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Linking agrifood SMEs to innovation for sustainable food systems: the role of multi-stakeholder approaches

  • Published on January 30, 2023

During this webinar, organized by the SFS-MED Platform and held on 13 October 2022, stakeholders from across the Mediterranean shared practical experiences of university-business cooperation, successful cases of innovation adoption and transfer, innovative pathways of capacity development, as well as provocative thoughts from investors and farmers. Panelists and speakers discussed about the needs and challenges that agrifood SMEs and farmers are experiencing in linking with innovation, and investigated possible pathways for transformation, leveraging the added value of multi-stakeholder approaches to promote the uptake of innovation. Moreover, the webinar allowed strengthening collaboration among the different partners and stakeholders shaping the agrifood ecosystem, that are essential to enable SMEs and farmers with solutions, tools and best practices.

The discussion was instrumental in demonstrating that linking agrifood SMEs to innovation is key for a sustainable future of the Mediterranean food systems, where SMEs and small-scale producers are empowered as economic actors and agents of change for a blue, green and circular food system transition. There is a need for an interactive innovation ecosystem based on a multi-stakeholder collaboration process that is open and inclusive, where new technologies and organizational processes are co-designed by all food systems actors. To this effect, science diplomacy is a powerful tool to ensure that scientific knowledge is effectively shared and adequately translated to be used by non-scientific stakeholders, leveraging co-creation and win-win solutions through alliances that engage all shores of the Mediterranean on a level-playing field. Moreover, innovative capacity building and training programmes are instrumental in developing the human capital necessary to address skills mismatch between graduates and employment demand from the agri-business sector, enhancing the innovation chain through new professional profiles. Finally, sustainable finance and new financial mechanisms can be unlocked to enhance SME access to affordable innovation and technology. Business incubators and accelerators promote a change of mindset that can lead SMEs to embrace innovation by adopting new business models, matchmaking innovators and co-founders, and inspiring ideas.

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