FIT FORTHEM’s 6th Match-Making Event with Food Industry Representatives

The sixth match-making workshop of the FIT FORTHEM project took place on Tuesday, 15th of March. This hybrid workshop was conducted together with the Food Science Lab, and was hosted by the University of Palermo (UNIPA) in the peaceful Orto Botanico conference room. This match-making event was organized as a part of a three-day conference “Beyond the Horizon Europe and Green Deal” and involved the members of the Food Science lab, with participants from various partner universities within the alliance.

Monday, March 14th, was dedicated to a scientific workshop, with a total of 31 presentations of research topics related to a healthy food system for people and planet within the FORTHEM Alliance, and more than 80 participants. Wednesday, March 16th, we organized the Food Science Progress Meeting, involving coordinators and members of the lab. They could exchange ideas and visions regarding the future of the lab in the next funding period of the FORTHEM Alliance.

On Tuesday, March 15th, FIT FORTHEM facilitated a match-making event with Food Industry Representatives from Sicily, Burgundy and Valencian Regions. It took place with participants joining both online (32 people) and in person (27 participants). The aim was to exchange and network and to strengthen the links that already exist between industry and research in the Alliance partner universities.

Most attendees came from the seven FORTHEM universities, but also from the University of Sibiu, one of the two newest members of the Alliance. Organizers of the events could also count on the presence, both in person and online, of several representatives of the non-academic sector.

Program of the workshop

For this hybrid event, MS teams was used to facilitate the online”discussion, in harmony with participants present in the Orto Botanico conference room in Palermo.

At the launch of the workshop, Massimo Midiri (UNIPA), Rector of the University of Palermo, and Professor Andrea Pace, Vice-Rector Delegate for Research, opened the ceremony with positive words regarding the work already achieved in the past 3 years between the different partner universities in the field of food science, and gave his support for future collaborations, with countless opportunities to come for our alliance in the upcoming years.

Following this opening ceremony, Justine Biettron (FIT FORTHEM Project Manager for the University of Burgundy), introduced the FORTHEM Alliance, and the FIT FORTHEM project in order for participants to have a better overview regarding the context of this event.   

After this introduction, Manon Mignardot (FORTHEM Project Manager for the University of Burgundy) presented the Food Science Lab in a nutshell, summarizing the different actions, actors and achieved goals since the launching of the lab in January 2020.

Following the Food Science Lab’s presentation, Frédéric Debeaufort, Food Science Lab Coordinator and FIT FORTHEM Coordinator for the University of Burgundy, presented the objectives behind the strategy “Farm-To-Fork”. Importantly, some of the main topics of the EU Green Deal (Farm-to-Fork and Circularity-Bio programs and actions) are highly resonant with work done in research laboratories of the FORTHEM Alliance universities. In his presentation, he highlighted the objectives of the Farm-to-Fork strategy, aiming to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly.

Then Frederic Debeaufort introduced the audience to Eugénie Cornu, a representative of Vitagora, a Food and Innovation Cluster for the Region of Bourgogne Franche Comté, based in Dijon.

Eugénie gave a short presentation of what Vitagora stands for and what it can bring to the Alliance, especially to the Food Science lab, with a long experience in supporting agri-food innovation and development, and bringing together food manufacturers and innovative solutions providers. Vitagora provides solutions for daily food business challenges, ensures innovation cluster services, and offers the right expertise and connections to launch agri-food businesses through their Agri food acceleration program for start-ups and SMEs: ToasterLAB. Vitagora played a major part in this week’s conference networking where Eugénie was able to connect with other Food Innovation clusters and companies from other regions of the Alliance, in order to strengthen our cooperation in the future in the field on food science.

Following this, Antonio Cilla (UVEG) introduced Marta Alandi, a representative of CEMAS, World Sustainable Urban Food Centre of Valencia.

Marta gave a short presentation regarding the organization that is based in Valencia, Spain. The main objectives of CEMAS are to make the city of Valencia a reference center that allows the available knowledge to be brought together, and solutions to be applied, replicated, promoted and disseminated. Their job is to collect, document and disseminate good practices in cities in the process of consolidating their sustainable, healthy, local and seasonal food systems (e.g., fight against climate change, hunger and poverty). Within the years, CEMAS has carried out various actions to achieve these goals, such as establishing an Agrifood Strategy, launching campaigns for citizenship on nutrition and set up an Urban Strategy for 2030.

After a short break in the magnificent and sunny gardens of the Orto Botanico for the participants physically present in Palermo, and a virtual coffee break for the online participants, Concetta Messina (UNIPA) introduced Antonio Carlino, President of District of Fishery and Blue Growth. In his presentation, Antonio put things into perspective and highlighted the importance of this Food Cluster based in Sicily, Italy in the future discussions and cooperation between the various actors of the Food Science Lab. By promoting the fisheries sector, advancing the Sicilian fisheries production and supply chains, fisheries resources, aquacultures, fishing tourism, and fostering the development of research and innovation in these fields, the Fisheries and Blue Growth District will play a major role in the future of the Food Science Lab in the upcoming years.

The next presentation was given by Sebastiano Di Bella, President of the Regional Institution of Wine and Oil (IRVO) and Gaetano Aprile, Director of IRVO, who were introduced by Nicola Francesca (UNIPA).

They presented their institution to the audience, by emphasizing the importance of this public body at the service of the Sicilian Wine and Oil industry, responsible for the protection, evolution and promotion of the production, as wine and olive oil are two pillars of the Mediterranean diet known throughout the world for their health benefits. Both presenters reminded the importance of strong relationship and partnership between academic and non-academic stakeholders within the different regions of the FORTHEM Alliance, to successfully face future challenges regarding food sustainability.

The last presentation of the day was delivered by Tiina Koivulahti from the University of Jyvaskyla who presented the call for funding for co-creation projects launched within FIT FORTHEM, highlighting the different steps for the Food Science Lab to apply and hopefully succeed in securing the 17.500 euros available. This call for funding has been launched for FORTHEM Labs to propose innovative case studies piloting transformative actions through dedicated projects of co-creation that would induce significant change in the partner universities and the surrounding societies.

Feedback from the sixth workshop

This workshop was a great opportunity for the FORTHEM Universities’ researchers and students to network and build relationships with external stakeholders, and to discuss the current challenges related to food sustainability. In our fast-paced changing world, it is more crucial than ever to highlight and exchange on this topic, and to pool our expertise together to work toward a more “healthy food system for people and planet”. With the work already achieved within the past three years, the Food Science lab has been able to create strong links and relationships within and outside of the Alliance and will keep widening its horizon and outreach, in order to leave a more sustainable world to our children.

There were numerous lessons learnt during this three-day conference, with the pleasure of meeting in person again, after two years of virtual work and meetings, the FORTHEM and FIT FORTHEM actors were able to strengthen existing relationships, and create new promising partnerships that will play a major role in the upcoming years, with new collaborative projects that are already being envisaged.

Text by Justine Biettron


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