The strengths of the South Savo region are forest, water, food, tourism and wellbeing. Nearly one fifth of the enterprises operate in the food sector. South Savo Food Cluster was established in 2022 as a food innovation platform for the region. The cluster is a member of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) and belongs to a wider European cluster network. The members of South Savo Food Cluster food companies and research and development organisations and associations.
South Savo Food Cluster aims to increase the competence, networking and internationalisation of the food sector and to create conditions for food innovations. In addition, the cluster promotes the implementation of the Smart Specialisation Strategy of South Savo.
South Savo food sector operators and their activities could be described as follows:
- There are nearly 2 000 agricultural and horticultural farms.
- Farms are quite small with an average cultivation area of 39 hectares per farm.
- Farms most commonly produce dairy and meat products.
- Farms also have speciality crop production, involving cabbages, carrot and berries.
- There are 240 farms pioneering in organic research and production.
In addition, South Savo’s nature gives a lot of possibilities. Forest land covers 85% of the land area and offers pure berries, mushrooms and wild herbs for food services and tasty products. One fourth of the region is inland waterways. Commercial fishers work on South Savo’s freshwater lakes. The main fish species is vendace, which accounts for over 43% of the national catch. The other common catch includes bream and roach.
A new project to support South Savo food companies
South Savo Food Cluster has just been established. Therefore, it is necessary to create a model for our food cluster. We have a project called European cluster network to support South Savo food companies where we aim to create a holistic and dynamic model for food cluster activities. The project targets are to provide food companies with financing opportunities and services that promote their food business development, innovation and internationalisation. The project includes the following three work packages:
Work package 1. Support from European network
The project personnel participates in the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) network, monitors and conveys information on cooperation and funding opportunities. Our project also assists South Savo Food Cluster members in searching international funding and makes South Savo food sector better-known abroad.
Work package 2. South Savo Food Cluster’s model and services
The project involves creating a model for our food cluster. We aim at establishing a policy where the cluster organisation has a clear role in sharing information, mentoring and in promoting innovations. The resulting model also refines the cluster’s role in the research and development service network available to food companies.
Work package 3. Cooperation between clusters and ecosystems regionally and in Finland
Cooperation with other Finnish clusters and ecosystems has a key role because the operators face similar challenges and cooperation opportunities. Our project establishes contacts with national cluster networks, other food clusters and clusters of other industries to start collaboration.
As a result of the project, the interest and abilities of South Savo food operators in international cooperation and networking are increased. The members of the food cluster learn to use national and international financial instruments.
Moreover, the opportunities for development, innovation, piloting and commercialisation of services and production related to the development of business activities will be increased. Our project of European cluster network to support South Savo food companies systematises the operating model of South Savo Food Cluster and increases the volume and quality level of the food cluster activities. This helps in achieving the Cluster Management Excellence Bronze Label by EUCLES (European Clusters Labelling Excellence Structure) during the project.