Entrepreneurial Discovery Focus Group on Dairy and Meat in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
29 Jan 2015
S3 PlatformREMThS3 Targeted Support
Held under the aegis of the European Parliament Preparatory Action "Actual and desired state of the economic potential in regions outside the Greek capital Athens," and building on outcomes and lessons of the November 2014 EDP Focus Group, this event focused on the meat and dairy products sectors in the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (REMTh) and on selected activities which may contribute to their future development. Organised by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, the Special Managing Authority of the Operational Programme of the region, and the Regional Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the main aims of this focus group were threefold, namely:
To encourage interaction between relevant stakeholders in these sectors, going beyond the core value chains to explore and catalyse the dynamics of the entrepreneurial process of discovery;
To examine the key criteria to identify and then actively pursue relevant projects for the region; and
Ongoing refinement and dissemination of the focus group approach for its future application both to other key sectors identified under the RIS3 strategy of the region and in other regions.
Over the course of two days, the focus group meeting combined plenary and parallel sessions, with interventions by regional, national, and international experts. Within the two sectors, the following a priori themes for discussion were identified:
Research and innovation in animal husbandry
Food processing technologies
Research and innovation in dairy products
Organic meat and dairy products and sustainable production.
In line with the primary aim of the preparatory action to support the region in the refinement and implementation of its RIS3, the EDP focus group approach has aimed to make important contributions to achieving this aim. The second event has reinforced the impact of the first, enhancing the process and generating further ideas for the region.
In order to explore the broad-ranging nature of the dairy and meat sectors, and their complex and interlinked value chains, a mix of international and national experts were invited to make presentations centred on each of the four themes identified above.
Ideas and opportunities in and around each of these themes were then discussed in four corresponding parallel working groups. This followed an enhanced version of the participatory methodology employed in the first EDP focus group in 2014. As before, this centred on the generation of ideas, the selection of the most feasible for further refinement in smaller subgroups, taking into account issues for implementation, such as funding. Moderators and rapporteurs were appointed for each group to apply the methodology and report the outcomes, both in summary to the plenary, and in a more comprehensive follow-up report.
The participation and engagement in the event, in terms of both level and quality, were high. More than 90 stakeholders from within the region and beyond actively participated throughout the two days in both the plenary and parallel sessions. Building on the experience of the previous focus group, efforts were made to ensure a good level of participation of entrepreneurs from the region. This was very encouraging, but can still be enhanced.
The participatory process worked smoothly, successfully taking on board the lessons from the first focus group. More time was allocated for discussion in the parallel groups, and participants were encouraged to take the ideas even further forward. As before, the generation and exchange of ideas was a key element of the success of the meeting. Moreover, a number of interesting linkages between the ideas emerging within and between the different parallel sessions were also evident. The ideas generated and discussed in this EDP focus group, included both the use of technological and non-technological innovations. These included:
Creating a Trademark for traditional products from REMTh
Introducing probiotics in dairy products
Exploit animal waste for heating and biogas
Introducing Halal products made in REMTh in order to create a new meat value chain
As with the first focus group, this event generated valuable lessons in how to continue to refine the EDP focus group methodology and the overall strategic approach of the project. This also aligns with the second objective of the PA, in generating lessons that can be applied to other regions.