International chef and business owner JP McMahon about the importance of food as a fuel, as enjoyment and as a business.
Gastronomy, local and regional food heritage is a common European cultural heritage, and as such also a major economic asset. Regional agro-food value chains can have a serious positive impact on local development. They also generate cooperation between between various sectors including agriculture, tourism, hospitality, education etc. One way of materializing such cooperation is the growing trend of food related tourism.
Uniqueness versus standardization
Nowadays almost half of travellers wish to have culinary experiences during their travels. Yet European regions of gastronomy are facing serious difficulties like losing their gastronomic uniqueness due to globalization threatening with standardized, mass produced food or underestimation of gastronomy as cultural heritage that needs to be protected.
Main objective Eurega
EUREGA’s main objective is to have food, food habits and gastronomy included and recognised in EU, regional and national strategies and policies. These should be seen both as a cultural asset and strong element in regional cultural identity and as a necessary tool to boost sustainable products and services.
This should lead to creating stronger and more resilient regions by protecting and stimulating gastronomy as part of their cultural heritage and also by identifying new opportunities for economic development.
The aim of this policy instrument is to make Noord-Brabant the most visited region in the Netherlands based on hospitality and gastronomy as important assets. To achieve this, the policy invests in strengthening the capacity to receive guests and make the (hi)story of Noord-Brabant more visible. The latter through the important combination of « landscape, agrifood and cultural heritage ».
Food is an important part of Noord-Brabant’s cultural heritage, but is currently not really recognized as such. The Province of Noord-Brabant has realized this and thus regarding its Policy Instrument on Leisure Economy the Province and s’Hertogenbosch together have identified a need to
a) have stronger focus on food as common cultural heritage, as this will help identify Noord-Brabant as an important region to visit based on hospitality and gastronomy
b) Include the crossover of leisure and agrifood in the targeted Policy Instrument with a strong emphasis on re-identifying food as traditional cultural heritage and
c) re-connect local food supply to local food traditions in order for cultural heritage to become a thriving part of the local food identity. This will then also lead to new food experiences for tourists and lead to growth of the economy and growth in jobs.
With this policy instrument the Province aims at growth in jobs (+30,000) and in expenditure (+10%).
For the programming period 2014-2020, one SF Operational Programme: ‘Sustainable growth and jobs 2014-2020’ was launched in Finland with separate regional implementation plans. Priority1 of the OP: ‘Competitiveness of SMEs Promoting growth and internationalization of enterprises by developing international and competitive enterprises and supporting innovation to improve competitiveness’ is targeted in EUREGA. More specifically, its 2 specific objectives: ‘Generating new businesses’ and ‘Promoting growth and internationalization of enterprises’.
Improving SME competitiveness receives about 20% of the total OP allocations. Investments planned aim to diversify business structures and increase the number of growing, innovative and internationally expanding companies. In order to reach these objectives, measures target startups and further developing new business operations with special focus on remote areas.
In the implementation plan for Pohjois-Savo Priority Axis1 focuses on economic restructuring, especially on the food-sector. However, there is no cross sectorial linkage regarding food and tourism, or food and health, so there is a need to connect food production strategies to tourism and especially wellness and wellbeing tourism in the regional implementation plan, and thus ultimately in the OP. This would lead to tourism and food tourism being identified in the targeted policy instrument as an industry having the same importance as other industries in the area.
The ERDF OP of Catalonia 2014-2020, developed by the Regional Government of Catalonia (RGC), aims not only at supporting and protecting cultural heritage, but also to enhance innovation, economic and social development, and health. Within the OP RGC aims to influence Specific Objective 6.3.1 that is related to the promotion, protection and development of cultural heritage, originally focusing on historical, architectonic and wider cultural aspects ( targeting at museums, courses, workshops, specialist publications). However RGC feels that it has little influence in reaching general society or everyday life through these classic segments of heritage while food, gastronomy and healthy habits have been gaining more and more space as one of the most important cultural aspects to preserve. Therefore, the Regional Government of Catalonia wishes to broaden the Objective 6.3.1 of the OP by adding a new scope to it: integrating food, gastronomic heritage and haute cuisine as a main aspect which must be promoted, protected and developed.
It is an important goal of the Catalan government (aimed at the 'socialisation' of cultural food heritage as a fundamental need and an opportunity to revive) to use and adapt this very rich heritage for social, economic and environmental benefits, sharing this heritage and benefitting from the knowledge of our European partner regions to influence its policy instrument.
