A network, which brings together farmers, SMEs and large companies to find product innovations and solutions for circular economy.
The food industry, especially the grain sector, is important for the Päijät-Häme region, Finland. The actors used to be scattered and a need for cooperation to maintain and increase the importance of the grain industry was identified.
The Päijät-Häme Grain Cluster is a cooperation network of the local grain value chain. It brings together all actors in the region, from grain producers to industry and retail, both large international to small craft companies, e.g. mills, breweries, a malt producer and bakeries. In total 14 companies, two advisory organisations and about 1000 farmers. The cooperation model was founded in 2003 and it is exceptional on international scale.
The activities are coordinated by the regional development company LADEC. Funding of the cooperation is covered by the member companies and partly from ERDF projects. The members choose a chairperson, a president, who acts as the representative of the Grain Cluster.
The cluster aims at finding synergies, innovations and solutions for circular economy. The cluster collaboration has succeeded in developing industrial symbiosis and new innovative food products. Currently new possibilities in carbon dioxide recovery from bakery and mash processes, as well as more effective possibilities in using biowaste through e.g. logistics are developed in an ERDF project. The cooperation in the grain sector, based on companies’ own initiative, has played a significant role in shaping the industry in the region.
Company driven cooperation coordinated by a part time coordinator employed at the regional development company. A president, chosen for a two-year period, is employed by one of the cluster companies, but represents the whole cluster. Project funding enable research and development (e.g. ERDF).
Evidence of success
Since 2010 bioethanol has been produced from the side streams of cluster companies like bakeries, breweries and mills (St1 Nordic Ltd). The cluster collaboration has also developed successful new food products. Moreover, the cooperation brings numerous intangible benefits to the region, e.g. an innovative environment for product development and increasing the grain related expertise.
It is a challenge for the companies to find time for cooperation. However, resources are easier to find, the better the cluster's common agenda matches the company's own aims.
Potential for learning or transfer
To develop circular economy and industrial symbiosis, cooperation between companies and other stakeholders is needed. The Grain Cluster stands for a successful example of how long term cooperation between small and large scale actors in a specific sector can be successfully built and continued.
Please login to see the expert opinion of this good practice.