From 5th to 7th of March 2024, FOSTER participated in the FOOD 2030 Networks Conference on Transformative Food System Innovation in Brussels, Belgium.

The aim of the conference is to set the scene for more collaborative approaches towards innovating the future agriculture and food system. Farmers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, researchers, living lab representatives and other food system innovators are invited to join the FOOD 2030 Networks Conference under the auspices of the Belgian EU Presidency.

FOSTER was represented by the project members:
Project manager of FOSTER Kerstin Pasch (DIL) talked about reorienting innovation towards food system transformation;
-Rosina Malagrida (IrsiCaixa) represented her living lab in the Food 2030 Living Lab Network;
-Thom Achterbosch participated in the session on financing innovation in farming and food systems;
-Kerstin Cuhls raised her voice in one of the plenary sessions: “For transformation, we need to know more of the directions of the transformation and the long-term view. Think from the future.”

Framing of the conference
“Our current agriculture and food system is not sustainable – it threatens our health, destroys our ecosystems and contributes to climate breakdown.
If we do not act now, we will not be able to provide prosperity, wellbeing and food security for farmers, food producers and citizens in the future.
We cannot rely on incremental innovation, where technologies and efficiencies are slightly improved to solve the multitude of critical challenges and wicked problems that we are facing.
We need transformative innovation based on an inclusive systemic approach to ensure a just transition that is fair for everyone and enables a good life for all within planetary boundaries.
Living labs, communities of practice, and other co-creation initiatives bringing together innovators and other relevant stakeholders from rural and urban communities will be essential for supporting such transformative food system innovation.”

More information about the conference:

Focus Groups with the Change Driven Initiatives of FOSTER

Focus group sessions were established as part of a baseline assessment of the change-driven initiatives (CDIs). The aim of this baseline assessment is to understand the CDIs’ ambitions, their theories of change and activities, to examine their target stakeholder groups, and their embedding in networks, and to understand relevant knowledge sources, how CDIs access knowledge and interact with the K&I system.

Six CDIs of FOSTER are organisations, foundations and associations working on food systems from numerous perspectives. They vary in their goals, activities, target groups and sizes. Each of the initiatives is embedded across different parts of the food system. Some of them are largely linked to digital agriculture, others aim to preserve their local traditions and support local production and consumption. Some of them hold ambitions of being a platform for stakeholders, where they can work on their own projects.

Within FOSTER, each CDI works in tandem with an academic partner (AP), who act as translators between CDIs and the formal academic system, as well as facilitators during the knowledge coproduction process. These focus groups were organized by academic partners in cooperation with CDIs and included three to six CDI members. In total, five focus groups sessions took place.

The aims of the focus groups were:

  • To solicit and deeply understand CDIs claims, concerns and issues from within their own worldview;
  • To create the research steps adopted for the particular case studies;
  • To support the ongoing relationship-building between the academic partners of FOSTER and CDIs.

A brief summary after each session was written. Information from the focus groups was analysed and insights from the sessions were used for the further identification of the CDIs´ knowledge gaps and needs. 

Please find more information in the Deliverable “Consolidated status assessment report for 6 CDIs”.

FOSTER Science-Policy Interface

FOSTER is a research project funded by Horizon Europe, designed around the need for a new vision for a Knowledge and Innovation (K&I) governance structure for Europe’s food system. It is a collaboration of scientists with civic initiatives, innovation advisors, living labs and advocacy groups, working in multi-actor partnership.  

The project aims to develop an evidence-based policy vision for a future knowledge and innovation system (FOKIS), that can effectively accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems across all EU member states.

The translation of insights from research into policy recommendations for key audiences in the EU is a specialised skill. For this, the consortium has established a panel of experts with significant experience in relevant policy processes, including a chair and one or more co-chairs.

The expert panel supports FOSTER to create lasting impact on the European Research Area for food systems. Based on the insights and recommendations from FOSTER research, the panel will target opportunities in policies of the EU to strengthen the Knowledge and Innovation System for food systems.  

The role of the panel is to elaborate FOSTER´s policy recommendations, aimed at:  

  • Targeting key policy audiences for FOSTER’s research agenda and findings.  
  • Translating research findings into relevant policy messages.  
  • Tailoring policy recommendations to the current needs of these audiences.  

The Panel is chaired by Professor Janet Dwyer OBE, University of Gloucestershire (Ireland), a renowned expert in farm and rural development policy processes including in EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The Panel includes experts in food systems science, foresight and knowledge networks, business innovation, citizen science, and research & innovation policy. A seat for a non-academic expert on communities underrepresented in K&I processes is still open; search among civil society, faith-based organization and social entrepreneurs is ongoing.   

 The panel will probe the opportunities for FOSTER to maximise its impact pathways towards policy during the remaining years of the project. It is in itself an experiment on the co-creation of policy impact from research. After a pre-meeting in September, the Expert Panel had its first substantive meeting online on October 20, 2023. The aim of the meeting was to gain insight into the research design of FOSTER and start with the development of the policy orientation of the panel.  

Summer School Foster

The FOSTER´s Summer School, organized by University of Oxford, has just taken place in the Netherlands!  It was hosted by Wageningen University & Research and the Food Transition Coalition.