NWRA intends to address Priority 3: SME Support, Promotion and Capability Development of the BMW ROP. This priority aims to build the capacity of the SME sector through regional convergence of Gastronomy leaders focusing on food and regional identity. Connecting the strengths of its food economy the region aims to bring together regional & national stakeholders to enhance their cultural identity internationally and to apply SMART Principles to its gastronomy SMEs.
Interventions under investment priority 3(d) focus on stimulating SMEs to focus on and invest in key business development areas to drive the growth and productivity of SMEs and ensure the capacity and capabilities needed to compete and exploit business opportunities in global markets, including green enterprises and eco-innovation.
To enhance its effectiveness the ROP would need further improvement by introducing new tools such as:
- support business start-ups and expansions with appropriate support, including feasibility supports, priming supports.
- encourage and facilitate higher levels of value added businesses, including green enterprises and eco-innovation, by applying innovation, ICT strategies and export awareness.
- build the capability of owner/managers of micro-gastronomy businesses through training and development actions including mentoring programmes, peer learning’s and access to business networks, with a particular focus on European wide networks and innovations.
The Operational Programme aims to boost economic development and create job opportunities in the islands of South Aegean. It contributes to achieving the Europe 2020 targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, also in line with the regional smart specialization strategy. It should create jobs and help SMEs to become more competitive and innovation-driven. EU funding will also contribute to meet the requirements of the Union's acquis, in particular as regards water supply and increasing energy efficiency.
In this project READ SA will address the South Aegean Regional Operational Programme’s 1st development priority: "Reinforcement of the competitiveness and innovation", thematic objective 3: Improving the competitiveness of SMEs and the agricultural sector.
READ SA and the South Aegean County, with whom it is working closely together and who is MA of the OP have realized that this particular thematic objective is not focused enough on South Aegean's gastronomic heritage and offer and on its integration into the tourism development of the region. Therefore they wish to improve it through EUREGA. Improvement would involve new projects expanding the value chain through the development of new business activities in these key areas that have not been exploited to their full extent to date, and mainly by enhancing the diversification of the tourist product by making the most of the Region's natural, culinary and cultural wealth.
Sibiu County Council as county level public authority elaborates the programming document establishing development priorities at county level: Sibiu County Development Strategy. The document was co-elaborated with key stakeholders in 2010 and based on a continuous monitoring activity evaluating to what extent the set objectives have been reached; it is updated yearly in accordance with new development needs identified at county level.
This policy instrument is the public instrument through which Sibiu County Council leads its interventions. It is financed from several sources: local funding from the local budget, national funding from the state budget, external funds (European funds, EEA Grants, etc.). The Objectives of the Strategy for 2014–2020 include various topics, among them improvement of public services, of tourism, of education, of health etc.
Experience of the Strategy’s implementation has shown that in its current status interventions related to gastronomy and its impact on other areas such as tourism, business environment, culture are missing or are weak. Sibiu County Council is thus convinced that the Strategy needs to be improved and to be completed through further elaborating on measures related to the county’s gastronomic potential and its influences on the county’s economic performance. The objectives aimed to be influenced are: development of Tourism; Agriculture, forestry and rural development; Education; Health; Culture, Sports and youth.
The Regional Development Programme of Hajdú-Bihar County (RDP HBC) for 2014-2020 integrates the county’s strategic goals both at sectorial and territorial levels. The Programme’s objectives include 8 priorities. In EUREGA Priority 3 “Competitive Economy” will be addressed, focusing on Measure 3.5: Tourism based on county values. It covers mapping of food and gastronomy related cultural heritage and revealing the potential role it has concerning county identity, social inclusion, job creation and economic competitiveness. Specific focus is planned for the preservation of traditions, relevant tourism potential and improvement of citizen engagement. RDP HBC is also committed to keep youngsters in the region and promote local collaborations with special regards to SMEs.
The main aim of the policy instrument is clear but an improved structural background is required with an appropriate approach, enhanced capacity and the potential to create institutional programmes with incentives as well. New methodologies to efficiently implement preservation, utilization and maintenance tasks are also needed. Although RDP HBC is a well-based and structured strategy, there is an urging need to strengthen and improve its performance. New emerging territorial potentials are foreseen through the implementation of EUREGA, by creating synergies with ongoing developments and potentially other relevant projects at interregional/ national level it will be possible to create a more balanced performance.