Technology Transfer Guidelines (TTG)
METROFOOD-RI tool for approaching Industry as users: Technology Transfer Guidelines (TT)
Steps (including goals and useful tools) of the roadmap to successfully transfer METROFOOD-RI capacities to industry
1 - Identify – Mapping the industry
- The industry in any given region tends to be vast and diverse. On the one hand, this means that one cannot reach the whole industry effectively and, on the other hand, there is a wide variety of industry needs dependent on sectors, size (number of personnel), and specific activity that should be met.
- Therefore, it is important to scan the existing industry, detailing those market niches that we plan to focus on. Our target groups, within the food business sector, should be concretised and screened before starting the technology transfer of the RI capacities to industry.
1.2 Recommended actions
STEP 1: To characterise the industrial ecosystem by using databases and own METROFOOD-RI knowledge
- The industrial ecosystem is composed by a large number of companies. To have a clear picture of the type of companies and who they are, it is key to have a final list of companies characterised according to relevant variables.
- First of all, the type of companies that constitute our target group need to be defined. The target groups can be defined considering some variables, typically the sectors (and subsectors), size of the company (large, medium, small), geographical scope (companies nearby the RI and then amplifying the scope), the expenditure in R&D (set a % of expenditure, YES/NO expenditure), manufacturing own products (YES/NO). Select the most appropriate variables considering our RI characteristics and regional ecosystem.
- Once this is done, it is recommended to create a mapping dashboard including the features that will help understand and characterise the companies. From the variables mentioned before, you can use them all except from the ones that are redundant (for instance, if you have defined your target group as only large companies, the “size of companies” variable is not necessary to characterise the industries, but if your target group is large and medium companies, it is a relevant variable to include).
- Use this dashboard to detail as much as possible the target groups according to those variables that will determine the approach towards a specific industrial sector and include the information that is relevant for you to approach them in latter steps.
- Afterwards, start filling the mapping dashboard with your own knowledge of companies and interviewing other key people from your organisation. Rely on country databases to obtain the other missing data. Then, considering the variables set characterising your target groups, search on the country companies’ databases to identify the list of companies that meet those criteria. In case the list is too long, add other criteria that can help to be more specific.
STEP 2: To connect with the relevant stakeholders (government, clusters, associations…) to acquire their knowledge on the industrial ecosystem
- Direct contacts are most recommended to connect with the METROFOOD-RI. Apart from these such contacts, it is wise to use other networks of contacts of relevant industrial-related stakeholders in the region (1).
- Identify those stakeholders that are closer to the industry (depending on the region it can be clusters, associations, business groups, regional administration, among others) and explain the METROFOOD-RI to engage them. The relevant stakeholders can be helpful in different aspects, mainly (i) dissemination purposes (related to the 3 Connect – Engaging with the end users identified stage); (ii) provision of industrial sectoral information and needs (related to the 2 Define – Creating a value proposition for the industry and Maintain – Keeping up interest in the METROFOOD-RI offering stages); and (iii) provision of companies information.
- Regarding the companies’ information, stakeholders can provide the qualitative knowledge on the food industries from specific sectors, so that the RI can take decisions on the adequacy of target groups selected, the concrete contacts of companies, and the prioritisation of the companies that would most probably be using the METROFOOD-RI.
STEP 3: To concretise the audience the RI is targeting from mapping exercise
- Getting to know the whole industry in the region, the next step is to concretise the main target audience of the RI. This will help in defining a value proposition that meets the target user needs in a more precise way.
- To do so, it is recommended to make use of the mapping dashboard and to identify those target groups from the list that could be specifically tackled by the RI. This does not mean that the RI cannot provide services to the industries that do not belong to these target users, but first of all the RI needs to make sure that the specific requirements of the selected target users can be fulfilled within the RI capacities.
1.3 Useful tools
USEFUL TOOL 1: Mapping dashboard
- The mapping dashboard (it could be as simple as an Excel document) is aimed at containing the relevant information of the stakeholders in region RI would like to provide services or set collaborations and, in the case of this exercise, specifically mapping industrial end users. In the case of METROFOOD-RI, it aims to offer services not only within the frame of the European region, but also to dynamise and create opportunities of joint actions with stakeholders outside the EU region.
