Explosive global population growth the coming decennia, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, puts impossible pressures on the food industry, and places huge demands on resources such as raw materials, energy and water. While the efficiency of food production has improved exponentially over the past century, it is still not sufficient to support the predicted global population in 2050. A new mindset has to be developed in which more food is produced using less water and energy, and with a lower environmental footprint. This seemingly impossible challenge is one that must be met to ensure sustainability for the planet and VIDA is contributing directly to this. Global organisations have taken on this challenge. The UN has developed a set of 17 SDGs to try to focus attention on implementing the measures for changes. VIDA is relevant for the SDGs dealing with water, food and energy, (e.g. 2, 3, 6, and 12) promoting the use of EU defined Key Enabling Technologies (KETs -see Figure 1) in Agrifood value chains.
The VIDA project (Value added Innovation in fooD chAins) was conceived to create a food-energy-water nexus where these three sectors will benefit from links to the KET. The VIDA consortium partners identified ten challenges or project topics (see Figure 2). Direct funding was provided to SMEs via three types of vouchers (innovation, validation, demonstration), and SME applicants could obtain funding through an agreed process (Figure 3). This voucher scheme was designed to identify and accelerate the implementation of new and innovative ideas and solutions in the food sector, contributing directly to the 10 Challenges outlined above, while leading to savings in water and energy, thereby supporting the goals of the circular economy. More than 3.3 M€ was made available by INNOSUP Grant 777795 for direct financial support to SMEs driving innovation in the food sector.
The VIDA objectives were:
1: To define and map the innovation capacity and needs among end-users, SMEs, innovation actors and experts in the food value chain, with respect to energy, water and KETs.
2: To tailor and maintain virtual and physical open innovation spaces for end-users, SMEs, innovation actors and experts.
3: To improve the innovation potential, coordination and cooperation of SMEs, and establish life-long learning opportunities
4: To drive the development of Demonstration Vouchers with large-scale, collaborative innovation and commercialisation projects.
5: To evaluate and validate the new industrial value chains created within the VIDA Nexus.
6: To raise awareness of the project activities and results among European stakeholders and define a sustainable long-term strategy for the continuation of consortium activities after the project ends