All the right ingredients for future food success: the Estonian Competence Centre for Food and Fermentation Technologies

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1 All the right ingredients for future food success: the Estonian Competence Centre for Food and Fermentation Technologies Estonia SYNTHESIS The food industry is one of the most traditional and largest industrial sectors in Estonia. The sector shows increasing productivity and has a high potential in terms of innovation. Yet, the intensity of co-operation between Estonian food companies and leading researchers remains limited and the potential for new products able to compete on international markets insufficient. To tackle these issues, a Competence Centre for Food and Fermentation Technologies (CCFFT) 1 was established in July The centre is part of the Competence Centre Programme, designed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and launched by Enterprise Estonia 2 in Since 2005, the European Regional Development Fund has co-financed the programme and this support will continue until 2013at least. The CCFFT is one of five competence centres created in Estonia, and it has received just over 2.4m in public fund for the period, of which 62% is from the ERDF. A key aim of the CCFFT is to develop closer connections between food- and biotechnology related research, by combining the growth potential of the Estonian food industry and research competence in biotechnology. It aims to create a critical mass of research in these technological fields, develop laboratory facilities, increase the competence of its personnel to undertake high level applied research and development (R&D) and to assist partner enterprises to undertake product development. The CCFFT s activities are based on a three-year rolling research plan with two strategic development orientations, prepared through intense consultations between the scientific and industrial partners. The first concentrates on improving food quality, functionality and storage properties of the products of partner companies through development and application of modern methods, based on physics, chemistry and post-genomic process design. The second orientation is to develop and apply novel cultivation techniques in food and bio- technology industries as well as to study the quantitative physiology of microorganisms of industrial importance within changing environmental conditions. The competence centre operates as a small R&D institute unifying six Estonian companies and one university partner. There are also other partners (four from the business sector and one from academia) associated with the consortium, which is open to new partners and international co-operation. The CCFFT has developed three international partnerships during its first years of operations and established a core research group. In 2007, it employs 51 people and has developed its own laboratory space (860 m²). It is not yet possible to assess the impact of the CCFFT either on partner companies or the industry as a whole, but during its first three years, the centre has shown significant progress. The number of researchers and its laboratory space has increased and the partners have received the first delivered results applicable for product development. All R&D The national enterprise funding and support agency; see

2 projects are ongoing until However, the first patent application has been submitted to the Estonian Patent Office and results of research have been published in international peer-reviewed journals. The Centre has become a major training base for undergraduate and postgraduate studies in food technologies at the Tallinn University of Technology with 37 graduate students presently taking part in R&D projects of the centre. The young food technologists trained at the university are able to find jobs more easily in industry thanks to the co-operation with the centre. The CCFFT s future development is ensured by the strong framework provided by Enterprise Estonia s support schemes even if the medium-term objective is to reverse the current dominance of public funding and increase the share of revenue from contract research for the private sector to three-quarters of the centre's budget. These financial aspects are reinforced by a number of success factors including strong management and leadership, consensus building within the consortium, a good external network, strong internal and external communication, a clear research focus and the symbiosis of food- and bio- technologies, allied to the development of its own competences and resources (laboratory space with motivated personnel and young researchers). Background information Country: Project title: Estonia Competence Centre for Food and Fermentation Technologies Key words: research activities and infrastructures, clusters and business networks, technological and market innovation Duration of project: Funding: Total budget 2,430,000 ERDF contribution 1,280,000 National budget 770,000 Private contribution 380,000 ERDF Objective: Objective 1 2