- It is recommended that this tool is structured in different tabs according to the main classification of companies, and then in each tab include in columns the variables and information that the RI needs to characterise the companies. Most used concepts are: name of company, address, activity, products, number of employees, revenues, R&D expenses, used RI partners’ research capacities before, where the contact comes from, among others.
- This tool is a “living document”, meaning that it must be periodically updated to ensure its relevance for the RI including not only the initial data of food industries, but also other data related to actions done with the companies in the dashboard, qualitative information, and any other useful information.
USEFUL TOOL 2: Country companies’ databases
- Country companies’ databases are very useful for obtaining companies’ data based on concrete variables. These databases are usually only available under payment and additional restrictions (privacy, competition…) may complicate the accessibility of such information. But despite such difficulties, companies’ databases are a powerful tool to screen in a thoroughly way the companies in one region.
- In some countries, the researchers associated to a university have access to some databases, among them the companies’ databases.
1.4 Lessons learned
It is recommended to base the mapping exercise not only on personal experience, but also on peers’ experience and on further data analysis
- RI partners surely have knowledge on existing industries in their respective regions. However, to make the RI more sustainable it is important not only to rely on current and well-known industries but also on contacts derived from potential stakeholders and from other already-existing databases. This will help to enlarge the reachable community of users and connect with potential new users of the RI.
- In addition to that, it may also be relevant to identify and consider other issues that might have an impact while mapping the industry, e.g., regulation, subsidies, IP laws, etc. For instance, in Italy SMEs and start-ups that satisfy specific requirements in terms of R&D expenditures can register themselves as "innovative" firms and could be a potential stakeholder target for the RI.
An initial thorough analysis of the industry will help in the later stages of the roadmap for technology transfer
- When carrying out the screening exercise, it is recommendable to be concise and detailed. It is relatively easy to group or divide companies considering the basic characteristics but not so easy when it comes to more specific aspects. For instance, this exercise is relevant to understand in detail the needs of the industries, to approach them more effectively or to provide an offering more suitable to their circumstances.
- If possible, it is recommended to focus the efforts on collecting the information of the identified characteristics, although it can be difficult in some cases. In case that it takes a lot of time or efforts, collect only the information that can be easily accessed, while holding the research for the most difficult characteristics of those industries that is foreseen as target users for the 2 Define – Creating a value proposition for the industry stage.
It is recommended that the stakeholders engaged in the RI acting as intermediaries have clear roles and associated benefits (dissemination, share of results, validations…) to attract their interest in the initiative
- When engaging with a stakeholder, it is important to have in mind, which is the objective to do so. Generally, the RI search for policy support, channels for dissemination and outreach, contacts, or knowledge on the sector.
- To achieve a fruitful collaboration with the stakeholders it is recommended to give them a clear role and show them the potential benefits they can obtain from the RI. The stakeholders only engaged for positioning purposes and without a clear role in the RI tend to be useless for the RI.
When contacting with a stakeholder or a potential user it is highly recommended to have clear ideas on the offering and value proposition of the RI
- A RI may be a complex and foreign concept to be immediately understood and adopted by industry stakeholders. Stakeholders may have doubts about the benefits and the value that a RI can bring. Considering that stakeholders can help in creating the link with the industry (by being a channel for dissemination or being active in explaining the RI and its offering), it is important that they understand the potential of the RI and the offering, and the messages they can give to the industry. Acting as intermediaries, these stakeholders play a critical role in promoting the RI and its offering positively. They need to be clear on the advantages of the services offered by the RI as compared to other perhaps more regular well-known providers. In case the RI is still exploring how to conceptualise the value proposition or the procedures, it is recommended not to involve yet the stakeholders to perform actions towards the industrial ecosystem to avoid misunderstandings.
- Linked to this, it is the topic of the definition of an industry-oriented service portfolio. While focusing on the definition of the value proposition for the RI (which will be tackled in the 2 Define – Creating a value proposition for the industry stage), partners may collect preliminary industry needs as an input to the service portfolio (or to evaluate the relevance of it, at a later stage) and linked to the Research Strategic Agenda (RSA). Since diverse industries may benefit from a tailor-made or custom services, it is recommended to develop and adapt the service portfolio accordingly, and constantly update it according to industry insights, stakeholder information, and market research. In the METROFOOD-RI service chart defined in D8.5, this has already been taken into account as it is based on the market position and the innovation potential of services evaluated by the service providers listed in the consortium. Other strategic services have been further included taking into account aspects such as, on the scientific agenda (established on WP10), stand of EU on sustainability and circular economy, etc.
