Responsible innovation at the centre of the Vidzeme Innovation Week 2020

June 3, 2020 | Latvian Food Bioeconomy cluster

During the Vidzeme Innovation Week which is annually organized by Vidzeme Planning Region many important aspects on responsible innovation in various fields, including science, business and bioeconomy, were represented by experienced local and foreign experts. The central event of the Week – Innovation conference – was organized in three parallel sessions, focusing on innovation in gastronomy, sustainable use of resources and development of innovative services for public administration. Interreg BSR 2014.–2020. programme project “Rural RDI milieus in transition towards smart bioeconomy clusters and innovation ecosystems” (RDI2Club) was presented during the parallel session “Bioeconomy Innovations in Food Production and Gastronomy” where experts were invited to share their experience and engage into the discussion with audience.

Workshop was organized with aim to introduce the good practice examples in circular economy and entrepreneurship, which could easily be implied in Vidzeme region and nationally, and it was moderated by the member of RDI2CluB team, project expert at Vidzeme Planning Region Kristaps Ročāns. The keynote speaker Johannes Kisser, managing director of Alchemia-Nova (AT), gave several inspiring examples regarding biomass conversion to high added value products – biorefinery innovation.Just by one single tree you can tell how the society works in total. We look at plants as our superheroes,” said Kisser. He introduced the participants to the idea of trees as innovation generators and service providers, arguing that these are our “workers”, which can serve the humans for their purposes. Kisser reminded the participants about the importance of our surroundings while highlighting that circular bioeconomy is all about value and cooperation. Three strategy pathways – circular, nature-based and participatory – were presented as well as the subject of linear economy and the problems that it faces. Bioplastics from organic waste were also discussed and several solutions were provided.

Dr. Pekka Kilpeläinen, research manager at Oulu University in Finland (FI), presented several good practice models on natural product research, including the patterns for a successful collaboration. “Quite often we form consortiums where several companies from our region and one or two bigger ones are represented so that an ecosystem could be formed and everyone would benefit from it,” Dr. Kilpeläinen commented. The participants were acquainted to lingonberry characteristics and end-products and were encouraged to use more products in the form of powder because of its favourable features. “It takes less space and the logistics is easier,” he added. While discussing the use of cryoconcentration, Dr. Kilpeläinen gave examples on products such as beer and birch sap and mentioned that there’s also equipment for large scale use but it’s too expensive for most of the companies marking one of the many difficulties the researchers face daily.

Full video lectures of Dr. Pekka Kilpeläinen and Johannes Kisser will be published on Biobord soon.

During the panel discussion “Food Innovation – Opportunities and Challenges” valuable insights were provided not only by the guests mentioned above, but also by the founder of the Institute for Environmental Solutions Gundars Skudriņš and Jānis Garančs, Member of the board in Aloja-Starkelsen Ltd. and Chairman of the board at Latvian Food Bioeconomy cluster. “There is a need to separate noise from the actual signal, because, as of now there is a lot of noise that creates false business trends,” said Skudriņš. Currently there are many companies who portray themselves as nature-friendly while making a negative impact on the environment during the product production. “The consumer must think along as he makes up his food basket. One player cannot change the overall system. We all need to change,” added Garancš.

The guests also discussed the challenges faced by farmers and the cooperation with scientists and bigger companies. Latvian Food Bioeconomy cluster was mentioned as a good solution for SMEs who do not have enough resources to attract knowledgeable scientists. The cluster requires cooperation not only on the level of farmers, but also on the level of food businesses with common needs. Thus, in a single cluster it is possible to find both funding and support from scientific institutions. Garančs encouraged everyone to learn and understand the meaning behind sustainability, eco-friendliness, and, when creating something new, not to stay on the same small aspect that is solved already, but to look at and retain the bigger picture. Dr. Pekka Kilpeläinen inspired the local entrepreneurs by saying: “You don’t always need a big, magnificent invention to create a good, successful product. There must be a real need for it, you have to market it properly and you have to do something a bit differently.”

See the summary video of the conference “Responsible Innovation” HERE.

The session “Bioeconomy Innovations in Food Production and Gastronomy” was organised within Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme projects “Rural RDI milieus in transition towards smart Bioeconomy Clusters and Innovation Ecosystems” (RDI2CluB), “Unlocking the Potential of Bio-based Value Chains in the Baltic Sea region” (BalticBiomass4Value), Interreg Estonia – Latvia programme project “Design and promotion of tourism product based on Livonian culinary heritage” (Livonian Culinary Route).

For more information: Santa Niedola, Project Manager, Vidzeme Planning Region,