3 1. PROJECT DESCRIPTION The Competence Centre of Food and Fermentation Technologies (CCFFT) 3 was established in 2004 under the umbrella of the Competence Centre Programme, which had been initiated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications 4 and implemented by Enterprise Estonia 5. Co-funding from the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) started in 2005, the second year of the programme. The centre is one of five selected competence centres 6 and receives almost one-fifth (23%) of the programme budget ( 2.05m) during the period. The CCFFT is applying for continuation of financial support during the ERDF programming period. The CCFFT s expertise is principally in the field of food technologies but it also has links with biotechnology. This was one of the key fields for the Estonian economy identified by foreign experts in the 2002 feasibility study for the Competence Centre Programme 7. The general objective of the centre is to improve competitiveness of enterprises in the field through strategic cooperation between research and industrial partners. The aim of the centre is to create a critical mass of focused research in this specific field, to enhance medium-term planning and management capabilities of researchers and industrial partners, to increase the number of researchers orientated towards industrial needs, to increase researchers mobility (notably to industry), and to support internationalisation of Estonian industrial R&D. The competence centre is also engaged in fundamental research and precompetitive development activity, and offers measurement, testing and other short-term development services which are not financed by the programme but required by the individual consortium partners or third-parties. Six core company partners and one research institute operate the centre, a non-profit organisation, as a small contract research organisation. The partnership criteria were set out in a consortium agreement signed by all core partners. Public support for the centre is regulated under the financing agreement signed between the CCFFT and Enterprise Estonia. The general manager of the CCFFT has professional experience in both the business (food, metal, wood industries) and academic (Tallinn Technical University) sectors. The centre's activities are based on a three-year research plan with two strategic development orientations, agreed between the scientific and industrial partners. The first orientation is towards improving food quality, functionality and storage properties of the products of partner companies. This is done through the development and application of advanced methods, combining physics, chemistry and post-genomic process design. The second orientation is to develop and apply novel cultivation techniques in food and biotechnology companies as well as to study the quantitative physiology of micro-organisms of industrial importance in changing environmental conditions. Two university professors lead the two main research themes, structured around five R&D projects from the research plan drawn up in See 5,See 6 In addition to the CCFFT, the programme supports competence centres in the fields of electronics, information and communication technologies, healthy dairy products, nanotechnologies, and cancer research. See for further information. 7 See 3

4 The projects concern: Coagulation and fermentability of milk; Functional food engineering; Studying and using environmentally friendly technology to produce special yeasts; The rate of change in environmental conditions, relevant technological and physiological parameters; Tools for quantitative analysis of growing bacterial cells at a molecular level. In line with the programme rules that it is necessary to involve at least one research partner and two industrial partners registered in Estonia, most of the R&D projects include two or more industrial partners from the consortium. The eligible costs of the projects include staff, instruments and equipment, consultation and other similar services (including specific training, audit, outsourced research, technical information, patent surveys, etc.), and other current operating expenses. Direct beneficiaries of the CCFFT include all core industry partners (Tallinn Dairy Industry Inc., Kalev Inc. 8, Laser Diagnostic Instruments Inc. 9, Salutaguse Yeast Factory, BioExpert Inc., Kohuke Inc. 10 ) together with one research institute, Tallinn Technical University 11. The companies originate from different sub-sectors of the food sector (e.g. dairy, beverages, bread and bakery products). There are also some third party local (Valio R&D, Balbiino Inc. 12, Leibur 13, Proekspert Inc. 14, Saku Brewery 15 ) and foreign partners (Applikon B.V from the Netherlands, Helsinki Technology University from Finland) involved in the research. Indirect beneficiaries can be found among related companies (suppliers, clients) in the food manufacturing sector in Estonia. There is also a Competence Centre for Healthy Dairy Products in Tartu with which co-operation is fostered. Together, these two centres are likely to have a significant influence on innovation activities in the food industry. The CCFFT is creating a critical mass of research in its technological fields through the development of laboratory facilities and competence of personnel to carry out high- level, applied R&D and product development projects in partner companies, completing a series of successful patentable product development projects together with the partner companies in the fields of food- and biotechnology. In its first three years, the CCFFT has grown significantly in personnel numbers (51 employed in 2007) and its own laboratory space (860 m²). Development of the laboratory facilities started at the beginning of 2005 and became fully operational in In 2007, most of the research is performed in the laboratory space of the CCFFT. The centre started with only two people working in 2004 and by November of that year the number had Until September 2006, the CCFFT only had 160 m² of laboratory space but a new laboratory was built and launched in