2 - Define – Creating a value proposition for the industry
- The sustainability of a RI depends to a large extent upon the service offering towards the end-users, including the industries. Therefore, the offering and value proposition of a RI should meet the food industry ´ needs in order to be successful.
- The companies’ needs should be thoroughly assessed to define those services that are adapted to their features and situation. At the same time, the service portfolio should be described in a clear and logical way.
- The main objectives of technology transfer include providing a solution to a problem, acquire new knowledge and skills, exploit an opportunity, establish collaboration with Research community and establish the feasibility of a new technology and marketing of a new product and/or process.
To bring research closer to industry
- Nowadays, companies are advised to be stay resilient and to adapt to constant change. They must do so to prevent their exclusion from and remain relevant in the market. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated the urgency to be competitive in the market. Research and innovation are key factors to remain at the forefront of the market. However, while technology innovation is applied in more and more food industries, there is still work to do when it comes to the uptake of research. This is when initiatives such as the RIs can take the leadership and boost the research among companies, facilitating its access through a single-entry point and close to market necessities.
2.2 Recommended actions
STEP 1: To identify the needs of the food industries
- Starting from the characterisation of the industrial companies and the identification of the specific target users, the first step before creating the value proposition is to concretise the needs that the industry experience and the challenges that they face related to those needs. It is recommended to do such an exercise considering both the target industry and all stakeholder groups of (it can be based on the variables used on the mapping exercise), since there could be different needs and challenges according to the different groups.
- Once the needs and challenges are identified, the RI should analyse how research (and specifically the RI capacities) could solve and overcome them.
STEP 2: To adapt the services to the needs identified
- It may happen that the RI has already defined an offering (under certain conditions) for other target users more used to do research such as universities or research centres. In such cases, the RI should validate if the current offering matches with the needs of the food industry sectors targeted and if it overcomes the challenges related to those needs (for instance, the RI can solve the needs of food industries regarding the access to innovative research capacities altogether, but no the challenge related to the high costs to use those research capacities or the lack of personnel in the company with competencies to understand the service). In case that the offering is not defined yet, the RI should consider the needs and challenges identified from food industries.
- In both cases, it is recommended that the RI utilises a user-driven approach to define the value proposition and the service catalogue. The RI should have in mind that some companies, especially those that are new to R&D, are not used to the technical language and what the RI capacities can offer to them, so it would be useful for them to understand what they can get more than the research process itself and the technical issues. Another critical issue in developing an offering in line with the industry needs is time. The services should be aligned with the clients' expectations in terms of time of delivery. Finally, it is recommended to review the uniqueness of the services the RI can offer and if there are other competitors in the market already providing such services. For this reason, mapping the potential competitors on the market is crucial at this stage.
- Another aspect that prevents companies to invest money in research apart from the lack of financial resources, especially in the case of SMEs, is the lack of knowledge on the impact they can gain when doing the research. Some proposals to overcome this drawback are to offer “proof-of-concept” services at lower cost so that the food industries can check internally if the service is beneficial for them; or to divide the services in blocks so that companies can afford it.
STEP 3: To develop a clear narrative on the value proposition for industries
- Since the concept of a RI is not always straightforward, the value proposition should be clear and easy to understand for the food industries. First of all, the RI should agree on the actual value proposition internally. Then, the RI needs to explain it to food industries trying to streamline the information across all the RI partners to avoid miscommunication. It is important that all RI partners agree on the messages to be transferred to the industry. The supporting materials such as presentations (interactive webinars, user testimonials, etc.), brochures or a service catalogue can help in homogenizing the messages. Also, the existence of well-defined RI operational procedures and agreements within the RI will prevent misunderstanding and increase the RI’s transparency towards the industries.
- Trust is important when contracting a new partner and even more in the case of a new initiative formed by existing entities. Having clear messages on the benefits (but also on potential drawbacks or risks) will be helpful for food industries. It is recommended to highlight the benefits the food industry can obtain due to the creation of the RI, for instance how the RI may facilitate their access to the research capacities RI service providers.
