In 2016, the food and drink manufacturing and processing (FDMP) industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the EU. It comprises more than 285,000 companies employing more than 4.5 million people, and represents 14.6% of total turnover and 12.5% of value added. SMEs are especially relevant as they account for 99.1% companies, 64.3% employees, 51.6% turnover, and 48.8% value added of total EU FDMP. However, their investment level in research, development and innovation RDI is only 0.27% of output (compared to 0.56% in USA), Similarly, SMEs’ investment in recruitment is also limited, which results in a high rate of low-qualified employees (30% vs. overall 21%) and a lack of attractiveness for skilled workers. The soundest consequence of this mix is the significantly low labour productivity of the industry.
In order to improve labour productivity and overcome the many challenges of globalisation, the EU FDMP is required to evolve from cost-based to value-based competition. This transformation will go through the introduction of new enabling technologies to meet consumer drivers, such as health, convenience, pleasure and environmental awareness. Subsequently, the need for workforce upskilling will come hand in hand in a range of business areas from food technology, production, and engineering to sales and marketing. If these people are to successfully implement new technologies, they will need to be supported by increasingly precise, up-to-date technological knowledge. Therefore, it could be concluded that innovative technologies cannot succeed without the parallel increase in skills.
The objective of UPDATEST is to bridge this transnational gap by increasing the knowledge, competences and skills on new inspection technologies for the FDMP. The target group of the project comprises initial and continuing vocational education and training students, such as: students in the initial education system; individuals entering a job at an entry-level position; and food industry professionals who have already gained experience in the labour market. These people are recognised as being capable of, firstly, assessing both in-place and alternative, technological solutions to address food quality, safety and defence issues; and, secondly, influencing decision-makers and so bringing about change in their organisations. As a result, the project will contribute to the transformation of the EU FDMP industry in the short-medium term and in line with the Commission’s priorities.
The innovative character of UPDATEST will rely on the combination of the following ingredients: • The consortium members: 1 technology centre, 1 sector skills council (NSAFD), 2 federations of food associations and 1 university that will add educational, research and innovation perspectives.
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