5 increased to seven: one administrator and six researchers. Analysing the progress made in recruiting new people during three years, the numbers are impressive. In 2005, the CCFFT had 25 full- and part- time staff comprising 22 researchers (including 15 Master and 4 PhD students), one administrator and two technicians. In 2006, the centre employed already 51 staff comprising 45 researchers (including 29 Master and eight PhD students), three administrators and three technicians. Researchers working part-time are being replaced with full-time employees. To conduct new projects at the CCFFT, additional project managers will be employed and the project teams enlarged. The centre has powerful business partners in the food and beverage industry in Estonia. Their participation shows the high level of interest of companies in the research in their field as well as motivating others to join or to create their own competence centres in cooperation with research groups in the universities. The centre has progressed in research, raising its quality and also attracting young researchers. The centre has delivered the first results to the partner companies in terms of product development. The CCFFT is expected to intensify R&D and innovation activities in partner companies as well as in the industry sector in Estonia by increased innovation capacity. Being involved in the centre adds value for both researchers and business partners. Stakeholders from the research side are in the process of shifting from project-based R&D planning to a programme-based approach. They are also actively raising business skills of the researchers (teaching them about business culture and the real needs of businesses) in order to improve the research focus and quality and to attract young researchers. Companies are expected further their strategic aims through cooperation with research institutes as well as other companies, to train and apply industrial technologists to meet business requirements, and to improve international links with other companies and research institutions. The ERDF provides a major share of funds for the centre,with ERDF co-funding amounting to 62.4% of the total public support during the period Given limited public budgets available for R&D prior to the Structural Fund programmes being launched, the Competence Centre programme was initiated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications in 2003 on the assumption of receiving significant complementary support from the ERDF from 2004 onwards. 2. POLITICAL AND STRATEGIC CONTEXT The food industry is one of the most traditional and largest sectors of industry in Estonia (18% of industrial output, 15% of manufacturing employment, 3% of Estonian GDP, 5% of overall exports). From an economic perspective there are rapid improvements in labour productivity and several sub-sectors of the food industry are currently among the productivity leaders of Estonian industry. However, the sector is mainly local marketorientated and only a quarter of industrial output is exported. If the sector is to continue to compete in an increasingly competitive international environment, new innovative products are required, particularly those than can capture new export markets. The share of innovative companies in the food industry tends to be higher than the manufacturing average in Estonia (59% in ) 17. Although the majority of 17 According to the results from the Fourth Community Innovation Survey. 5

6 innovation expenditures relates to acquisition of machinery (79%), intramural R&D has shown an increase from 8% to 18% out of all innovative food sector companies since However, the role of extramural R&D (1%) and acquisition of external knowledge (2%) are very modest, underlining that the links between enterprises in the sector and the research institutes in Estonia, or abroad, are very limited. One of the priorities of Estonian research and innovation policy is to develop R&D competences in areas where appropriate resources and a potential for progress already exist 18. The Competence Centre Programme has the task of concentrating resources and creating a critical mass of R&D in cooperation with research and industry partners on the basis of one specific or several technology fields. The CCFFT supports industrial research in food- and biotechnology, which is expected to foster closer interconnections between these fields as well as to create synergies between the high growth potential of the Estonian food industry and local research competence in biotechnology. Assessing the structure of the portfolio of co-financed R&D projects of Enterprise Estonia, food technologies and agriculture were in fourth position among R&D institutions and eleventh among businesses, while gene-, biotechnology and biomedicine were in first position overall in the period The competence centres together with science excellence centres in Estonia are a significant step towards full-fledged technology programmes, which may be developed in priority technology fields during the programming period of the Structural Funds. 3. IMPLEMENTATION 3.1. Project design and planning The establishment of the CCFFT centre began in 2003 with the call for tenders for the Competence Centre Programme of Enterprise Estonia 19. The three researchers who developed the idea had to work hard to meet all the programme s eligibility and selection criteria to develop a competence centre. The first step was to put together a research consortium; this was followed by the identification of specific joint interests, which were then structured into a common research plan. This process was not easy, as the researchers and entrepreneurs had no prior experience of strategic research planning, particularly in a collaborative context. Specific requirements for forming a consortium and designing the research plan were described in the overall programme document. For instance, for at least a half of the R&D projects implemented in the centre's research plan, it was necessary to involve at least one research partner registered in Estonia and two industrial partners registered in Estonia. In accordance with the call, the following themes for each proposed competence centre were assessed by a committee of experts, including scientists (all of whom were drawn from abroad to ensure independence): the objectives and proposed outcomes of the research programme, the expected industrial application of the results, the required development of human resources for the implementation of the research programme, the 18 See Estonian R&D and Innovation Strategy, Knowledge-based Estonia, for and In total, 14 full applications were submitted to Enterprise Estonia. Seventy enterprises, 50 research institutes and 10 other institutions (including 12 foreign institutions) took part in the full application process. 6