STEP 4: To validate the industries’ willingness to pay
- The food industry is a relevant end-user of the RI. Considering that the price for the services can pose a barrier to them to use the services, it is recommended to carry out a market test to assess the willingness to pay for the services offered by the RI.
- This exercise will help the RI in two ways. On the one hand, the RI can examine which services may be more interesting for the companies, determine if the price set for such services is in line with the expectations (e.g., too expensive), and understand whether some mechanisms to market such services should be implemented. On the other hand, the RI can identify those services that are less demanded by the companies and why. This will help understand if those services are not sufficiently adapted to the food industries (due to dimension of the service, the TRL or area of work, among others) and if some action should be taken in order to promote those services. Additionally, there is also the possibility to make the services more lucrative for end-users, by adding additional value or add-ons.
- Some suitable mechanisms to perform this market test for analysing the willingness to pay are the through workshops (the easiest one), where companies, anonymously can be asked about the cost of the services or through open calls (partially or totally funded by the RI), which although being more expensive and complicated, can offer the possibility to see the real interest of companies for services and also the willingness to pay (if the services are only partially funded or through questionnaires during the service provision).
STEP 5: To offer attractive opportunities for collaboration
- In the process of engaging food industries, and especially when it comes to SMEs, the lack of resources (both human and financial) is a barrier for using such advanced capacities. Therefore, it is recommended that in the definition stage the METROFOOD-RI establishes some mechanisms to overcome this drawback.
- Some proposals are linked to offering attractive opportunities of collaboration, such as partially funded support, low-cost option services (reduced version of a service in terms for instance of deepness, number of samples or capacities used), trainings or counselling services.
2.3 Useful tools
USEFUL TOOL 1: Buyer persona Canvas
- A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of an organization’s ideal user. It’s based on market research, actual data about the organization’s existing customers, and a few (educated) assumptions. By forensically analysing trends, behaviours, similarities and patterns amongst the target audience, a marketing and sales strategy can be built around their objectives, day-to-day challenges and ‘pain points´.
- Overall, it helps an organization to identify their customer segment. Buyer Personas Model is a powerful tool for marketing, advertising, content creation, product or service development, target audience support, public relations, pricing, and sales since it puts the focus on the relationship that can be created between the company and the target.
USEFUL TOOL 2: Value proposition CANVAS
- The Value Proposition Canvas  is a framework to ensure that there is a fit between the product and market, thus between the value propositions and the customer segments.
- The Value Proposition Canvas can be used when there is need to refine an existing product or service offering or where a new offering is being developed from scratch. The Canvas is formed around two building blocks – the customer profile and the company’s value proposition (therefore, it is often recommended to use the outcomes of the Customer Persona Analysis during this exercise).
- A customer profile should be created for each customer segment, as each segment has distinct gains, pains, and jobs. The “gains” are the benefits which the customer expects and needs, what would delight customers and the things which may increase the likelihood of adopting a value proposition. The “pains” are the negative experiences, emotions, and risks that the customer experiences in the process of getting the job done and would likely want to avoid. The “customer jobs” are the functional, social, and emotional tasks customers are trying to perform, problems they are trying to solve and needs that they wish to satisfy. To each of these blocks, the organization has the opportunity to identify products and services which create gain and relieve pain, and which underpin the creation of value for the customer.
USEFUL TOOL 3: Communication material & tools
- To streamline communication across the partners of the RI, it is important to share the communication package (WP14) with the partners involved which include standard presentations, brochures, logo, contact list, etc. In addition to that, supporting engagement tools may be developed, including interactive webinars or user testimonial videos to address the steps that prospective industry stakeholders can refer to. Consider virtual or in-person walkthrough as methods to engage with prospective end-users.
 Buyer Personas in Marketing - Definition, Examples, & More (upreports.com)
 Value proposition canvas: comprehensive guide with examples (awware.co)
2.4 Lessons learned
It is recommended to segment the industrial needs according to the size of the company and/or the area of activity of the company)
- Considering the diverse types of food industries that will be included in the RI target groups, it is recommended to analyse their needs and challenges from diverse perspectives too. Grouping the food industries according to different characteristics is recommended. Among the characteristics by which the industry can be segmented, the size of the company and/or the area of activity are the most relevant ones.
