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Launch of Strategic Network Tools Based on Four Years of Research across Nine European Countries

A unique “network learning day” event will take place at the Bedford Hotel and Congress Centre in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday 10th April 2014. This event presents the practical outcomes of four years of research across nine European countries in the form of strategic network tools that can be applied by SMEs, network organisations and policy makers. It also provides a platform for these stakeholders to come together to discuss the challenges to supporting SMEs and network organisations, and to obtain a demonstration of these practical business tools developed through the EU-funded NetGrow project.

The NetGrow Network Learning Day will represent the culmination of four years of research, which has been investigating how individual SMEs' attitudes determine their networking activities, and how networks themselves can be better organised to drive innovation and economic growth. Professor Xavier Gellynck, NetGrow Project Coordinator from Gent University, explains the relevance and contribution of the NetGrow project to improving the innovation potential and new business opportunities for SMEs: “Food SME's entering into smart networking are more innovative. We all know that innovation contributes to a company's competitive position and consequently to growth. For society as a whole it results in employment and overall welfare. The results of NetGrow contribute to this economic process”.

One of the driving ambitions of the project was to translate the scientific evidence arising from the NetGrow research into strategic network tools that can be used by network managers and SMEs to assess the performance of business networks, undertake strategic management and promote organisational change. Dr Frances Fortuin, Food Valley NL, who led this task, says: “based on the findings of the research carried out in the NetGrow project, we developed a set of tools that assist food SMEs in finding the best food network for their business, network managers in creating the optimal fit of their offerings to the needs of their members, and recommendations for policy makers on how to create optimal conditions for food networks”.

So what will happen with the NetGrow Tools after the Network Learning Day? Karen Thorsted Hamann, Managing Director with the Institute for Food Studies & Agroindustrial Development (IFAU), Denmark has agreed to establish the ‘Netgrow Community’ for the purpose of supporting SMEs and network organisations in the adoption of the NetGrow Tools. She says: “As a manager of an SME I have learned that being in a network requires some personal skills and an open mind to new fields of competences. By using the NetGrow Tools with its adjacent services I hope to support other SMEs and network managers in terms of how to learn from a network, and also how to benefit from being in a network”.

Teagasc is a partner in the NetGrow project and has played a key role as leader of work package 6 (WP6) in providing the evidence base for the NetGrow tools through testing the network performance assessment tool, and through identifying the key determinants of network performance.

Admission to this event is free of charge, but pre-booking a place is essential. Participants are kindly asked to register for the event by visiting the Network Learning Day website: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/383026/netgrow/index.html. Late registrants will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

For further information on the NetGrow Network Learning Day, please contact Dr Maeve Henchion: maeve.henchion@teagasc.ie, tel: +353 1 805 9515.