7 consortium and organisational structure, work plan and financial plan. As well as public funding, details of the co-financing capacity of consortium partners were required in the application. The final CCFFT research plan was based on an internal assessment of competence and requirements. External advice was only used for legal issues in establishing the organisation. A lot of effort was given to internal brainstorming with companies representatives and identification of relevant R&D projects. The project took into account sustainability, exploitation of results, transferability and evaluation issues. All these themes were horizontally included in certain quality criteria of the competence centre programme. In designing the research plan the initiators of the centre considered sustainability in terms of the content of the research as well as financing. Through creating a symbiosis of two research groups (one from the Institute of Foodstuffs, and the other from the Institute of Chemistry) the centre was expected to generate a stronger cash flow and to increase the attractiveness of the research in these two fields. At present, the centre is mainly financed by the programme while specific R&D projects are co-financed by the R&D Projects Financing Scheme of Enterprise Estonia 20. There is also funding from the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) 21 and an application to the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme is in progress 22. The proportion of public to private funding is expected to be reversed from the present 75:25 to 25:75 over the next seven years Management, monitoring and evaluation system Decision-making powers of the CCFFT are vested in the supervisory council (consisting of six representatives from the private sector and two from the research sector) and a management board. Hence, the decision-making powers rest with the business partners, which guarantees the centre s orientation towards applied research. There are three members on the management board: the general manager and the two managers of the main strategic orientations. The ultimate supervisory role belongs to the general assembly of the centre. The general manager of the CCFFT was found through personal contacts of the CCFFT consortium members. His task was to create a new organisation and to lead a consortium of institutions and people, who were not used to working together within this type of business model. He had previously worked in both business (food, metal, wood industry) and academic (Tallinn Technical University) sectors. The director of the CCFFT has to have a multifarious package of skills to develop a consensus between research and business partners as well as the businesses themselves. The management board meets weekly, and the supervisory council every six months. Five project managers have been appointed, one for each of the on-going R&D projects. The project managers present progress reports weekly, quarterly, half-yearly and annually. Project forums with the participation of all CCFFT staff members are arranged every six

8 months. These forums aim to share information and results between projects and to brainstorm on new project ideas. At the programme level, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications operating through Enterprise Estonia administers the implementation. The managing body of the programme is the programme steering committee appointed by Enterprise Estonia, on the basis of a proposal of the Ministry. Internal monitoring of the CCFFT is based on the intense system of meetings (see above). Communication within the single R&D project teams and between teams tends to be active and can be seen as one of the success factors of the CCFFT. The Center is obliged to submit half-yearly and annual reports together with progress reports to Enterprise Estonia. After the first year of performance, it underwent an external assessment arranged by Enterprise Estonia rather than by the CCFFT itself. Foreign scientific experts undertook the assessment but it proved too early to see any significant progress, particularly in terms of research. Accordingly, it was decided to assess research quality every two years. The ex-ante evaluation of the programme and potential fields were carried out within the feasibility study of the Programme. The mid-term and other subsequent evaluations were also written into the general programme document as a responsibility of the implementing agency. A tender for an independent mid-term evaluation was launched at the end of 2007 and will begin in February However, quantified performance indicators were not immediately included in the reporting documents of the centres. As a new development, the centres were to be assessed based on a set of key performance indicators (R&D personnel, patents, patent applications, publications in peer-reviewed journals, Master and PhD theses, etc) in Governance: partnership and leadership The CCFFT is based on a core group of researchers with a shared vision, including senior researchers and engineers who are recognised in their field. The task of the core group is to ensure the sustainability of the competence centre. During the period of co-financing by the State, the consortium must include at least one scientific partner registered in Estonia and three industrial partners registered in Estonia. In addition the consortium may include scientific and industrial partners registered abroad. It is strongly advised that a competence centre should be continuously open to new partners and international cooperation. The CCFFT was established by six industrial partners 23 and Tallinn Technical University. Estonian and foreign associated partners joined the projects during implementation 24. The CCFFT does not have a single leader among the partners. The management structure guarantees the organisational performance of the centre. The composition of the consortium is multifaceted as it includes both large and small companies and is open to new partners. Four associate industrial partners were to join the consortium agreement for the next period beginning in Tallinn Dairy Industry Inc., Kalev Inc., Laser Diagnostic Instruments Inc., Salutaguse Yeast Factory, BioExpert Inc. and Kohuke Inc. 24 Valio R&D, Balbiino Inc., Leibur, Proekspert Inc., Saku Brewery, Applikon B.V from the Netherlands, and the Helsinki University of Technology from Finland 8