- In addition to that, it is recommended to organize workshops with industry in order to identify their challenges (for instance, mapping the industry according to their product – milk industry, meat, confectionery, etc. – and identify what are their needs through the interactive event) and define proposals of interest (prepare proposals where partners from the RI together other partners outside the RI umbrella, work together in view of providing to the industry a global solution).
- A tailor-made survey could be conducted in order to determine the industry needs and challenges. Based on the survey results, the RI further determine which companies are interested and willing to pay for the RI services. Since the survey can be updated, it may also be helpful to address the fact that companies’ needs might vary over time: in this way, the RI would maintain a direct feed of companies’ needs and consequently adapt its services.
Draft a strong value proposition, in line with industry expectations and needs
- It is recommended that the RI works towards the creation of a strong value proposition, in line with the industry needs and with the clients’ expectations.
- Understanding the needs of companies is vital to the technology transfer process. The most effective way to understand their needs is through carefully planned direct contact at the appropriate level. Trust and previous experience with the industry is important in elucidating their needs.
3 - Connect – Engaging with the end users identified
- Food industries, especially the SMEs, are usually not so familiar with R&D activities. This is an obstacle to overcome to make the RI widely spread and used by the F food industry. They should be engaged in following strategies specifically defined for them.
To reach the industry following knowledge-based decisions
- It is not the same to engage with industries than Research Technology Organizations (RTOs), and it also requires using different promotional techniques to offer research capacities as compared to engineering services. This is why it is very imperative to know in detail who are the METROFOOD-RI target users (1 Identify – Mapping the industry) and which is the METROFOOD-RI value proposition (2 Define – Creating a value proposition for the industry) to develop the adequate messages to approach the food industries. The supporting materials are a powerful tool to connect with the target food industries
3.2 Recommended actions
STEP 1: To concretise the audience the RI is targeting from the mapping exercise
- Before starting the process of disseminating the RI among the target food industries, it is recommended to identify what is the targeted (personal) profile the RI tries to reach within those companies. This will help to customize the messages and the channels of communication the RI should use to engage these target users.
- It is suggested that the RI performs such an exercise considering the targeted groups of food industry (see 1 Identify – Mapping the industry stage). It can be that the target profiles in a large industrial company are different than the target profiles in a medium or a small company. The Buyer persona Canvas can be a useful tool that supports this activity.
Within this exercise, it is worth considering the type of service it is aimed to be promoted (e.g., supply of reference material versus to a pilot plant to test new food processing techniques) as this might conditioned the type of target profile with the company as well.
STEP 2: To identify the channels of dissemination and define outreach actions
- Once the target profiles of the food industry are identified, the RI should concretize which are the most relevant channels of dissemination (press, scientific media, fairs, regional workshops, trainings, open days, etc.) and detail what actions to take to reach out to each of them successfully.
- It is not the same to reach out to a CEO, a middle manager or a technician, and each of these three profiles could well be a target of the RI. Similarly, there might be also differences in the target profiles considering the areas of activity, the R&D activity (one company that performs R&D will be more used to participate in innovation workshops and be using social media whereas other companies which are more traditional are not). All these aspects and variables, mainly related to the mapping exercise, should be considered.
STEP 3: To prepare marketing materials according to dissemination channels
- Starting from the identified targeted profiles, the dissemination channels already identified, and the value proposition developed for food industries, specific marketing materials should be prepared for the dissemination actions and channels (in coordination with WP4 - Policy set up and WP14 - User engagement and communication strategies).
- It is suggested to have a basic background presentation as additional information on METROFOOD as an RI, to be offered only upon request.
- It is also highly recommended to adapt the marketing materials to the targeted audience and channels. For instance, an article promoting the METROFOOD-RI in a scientific magazine would not work for a general press news. Such adaptations refer to the type of message the METROFOOD-RI wants to transfer (it can be commercial, knowledge-based, etc.), the audience the METROFOOD-RI is addressing (according to the segments identified), the language used (technical, for society in general, etc.) and the format (plain text, short sentences, graphics, etc.).
