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Nytt projekt om hur efterfrågan kan bidra till omställning mot miljövänligare livsmedelsproduktion

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Livsmedelsindustrin är den största tillverkningsindustrin i Europa och har stor miljöpåverkan.

Hur bidrar efterfrågan till omställning mot en mer miljövänlig produktion? I ett nytt projekt kommer fyra forskare att studera hur efterfrågan påverkar den regionala utvecklingen av livsmedelsindustrin i Skåne och Värmland. Projektet leds av forskaren Roman Martin från Handelshögskolan vid Göteborgs universitet och har beviljats 3 miljoner kronor från forskningsrådet FORMAS.

You are the project leader for “The Role of demand in new regional industrial path development – the food industry in transformation”. What is the project about?

-In this project we aim to gain a better understanding of the role of demand in new regional industrial path development, especially focusing on the transformation of the food sector towards environmentally friendly production. With new regional industrial path development, we mean the transformation and renewal of traditional industries. We will study food companies and their perception of and response to changes in the demand conditions, says Roman Martin, PhD in economic geography.

Why study the food industry?
-The food industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Europe in terms of turnover, value added and employment. However, the food industry is also one of the biggest polluters. So the food sector faces the need to change and renew its production system in order to cope with climate change and environmental pressures. One other reason is that it is consumer-driven and is characterized by complex and diverse demand conditions.

How will you study the food industry?
-We will make a large scale survey among food companies and we will also make in-depth case studies of environmentally friendly food products and companies. Both new and established companies will be studied. Our studies will focus on the food industry in Skåne and Värmland. The regions have traditional industrial strongholds in food, but have different preconditions to nurture the emergence of new development paths.

Why Skåne and Värmland?
-The regions are quite different which offers possibilities for us researchers to make interesting comparisons. The food industry in Skåne consists of 350 companies, many of which serve international markets. Regional policy makers are actively engaged in supporting innovation through a number of policy initiatives targeting the food sector. Furthermore, its densely populated urban centres provide sophisticated local demand. In Värmland there are around 50 companies in the food sector mostly serving the Swedish market. The region has less favourable conditions for new path development due to a lack of regional industrial variety and local institutional support. Furthermore, the region is sparsely populated and hosts only one urban centre resulting in a limited local demand for innovative food products.

What will the project result in?
-The project will break new ground in research on regional transformation of mature industries and will inform policies seeking to promote industrial renewal via demand conditions. When understanding the factors influencing the transformation towards sustainability, it is possible to better facilitate and encourage the process. The results will be interesting for stakeholders such as policy makers, consumer groups and food producers. We aim at providing recommendations to policy makers on how to influence demand conditions and support producers in their efforts towards more ecologically sustainable paths of production. Food producers can gain a third-party perspective on how demand conditions influence changes in the industry as well as characteristics of demand in different locations. Consumer groups might be interested in the roles that they play and the power they can exercise in the transition towards more sustainability.

Participating researchers:
Roman Martin, economic geography, University of Gothenburg (project leader) roman.martin@handels.gu.se
Elena Zukauskaite
Hanna Martin
Charles Edquist, Lund University