9 In building up the team initially, the lead institution (which during the application was the university) used mainly personal university contacts and industry partners from previous or ongoing research projects. Each partner has a specific role and interest in the consortium. The university s share in co-financing the centre is at present the largest of the individual partners. From information obtained at interview, it seems that a larger role is to be given to the industrial partners in the near future. However, in total, the financial contribution of the business partners is larger and in all of the R&D projects, 3-4 industrial partners are involved. There is some slight concern about the composition of the partnership as a number of the companies in the consortium are owned by the same holding company. This raises a question about the sustainability of the CCFFT if this group of companies should leave the centre one day. The partnership of the consortium is confirmed annually through an updated consortium agreement. The agreement includes a section for the research plan of the CCFFT, it regulates all legal issues (e.g. legal form of the CCFFT, management structure, partners rights and obligations, intellectual property rights, etc.), the organisational structure of the centre, etc.. It also includes the budget, financing plan, personnel plan or other compulsory tasks agreed between the partners. Besides the consortium agreement, new contracts with partner institutions are signed every year. The research plans are agreed for three years but funding is based on yearly contracts with Enterprise Estonia. Public funding of Enterprise Estonia was fixed from year one by the financing agreement. The agreement includes the amount and rate of financial support, procedure and conditions for allocating financial support, rights and obligations of the CCFFT and of Enterprise Estonia. It fixes the content and format of the CCFFT reports, procedures for the submission, audit and evaluation of reports, eligible costs, amendment of the research plan, right of ownership of intellectual property, publications, delays and illegal provisions, etc. During the subsequent two years, financing of the CCFFT has been based on the administrative decision according to the rules governing use of ERDF support in Estonia. However, the contents of the decision principally cover the same topics as the initial financing agreement. In the beginning it was difficult to motivate partners to join the partnership, as there was not yet an organisation established. However, an increased interest in the expertise of the CCFFT has been created in almost three years. During the early phase of discussions between the partners, an important topic was the legal form and organisational structure of the CCFFT. When the programme was designed, the Estonian universities argued for the centres to be established as a unit of their institutions, whereas the companies wanted to see the centres acting as a legal entity under private law. The programme document left the choice of a suitable organisational structure open between these two organisational types. The partners of the CCFFT decided to establish a non-profit organisation instead of a private company Innovative elements and novel approaches to implementation As one of the first competence centres in Estonia, a concept that was introduced into the Estonian innovation system in 2003 (inspired by Austrian and Swedish experience), the design, the composition of the partnership and the implementation procedures of the CCFFT can be considered a novel approach to science-industry cooperation in Estonia. 9