STEP 4: To create trust between the METROFOOD-RI and the industrial company
- The success of the sustainability of METROFOOD is also related to the sale and delivery of services, and this is in turn connected to gaining of trust from all associated partners. When an industrial company feels that their needs are well understood, and that METROFOOD-RI can truly answer if it can provide a solution to them or not, is of great value for the company and creates trust. When the industrial company does not understand the purpose of METROFOOD, or foresees potential conflicts of interest, or comprehends the value proposition for them, this can diminish their trust in METROFOOD-RI.
- Therefore, it is recommended that METROFOOD-RI always offers a neutral and fair view when analysing potential commercial opportunities and that industry clearly see that METROFOOD-RI is operating well.
3.3 Useful tools
USEFUL TOOL 1: Confidentiality agreement
- A confidentiality agreement (also called a nondisclosure agreement or NDA) is a legally binding contract in which a person or business promises to treat specific information as a trade secret and promises not to disclose the secret to others without proper authorization.
USEFUL TOOL 2: Memorandum of understanding or Letter of intent
- A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a document that describes the broad outlines of an agreement that two or more parties have reached. MOUs communicate the mutually accepted expectations of all of the parties involved in a negotiation. While not legally binding, the MoU signals that a binding contract is imminent.
- Similar to an MoU, a Letter of Intent (LoI) is a document declaring the preliminary commitment of one party to do business with another. Terms included in an LoI are certain stipulations, requirements, timelines, and the parties involved. Many LoIs include NDAs and no-solicitation provisions.
3.4 Lessons learned
For the initial connections with industry, it is recommended to prioritise the segments you are focusing on and work with the first selected ones.
- The involvement of business partners and company associations could be helpful in the launch stage, especially to build the database for industry partners and connect complementary industrial partners when needed. As any pilot phase, it will be useful to connect firstly with a small pool of companies working on a segment of interest and maintain a constant communication through direct contact and workshops. On these occasions, such a pilot group will be introduced to the services offered by the RI and their interest and willingness to pay shall be tested.
It is recommended to use well-known and established channels of dissemination to reach the widest audience possible, to benefit from the RI stakeholders’ dissemination channels and actions.
- One of the main challenges of the METROFOOD-RI is to communicate to the industry what is the added benefit. To effectively do so, the most appropriate channels should be sought. There should be a continuous loop of interaction between (prospective) stakeholders and METROFOOD-RI.
- Systematic and regular forms of communication are recommended. These range from direct contact with individual leaders, institutes, and networks, through workshops, newsletters, best practice guides, personal visits, presentations, newsletters, press articles, web-based material and brokerage events making companies aware of available technologies and knowledge.
- Developing a web portal with search engines to easily allow users to access the information they require on a timely basis in a clear, uncluttered manner. The internet and social media are a vital contact with external clients.
- At the same time, it is recommended to identify a well-defined flow of information to streamline information when a connection with an industry representative happens so to avoid duplication of work (e.g., multiple connections with the same client/industry) and confusion.
- Finally, some recommendations could be to use promotional materials (such as interactive webinars, user testimonials, virtual or in-person walkthrough, open days for industry, etc.) addressing the steps that prospective industry stakeholders can refer to.
To build trust, it is highly recommended to clearly communicate the mission of the RI and its value proposition to the industries
- One of the most difficult aspects of the RI is to make industries understand the role of the institution and the benefits that the RI can bring to them. Reluctancy might come from companies that are already used to collaborate with centres in research activities or that have already requested service outside the frame of a RI, as well as from companies willing to use research capacities for the first time (e.g., they do not understand why they should go through the RI instead of going through the concrete partner performing the services).
- Therefore, it is necessary to have a clear narrative on the role and the value of the RI, especially for frequently asked questions: “Why should I use the RI if I can use the RI partners’ capacities directly?” It is important that all partners share the same answer to this question. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section on the website, that keeps on being updated, could be very helpful.
- Another advice is to show the service catalogue as integral of all the RI-partners, not identifying which partner does what, to foster industries to go through the RI always (in terms of sustainability of the RI this is the most seek option).
4 - Maintain – Keeping up interest in the METROFOOD-RI offering
METROFOOD-RI should put in place activities to update the portfolio of service constantly and in accordance with the latest market and industry trends. It is recommended to follow a constant feedback loop between the RI and end-users in order monitor the clients’ satisfaction with the services provided and make sure that they keep interest in the RI service offering.
