Enhancing the innovativeness of food SMEs through the management of strategic network behavior and network learning performance


The overall objective is to enhance network learning leading to increased innovation, economic growth and sustainable competitive advantage for food small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Instrumental for achieving this is usable know-how about network learning, the attitude of food SMEs in different EU member states and the functioning and performance of different types of networks.

The project aims to generate a profound insight into the relationship between the design of networks, and their contribution to innovation in SMEs and sustainable competitive advantage with a particular interest in the interaction between SMEs themselves and multinational companies (MNCs). In order to reach the research objective, the project combines research actions at two levels: (1) the focal company level, investigating the attitudes and preferences of food SMEs towards networking, and (2) the network level, investigating the functioning of the network and its effect on innovation and economic growth as well as the impact of network stakeholders on the network performance (figure 2.1).


Figure 2.1.: Work plan

Main activities

  1. To understand the success factors and barriers of network learning, its antecedents and contribution to innovation and economic growth and sustainable competitive advantage
  2. To understand attributes of networks and their respective attribute levels which contribute to effective network learning SMEs
  3. To develop a prototype tool to measure the learning performance of networks in the food sector and to test it in order to make a first identification of low and high performing networks
  4. To effectively enhance the capacity of food SMEs, formal network organization and policy makers in managing their network strategically


The following organizations are participating in the project:

  • Ghent University (UGent - Belgium)
  • Teagasc – Ashtown food research centre (TEAG - Ireland)
  • Food Valley (FV - The Netherlands)
  • Debrecen University (DE - Hungary)
  • Skåne Food Innovation Network (SFIN - Sweden)
  • Institute for Food Studies & Agro Industrial Development (IFAU - Denmark)
  • Bologna University (UNIBO - Italy)
  • LaSalle Beauvais Polytechnic Institute (LAS - France)
  • Bonn University (UBO - Germany)


Xavier Gellynck, Ghent University, Belgium


Het project is afgesloten. Voor meer info over de resultaten, neem contact op met één van de Flanders' FOOD medewerkers.