10 It was a very difficult task to get potential partners to agree to join an institution that was not yet established, although there had already been some previous cooperation between the partners. The CCFFT manager assumed an important and delicate facilitation work as he was, and still is, the pivot between the two different worlds of industry and academia. Therefore, the model of establishing the institution may be seen as one of the innovative elements from the design phase. The appropriateness of the organisational form of the CCFFT (autonomous non-profit organisation) has to be assessed over a number years to observe its strengths and weaknesses as a vehicle for achieving the aims of the competence centres. Within the programme concept, a competence centre may exist as a division or structural unit of a research institution or as a separate legal entity. The four other competence centres were also created as separate commercial entities, none of them being established within an existing research or other type of institution. A second novelty can be found in the nature of the cooperation between the research and industrial partners. They had never worked together based on long-term research plans and they were encouraged to adopt this approach. This type of cooperation can succeed only with strong leadership and management skills. The research plan was prepared through organised workshops and brainstorming between the partners. Initially, it was planned to start with seven R&D projects in the CCFFT s research plan but, in the end, only five of them were approved. Two projects were considered to focus too much on the interests of a single partner. Hence, the R&D projects included in the research plan can be said to meet the interest of the whole consortium. External consultancy was not used by the CCFFT to define the research areas and projects. The process was seen as a learning tool for each single partner. The motivation of the partners was to develop something new and challenging, meeting their own interests and integrating the centre s plans into their respective strategies. All R&D projects are ongoing and the expected outcomes and wider impact will be assessed in a couple of years Key implementation obstacles and problem-solving practices The constraints arising during the implementation of the CCFFT were external rather than internal. When the Competence Centre Programme was launched in 2003, the programme documentation included general requirements for establishing the competence centres. The programme applicants did not receive detailed instructions. Therefore, team building and development of the research projects started without any detailed instructions from Enterprise Estonia other than those contained in the feasibility study and programme documents from Despite the fact that Enterprise Estonia was working out a complementary documentation in parallel, it was considered by the CCFFT manager to be a main limiting factor for forming the partnerships. All this required much more effort by the initiators of the CCFFT but finally they managed to build a consortium eligible for the programme. As noted above, the ERDF funding started in the second year of the programme. Due to administrative rearrangements in the programme financing system, the CCFFT had to pass the application procedure twice in a short time (as did all the other centres). The administrative disturbances limited the capacity of the management to concentrate on operational issues. The first period of the ERDF was a pilot phase for both the CCFFT as well as for Enterprises Estonia as the implementing agency of the programme. 10

11 The first application phase also caused difficulties in obtaining finance from the programme. The result of the call for proposals for competence centres was contested in court by one of the unsuccessful applicants, which postponed the financing agreement with Enterprise Estonia. This encouraged the manager to search for other sources of funding to maintain the consortium. In the meantime, the CCFFT manager made two applications to the R&D Financing Programme of Enterprise Estonia, which allowed them to start with bilateral R&D projects while waiting for the outcome of the court case. Internally, the centre had to deal with a long learning period for new staff joining the centre. The CCFFT has been built up on the basis of close communication within the project teams, between the teams, and between the management and the teams, which motivates new staff to get into the work quickly. The CCFFT management also points to challenge related to the availability of experienced researchers and motivating young talented researchers to join the centre. 4. INNOVATION RESULTS The main innovation of the Competence Centre Programme is introducing the competence centre model (previously used in Austria and Sweden) to Estonia. It is still too early to assess the overall impact of the CCFFT, but the first three years of implementation have shown important progress and given good impulses for the policy-makers to feel more confident. The consortium partners of the CCFFT have found common research interests and they continue co-operating even after the difficulties experienced during the initial implementation phase. The consortium is versatile and is expected to influence the different sub-sectors of the food industry in Estonia. The CCFFT is offering a new quality of R&D cooperation in Estonia. Despite the short experience of the CCFFT and even though none of the current R&D projects have been concluded, it appears that output from research has already resulted in the first manufacturing applications by, for instance, Kalev Inc., Leibur Inc., and Tallinn Dairy Industry Inc. In 2006, one patent application was submitted to the Patent Office and in 2007, one more application is expected. Results of research have been published in international peer-reviewed journals with eight peer-reviewed research articles and conference presentations in 2005 and ten in The aim of the centre is to have at least one paper submitted to an international peer-reviewed journal every year. The quality of the research in the field is said to be increasing. The CCFFT has raised the research to another level from the point of view of international developments. It is important to emphasise that the CCFFT has become the major training base for undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the Tallinn University of Technology with 37 graduate students presently taking part in R&D projects of the centre. The students can use the infrastructure of the CCFFT and receive assistance from the centre s staff. The master s students are paid according to their contribution to the project. The students take part in conducting research experiments, analytical work as well as in researching the literature and writing reports. Their study programmes and the professional training at the centre are coordinated. After successfully gaining an academic degree, the students have the possibility of continuing their work at the centre or for the centre s partner companies. Graduates can proceed on to the doctoral level continuing already started research. By 11