To maintain interest and trust in the METROFOOD-RI
- It is recommended that the METROFOOD-RI maintains a positive trust relationship with end users and industry. End-users value direct communication and openness as well as guidance. In this context, an evaluation methodology should be established. It could be either through surveys, open forums, or other means.
4.2 Recommended actions
STEP 1: To update the service portfolio according to new research opportunities
- Maintain an updated and relevant service portfolio, such as the Service chart elaborated on WP8, and detailed in Deliverable 8.5 - Service char. The service catalogue must be well aligned to market and industry trends, being essential to keep end users engaged in the activities of the METROFOOD-RI. Focus should be on new products and technologies on the market as well as new research opportunities. Describing all available technology owned that can be marketed to industry in a clear and a user-friendly format.
- Evaluation of the services through opinion surveys.
STEP 2: To provide free-of-charge services to get the industry connected
- It is recommended to provide free-of-charge consultations with the industry when needed and as feasible, as a way to connect with the industry stakeholder and show the added-value that the RI can bring (see also 3 Connect – Engaging with the end users identified).
4.3 Useful tools
USEFUL TOOL 1: Customer satisfaction survey (CSS)
- The general purpose of customer satisfaction surveys is to assess how satisfied your customers are with different aspects of your product/service. Identifying unhappy customers is as important as identifying extremely happy ones (potential advocates).
4.4 Lessons learned
The word of mouth is powerful. The food industries are best placed to help the RI
- It is recommended to maintain the industries highly involved in the activities of the METROFOOD-RI, for instance through workshop, conferences or (regional) events where the companies or associations are invited to showcase advances in the industry and science. At the same time, communication should be established with the industries to keep them informed on relevant trends, regulations and financial opportunities (e.g., establishing a key account for each industry).
- For these reasons, it is recommended to increase direct or indirect presence of METROFOOD-RI representative at workshops and events attended by associations and companies. On the other hand, the RI may also organize annual workshops/conferences on a regional basis and events for - or together with - industry.
Keep the conversation flowing between the RI and industries
- RI should maintain constant cooperation with the food industries, maintaining an open dialogue to resolve doubts and overcome possible bottlenecks. This will in turn build trust in the ecosystem – maintain trust through communication.
- The RI should make use of the contact database, generated in the WP14, and coordinate internally to avoid contacting a client several times and respond to their requests on time.
Update the service portfolio regularly, offering solutions relevant for the industry
- It is very important to keep a continuously updated service portfolio, by the partners involved in the RI: it is recommended to maintain service and training offer as much state-of-the-art of competitive as possible, linked to new products and new technologies in the food sector (i.e., vegan foods, new protein, etc.) and with a strong emphasis on services “bridging” or “closing” the gap in the relevant industry.
- For this reason, communication with industries is quintessential. It is also suggested, considering industry insights and market research as core activities, to stay up-to-date and informed about the main players in the industry or new players in the market. At the same time, relevant updates must be communicated effectively to all end users.
Remain updated on funding opportunities and current regulations.
- To create synergistic collaborations, it is relevant to keep industry well documented on topics of interest for them: this means keeping them about legislation in force, relevant news, opportunities for collaboration, or newly published funding opportunities.
Monitoring clients’ satisfaction to ensure high-quality service provision
- It is recommended that the METROFOOD-RI commits to monitoring clients’ satisfaction, with the objective to gather the feedback and improve the current service offering. The company should fill in a customer satisfaction survey to assess the quality of the service provide its feedback, but also, to provide its needs for other services that not offered, or to comment about existing services.
- To ensure that METROFOOD-RI´s services are at least at the same level or of higher-added value to those offered by private labs on the market to which customers and institutions could preferentially turn instead of contacting METROFOOD-RI. Furthermore, METROFOOD-RI should offer adequate advice in the event of legal disputes for which potential customers (companies, citizens, institutions) could rely on METROFOOD-RI. Quality control of Labs involved in service provisions is an indispensable part if scientific excellence in the field of food quality and safety is to be assured. Therefore, as detailed in WP9 (D9.2- Quality management) the quality control of laboratories involved in the RI should be promoted (through periodic ring tests, accreditation, etc.) to maintain trust and ensure high quality in providing services (and delivering results).