Interview with Mr. Gianluca Carenzo
Mr. Gianluca Carenzo
Mr. Gianluca Carenzo, representing Parco Tecnologico Padano (Italy), is coordinator of the ABC-Network Project, a Europe INNOVA project aimed at strengthening networking between existing and potential clusters focused on animal and vegetable biotechnologies applied to the agro-food sector.
Agro-biotech clusters (ABC) differ from classical agro-food clusters. Mr. Carenzo explains why and how this peculiarity is exploited to the benefit of innovation in the field.
Agro-biotech clusters for a more innovation-friendly environment in the agro-food sector in Europe
INSME: When the project get started and what were its premises?
Mr. Carenzo: The idea of creating a European Agro-biotech cluster was launched at the end of 2003, aware that clusters between competence poles, scientific parks or companies realized at national level were insufficient to keep high levels of competitiveness on the global market.
Indeed, recent economic theories on clustering confirm the approach to development adopted also by the European Commission.
INSME: How cluster members have been selected? (Free and voluntary participation? Specific qualifications? e.g. technical, geographical requirements?)
Mr. Carenzo: Although driven by certain guide-lines, our choice was basically free. Since the agro-food is a wide-ranging sector, we focused on players providing characteristics relevant to it. According to this aim we selected those competence poles in which the introduction of -really innovative- new technology was liable to boost the agro and food sectors. It is stated that one of the objectives of the cluster, on a second consolidating phase, shall be a potential enlargement to every player providing similar features located within the European territory. Moreover, such purpose of clusters' sustainability goes beyond any simple enlargement. We have already collected advanced contacts with come extra-European clusters interested in participating to network activities.
INSME: Concerning the functioning of the network, in your website you mention a "multi-level governance approach". What does it means? What are its practical outcomes? Is there any specialization/division amongst the various members?
Mr. Carenzo: The project is divided up into work packages requiring different responsibilities for different characteristics of the human resources involved. The role of coordinator of the whole project is played by the 'Parco Tecnologico Padano' , whereas all activities are equally subdivided amongst the partners, which carry on specific activities aggregated in accordance with their competences.
An Important role is played by the Steering Committees which periodically plan the working sessions.
Moreover, very important is also the role played by the Advisory Board which verifies the results of the works carried out.
A news within every single cluster concerns the organization of territorial committees entitled: "Cluster Working Group". The aim is to highlight the guide-lines for developing the project at territorial level, in order to increase the impact of the relevant activities on economic players of the agro-food. Accordingly, representatives of public entities at local and regional levels shall participate in the cluster working group, as will representatives from category associations of farmers and breeders, as well as actors able to affect developing dynamics of the agro-food sector, from an institutional or entrepreneurial perspective.
INSME: Clusters state-of-the-art surveys: Would you highlight some appreciable results achieved by these surveys? (e.g. concerning the innovation requirements or business TT, services required/offered by the players involved, or services related to a regulatory environment, economic etc). Shall these results impact the further activities established in the network roadmap? to which one in particular and to what extent?
Mr. Carenzo: In the early stages of the projects we have designed 6 Cluster Surveys, one for each territory involved, with the aim to draft a mapping of the economic, technologic and scientific resources related to the agro-food sector. Every Survey lists in detail the features of the different local productive systems, as well as the number of undertakings, the leading productive sectors, the typical products and the reference markets. Moreover, the different productive systems are analysed according to the quality of scientific and technological resources they provide. We believe, indeed, this is the leading point of the whole project: to constantly encourage a mutual involvement between players belonging to the entrepreneurial world and research experts. Therefore, the fact that this project is composed of various European clusters, provides the possibility to characterize the competences together with the European system within the agro-food.
Moreover, another qualifying point of the Surveys concerns the access to credit system and Equity system from agro-food companies, more in detail from a sub-system of businesses requiring new funds for implementing actions on technology R&D.
What emerged from the Surveys can be summarized in the following points:
1) The national and trans-national cooperation between businesses and research players, shall be increased in order to improve competitiveness of European agro-systems.
2) The European financial system shall be considered not reasonably oriented towards the agriculture world. More in detail, there are no funds of Equity and Venture Capital focused on agro-food businesses as well as on businesses which carry on R&D in the agro-food sector.
3) The competences at technological and scientific levels potentially available within Universities and Research Centres, although Excellent, unfortunately are scarcely capitalized by the entrepreneurial sector.
4) The European regulations promote imperfectly the use of new technology for improving the food traceability, and therefore for livestock and plants. We can say the same for disease endurance.
INSME: Concerning the roadmap, is it forecast for 2007 to identify common strategies and realize any project? Which are those already identified and/or launched? Through which channels and initiatives do you reckon you will inform policy makers on the needs of the agro-biotech clusters?
Mr. Carenzo: The project got to the heart of the matter during the last months. After the last meeting of the Steering Committee held in Szeged, Hungary on January 2007, the members defined specific areas of cooperation, particularly within the field of pre-competitive and industrial research.
A joint planning was already launched in the sector of Rise Genomic among the following partners: Agropolis of Montpellier and Parco Tecnologico Padano of Lodi, which is destined to continue regularly even in the coming years.
Local policy makers (provincial and regional) are included in the ABC Network project because of their participation in the Cluster Working Group. These shall be therefore informed on the activities carried out and on the future guide-lines, on the occasion of the scheduled meetings.
Whereas, European Policy Makers shall be informed through the publication of the results of the planned activity related to the policy recommendations. In the coming months, the project shall provide, indeed, specific actions of study and analysis aimed at identifying policies potentially qualified to encourage the development and the competitiveness of the agriculture world, notably for the cooperation between research and industry and for technology transfer.
We do expect, even at national level, to spread information, through the Ministry of Agricultural Policies, the Ministry of Universities and Research and in particular, through the Ministry of Economic Development thanks to the support provided by the IPI.
INSME: Are there partnerships with other networks, both at European and at International level?
Mr. Carenzo: The European Commission encourages Europe Innova into the creation of synergies with other similar networks. For example, the cooperation with the European Network for Financing Food Innovation (ENFFI) is very practical, as well as the Access to Finance in the Biotech sector (AFIBIO) and the Networking activity for Biotechnology clusters in Europe (NetBloClue).
Moreover, the 'Parco Tecnologico Padano' is a partner of networks of research financed through the 6th FP, related to the sector of animal genomics, more in detail those concerning the disease endurance of income animals.
Active is also the participation in the Europeans Technology Platforms, FABRE, Plant for the future and Food for Life.
Another important network is the one entitled: Agro-biotech Virtual Exchange, included into the Interreg Cadses programme. Among its partners besides the Italians of Parco Teconologico Padano, Università Cattolica, Confindustria Veneto and Finlombarda S.p.A. (as a coordinator), there are partners from the Slovack Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.
At research level, the Parco Tecnologico Padano is linked also to important Institutions from the USA, on the basis of joint conventions and projects like UC-DAVIS and the Massachusets Institute of Technology.
Since a few years thanks to the support of Coldiretti, a cooperation with Innovation Waikato Park in New Zealand is also active.
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