as vegetables, fruits, olive oil, meat, winery & dairy products that cover the full spectrum of goods based on first quality agricultural resources of the area.
FOCUS structure has been designed to encourage the transfer of innovation in the Agri-food sector by targeted networking activities between 'strong' regional & transregional innovation actors in order to exchange information and improve the capacities by testing innovative systems & technologies & promote joint actions between enterprises by developing partnerships of innovation among territorial stakeholders. The anticipated results of the project are:
1.Fostering of 250 transnational cooperation links among all relevant actors (SMEs, public authorities, academia) of Agri-food Industry under the operation of Balkan-Med Agri-food Clusters of Excellence & its activites in Greece, Albania, Cyprus & Bulgaria (networking & matchmaking, ICT collaboration platform, Conference etc.)
2.Enhancing profitability & growth performance of Agri-food SMEs by combining & transferring new & existing knowledge into innovative & competitive solutions seizing Balkan-Med business & market opportunities.
3.Improvement of capacity,competitiveness &extroversion of SMEs supporting them identify new business models,technologies &innovation through Innovative Clusters & support services, free&accessible.
4.Improvement of the capacity of clusters' key actors through operating in a coordinated manner & defining common objectives & plans of action towards new business model expansion in Agri-food industry in Balkan-Med.
5.Market uptake & distribution of innovations tackling the specific challenges in a sustainable way in terms of high quality jobs, sustainable growth and turnover & overall quality of life.
6. Support a successful and competitive pan-Balkan-Med agri-food industry and business leadership securely based on economic growth, technology transfer, sustainable food production & consumer confidence
7. Contribution to targets of EU2020 Strategy towards inclusive, smart & sustainable growth & National Regional Polices & RIS3 by defining priorities on technology transfer and innovation.