How to improve stakeholders’ cooperation in the regional food sector to enhance the success of entrepreneurs? This was the main target when PoliRural with two other regional projects worked together on 10th of May 2022 in the “Meet together” event. Organizations of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Häme, HAMK University of Applied Sciences and Smart&Lean Hub Oy invited 20 people from 14 different organizations to meet face-to-face.
The meeting place, Villa Elina, is a rural tourism company that offers restaurant and catering services in an old farmyard in Kärkölä municipality of Päijät-Häme province. Villa Elina appeared to be a new to everyone because the company is new and was founded the year as corona pandemic started. It proved to be an excellent place to re-start stakeholder meetings and meet new and old people for a long time.
The co-creation action started with brief presentations of regional strategies and work done earlier in the food sector. PoliRural brought into the discussion the international point of view and tools for the collaborative and future oriented process. Event participants worked in three groups. Each group embraced people from funding authorities/decision-makers, RDI actors, and rural/agriculture advisors. PoliRural Häme team facilitated the discussions and workflow in groups. Each group had a different task to consider and ideate enhancement of regional cooperation; how to improve entrepreneurs’ awareness and knowledge of different funding instruments, how to improve co-operation of advisors and RDI-actors, and how to achieve effective and scalable RDI results?
Based on discussions, each group named the main target group for activities. Typically, small food companies are SMEs and need help and support the most. Because there are already many good activities carried out at the regional and national level, discussions were very active. Both in Kanta-Häme and Päijät-Häme regions the food sector is recognized as one of the Smart Specialization themes, in their regional strategic plans 2022-2025. The regional food strategy and its theme Growth in Häme work has been implemented since 2007. Coordinator of the project has been the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners of Häme.
The three co-creation workshops came up with three new solutions to help food sector entrepreneurs and regional stakeholders: 1) service e.g., a digital game or platform that helps entrepreneurs to identify and get the best funding instruments for their needs, 2) companies’ service pathway to get tailored help and easily support from different actors in public/private sectors, 3) and thirdly the dynamic continuing project model.
The most important outcomes of the event were participants’ acquaintance with each other and knowledge exchange. The feedback was positive, and the next meeting was decided to continue for co-operation in the same format. A communication platform at Microsoft Teams for the stakeholders and regional companies has been established. The event generated new contacts and bilateral meetings to initiate and strengthen regional actors’ cooperation.