The future of food is digital

#27, October 2022

Veerle De Graef

Flanders’ FOOD, coordinator of S3FOOD and established office of SS4AF.

Last week, the EU funded project S3FOOD was elected as European Cluster Partnership 2022 during the European Cluster Conference in Prague. Comprising 13 partners and 3 linked third partners from 8 countries, S3FOOD was launched in 2019 to drive the digital transformation of the food processing industry, with a specific focus on SMEs. Deploying a challenge driven, bottom – up strategy, the S3FOOD consortium set out to solve concrete challenges that the food industry is facing –like resource efficiency, continuous quality control, traceability and, nowadays, also the energy efficiency.

Over the course of 40 months, S3FOOD has facilitated a gold mine of digital innovations: more than 500 European SMEs, comprising food companies and digital technology providers benefitted from coaching and training. Via a voucher scheme 79 SMEs executed 58 innovation projects which, together, have received more than €2.8 million funding. Each of these SME projects has contributed to the digital transition of the European food processing industry, which is key to becoming more sustainable and resilient. To know more, watch the after movie of the final event of S3FOOD.

The European Cluster Partnership award is thus not only a great honour, but also a recognition of the targeted work the partners have been doing over the past 3.5 years. It is also an encouragement to continue the good work and that is exactly what we are doing with the S3 partnership ‘Smart Sensors 4 AgriFood’.

The Thematic Smart Specialisation Partnership 'Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food' (SS4AF) builds on the expertise of 40+ partners (clusters and research centres) from 17 regions dedicated to support the twin (digital & green)  transformation of the agri-food industry. The aim of SS4AF is to elaborate and implement a supportive business ecosystem between agri-food clusters and clusters representing technology and/or digital solution providers, relevant RTOs and other stakeholders, to facilitate digital innovation in the food processing companies as enabler to become more sustainable and more resilient. Starting from concrete challenges of the food processing companies, digital solutions that fit to their needs are developed, validated and applied.

More specifically, digital transformation in the agri-food industry will be facilitated and stimulated as a means to achieve a more sustainable and more resilient agri-food industry across Europe, turning challenges into opportunities. Flanders’ FOOD operates the Established office of this partnership with Simon Maas (AgriFood Capital, NL) and Ana Felgueiras (Clusaga, ES) being the chair and vice-chair.

Currently, 4 EU funded projects have been initiated from within this partnership.

  • First there was the cosme project CONNSENSYS in 2018 that helped shape the partnership’s strategy, followed by the innosup-1 project S3FOOD in 2019, both projects were coordinated by Flanders’ FOOD.
  • In September 2022 the project FoodScalEUp (coordinator: Clusaga) was kicked off in Santiago de Compostella and by the end of the year the I3 strand 1 project HIGHFIVE (coordinator: Flanders’ FOOD) will also be launched.

Thus, even though the S3FOOD project has come to an end, the digital transformation journey of the food processing industry has not. We will continue in SS4AF and use the lessons learned from S3FOOD in future projects. Because the future of food is digital.