“Innovation for Agribusiness”- pilot programme launched

By Nibal Zgheib

“Innovation for Agribusiness”- pilot programme launched

EBRD, Wageningen UR and Netherlands Enterprise Agency hold workshop to foster innovation in the sector

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR) have launched a pilot programme, “Innovation for Agribusiness”, to support the transfer of know-how to the sector.

The launch was one of the highlights of the business matching workshop – arranged by the two organisations together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) – which was held at Wageningen UR in the Netherlands today. The aim of the workshop was to foster innovation in the agribusiness sector of Ukraine and the Western Balkans through research, business advice and technology transfer from the Netherlands.

Over 80 representatives from private sector companies, industry associations and public authorities as well as agribusiness experts from Ukraine, the Western Balkans and the Netherlands discussed the way forward for the agribusiness sector. Companies investing in innovation in these markets shared success stories about upgrading sector standards, and discussed opportunities, constraints and partnerships for innovation in agribusiness.

Innovation is key for agribusiness growth in the EBRD region, yet companies do not always have the opportunity to tap into knowledge and research. This is due to low penetration of the best available technologies as well as various costs and barriers to applying international best practice in emerging markets.

Although Ukraine is a leading agricultural producer, productivity remains low and volatile compared with international peers. Meanwhile, companies from the Western Balkans need to build efficient, inclusive and resilient value chains to remain competitive as these countries integrate with EU markets.

The joint pilot project “Innovation for Agribusiness” aims to support knowledge exchange in order to improve technologies and business models as well as to strengthen supply chains and foster business links.

As part of the pilot project, leading agribusiness experts from Wageningen UR will help unlock private sector innovation by assessing selected companies from Ukraine. They will examine ways to introduce new products, processes and technologies, and to upgrade food quality standards to access international agricultural markets.

Experts will also offer their advice to Western Balkans companies to improve the links between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agribusiness sector and food processors, retailers and markets through the adoption of international best practice in supply chain management.

“As one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and a leader in sector innovation, the Netherlands can act as a model for the EBRD region by sharing expertise and innovation strategies,” said Ronald Elkhuizen, Alternate Director for the Netherlands on the EBRD Board of Directors.

“This pilot project is expected to foster linkages between science research and industry, translating high quality research into practical applications that complement the EBRD’s financing in the sector,” added Victoria Zinchuk, Head of Agribusiness Advisory at the EBRD. “Innovation is a prerequisite for maintaining private sector competitiveness, supporting economic growth and stimulating further investment in the EBRD region.”

“Disseminating and applying our research in agribusiness R&D, state-of-the-art technologies, skill development and ICT can offer a huge competitive advantage for companies,” noted Jos Verstegen, Senior Researcher for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Wageningen UR. “Working together with local agribusinesses and universities can help us replicate a successful research-to-business collaboration.”

This pilot project is an important step to support agribusiness innovation and development by linking pioneering research and investment expertise. The EBRD will continue building partnerships with knowledge institutions, donors and investors to extend innovation to more countries and agribusiness firms in the region.