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.