12 2007, three students working in the CCFFT had defended PhD theses in food technnologies. 5. SUSTAINABILITY AND TRANSFERABILITY 5.1. Sustainability To a large extent, the sustainability elements of the CCFFT originate from the programme document. The CCFFT is encouraged to acquire a core research team, and the manager also continues with attempts to replace part-time personnel with full-time researchers. The CCFFT is obliged to sustain the core group of institutions in the consortium (at least one research institute registered in Estonia, and two companies registered in Estonia) as well as to welcome new partners. The programme also encourages the teams to introduce the concept to their international partners and to invite them to become full members of the consortium. At present, the CCFFT has some cooperation elements with two foreign companies and the Helsinki University of Technology. From interviews, it appears that the foreign partner(s) will join the consortium during the next financial period of the programme ( ). The manager of the CCFFT has started to diversify the sources of financing of the centre. This is encouraged by Enterprise Estonia so as to create a base for the continuation of concept implementation also after discontinuation of funding within the Competence Centre Programme. At present, some 75% of the activity is financed through the programme budget and 25% by partners. The aim is to reverse these proportions over the next seven years in order to sustain the concept of competence centres after public funding is discontinued Transferability The competence centre concept developed by the CCFFT is widely considered as a model in Estonia and its approach is being promoted nationally. Although its design and implementation seems to be straightforward and easy to transfer, it needs to be fine tuned to other sectors and fields of activity. Considering the Baltic States as a wider region, there is some interest to look at the transferability of the concept between the three countries. However, the national institutional and economic contexts are different and the concept should be tested and adapted, however the learning curve of the Estonia centres could be used for the preparatory process of similar public schemes in other catching-up countries. Concerning transferability of the results, after only three years, the success of the concept should be analysed in terms of organisation, management or financing rather than research outcome. Indeed, there is significant progress in terms of involvement of people, partnerships and laboratory facilities. It would be useful to also introduce the concept of competence centres in other fields than just the five selected by the programme management. The concept demonstrates its effective application in strategic scienceindustry co-operation and it motivates young researchers to act in research with specific focus. 12

13 6. CONCLUSIONS: MAIN SUCCESS FACTORS Strong management and leadership The general manager of the competence centre needs to find a common language to act as a go-between the consortium partners from different worlds. The task of the manager is to compose the consortium and to lead preparations for the research plan and specific R&D projects. Regarding the general profile of the manager of the competence centre, he/she should be competent and experienced in communicating with both business and academia. Sustainable composition of consortium partners At present, the CCFFT includes one research partner and six core industry partners. The core team needs to carry the main aim and research focus of the competence centre. The centre should also assess the possibility of what would happen if some of the partners decided to leave the centre and management of this risk should be emphasised more in the CCFFT. On the other hand, the interest shown by new partners to join the CCFFT is certainly a positive sign for the future of the centre. Supportive organisational structure, effective internal communication and monitoring system The CCFFT has worked out an effective internal system of knowledge sharing between projects, reporting and monitoring. There are weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual elements of knowledge sharing and reporting applied to supervising the R&D projects and their progress. This organisational structure should be flexible and, if necessary adaptable to internal and external pressures. Research focus and symbiosis of different technologies The research focus of the CCFFT was assessed after the first year of performance. Foreign experts suggested that the centre should concentrate more to avoid too much dispersion of research efforts. The strong supportive element of the CCFFT s research plan tends to stand on the symbiosis in two technology fields: food- and bio- technologies. This can be considered as a positive element of the CCFFT s research plan, due to expectations of more significant impacts from joint research between science and industrial partners. Own resources and competence (laboratory facilities and motivated people) The CCFFT has grown from an organisation with two people and some reserved space at the Tallinn Technical University to 51 employees with its own laboratory space of some 860 m². The new building and equipment attract young researchers in particular to join the CCFFT. However, equipment alone does not guarantee the high research quality; researchers need to show progress through results of R&D projects. The first three years can be seen as a very good starting platform but the centre s real influence will be clearer in another 5-7 years. The number of full-time employees is too small to make significant progress in the future. In addition, the two university professors leading the strategic orientations of the CCFFT contribute only a third of their time to the centre, the rest is used in managing university business. Therefore, to become sustainable the CCFFT has to strengthen and increase the core group of researchers. 13

14 PROJECT CONTACT DETAILS Name: Position: Organisation: Urmas Sannik Director The Competence Centre for Food and Fermentation Technologies (CCFFT) Address: Akadeemia tee 15, Tallinn Telephone: Fax: Further information: The information contained in this case study is up to date as of: June 2007 This case study has been prepared by Katrin Mannik in the framework of a study carried out by Technopolis Group on behalf of the European Commission. The contents and views expressed in this case study are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the European Commission. 14

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