Project partners from academia and Change Driven Initiatives (CDIs) from the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Hungary, Germany and Portugal, as well as further experts invited by the CDIs, gathered together for mutual learning and sharing experience with each other.

The idea of Summer School is to work together with academic partners, CDIs, innovation advisors and focus groups towards a better Knowledge and Innovation system and to share ideas, practices and experiences for having a common vision on how to build a future sustainable food system.

Start of the Summer School

The first day of the Summer School started with a small interactive roll call, and everyone could get to know each other better and become a bit closer. Friendly and positive atmosphere was in the air during the whole three-day training.

The 1st day

Project manager of FOSTER Kerstin Pasch opened the day with a review of the project meeting in Novi Sad in February 2023, of the insights and activities gained there, which the consortium used to concretize its project visions and goals for the upcoming year.

During the first day, participants were able to review the food system mapping. CDIs had a perfect chance to think where they are in the food system chain and what they are going to achieve.

Attendees of the last webinar, which was a preparatory webinar devoted to setting a scene for the first FOSTER´s Summer School and to sharing terms and concepts used in food systems approaches, were able to provide their feedback on the concepts.

In the first day of the Summer School, all participants had a great opportunity to visit De Kleine Aarde. Since 2022, De Kleine Aarde has been all about agricultural transition with Coöperatie Ruimte De Kleine Aarde. Pioneering sustainable and circular living has always been the main goal for De Kleine Aarde. The Young Researchers, founded in 1972 by a journalist Sietz Leeflang, settled in this area in 1973 and pioneered for years with, among other things, organic agriculture, solar and wind energy and sustainable construction. More information can be found here:

After an interesting visit to Kleine Aarde, there was an interactive session with the CDI groups on their challenges using the food system approach, and a mutual learning exercise, where the FOSTER´s team and external experts could learn from CDIs.

The first day concluded with a plenary session and feedback on mutual benefits of food systems and CDIs´ approaches.

The 2nd day

The second day started with the introduction and discussion on different types of knowledge from ECSA and VU Athena. Interactive group discussions on boundaries, framings, stakeholders, and mapping with CDIs, external experts and FOSTER´s team followed by the discussion.

During the second day of the Summer School, the academic partners presented the Toolkit – a set of tools used in the food system for identifying the main instruments that can be used by the CDIs to identify and improve the specific problem or indicator. CDIs were proposed to share their own tools and experience on how those tools help them in their work.

Fruitful group discussions on mapping stakeholders and on Participatory Action Research (PAR) in the context of FOSTER´s plans were raised. The project partners also presented the current governance approaches and got reactions from CDIs.

A couple of interactive sessions between the plenary meetings helped the participants to rethink their understanding of power.

The 3rd day

The last day of the Summer School was a summary of what was learned during these days. Participants could also reflect on what they got from this learning and what new opportunities they see for themselves.

The FOSTER´s teams presented their part of work within the project and plans for the future and in relation to CDIs. Participants were updated on building the FOSTER´s Knowledge Platform and the CDI groups were invited to participate in Horizon projects scanning. The next FOSTER´s Summer School training course will bring more opportunities, more ideas and, for sure, will set another high standard and more challenges.

The FOSTER´s Summer School 2023 was an incredible opportunity to learn, cooperate and look for the new solutions to the existing problems in the food system together. The project partners and external experts could hear from CDIs and those, in turn, could share their experience and thoughts. The FOSTER´s aim is to connect different actors of the food chain to make a new governance system for the food system, thus, its aim is to change the whole system and people´s way of thinking. And that ambitious goal is a bit closer now!

Typology of Knowledge & Innovation Governance Options for Fostering Mission-oriented Innovation – Milestone 13


Creation of typology of K&I governance options for fostering mission-oriented innovation 

FOSTER research is designed around the need for a new vision for a Knowledge and Innovation (K&I) governance structure for Europe’s food system. FOSTER is a collaboration of scientists with change driven initiatives (CDIs), innovation advisors, living labs and advocacy groups. We aim to develop an evidence-based blueprint for a future knowledge and innovation system (KIS), with a working title “FOKIS”, Food System Knowledge and Innovation System, that can effectively accelerate the transition processes towards sustainable food systems across all EU member states. The design of FOKIS is envisaged to go beyond the status quo by establishing linkages around specific groups of food system actors underrepresented in the AKIS agricultural knowledge and innovation system: in FOSTER, we specifically look at transition networks of change agents, including food professionals, food democracy and citizen initiatives, vulnerable communities, with their linkages to knowledge actors (scientists, innovation advisors) and policy makers from domains related to food systems. The intended impact is to embed these change agents better in the European Research Area for food systems and foster collaboration between networks of science and practitioners.  

Three types of data have been compiled for developing the K&I governance typology, linked to FOKIS:  

  • Review of recent EU-funded research and innovations projects relevant to the topic. 
  • Review of peer-reviewed literature on sustainable food systems, with specific attention to: citizen science, transition and system transformation, and related governance challenges.
  • Review of relevant policies at European level that address K&I on food systems transition.  

In brief, the review of EU Horizon projects, from the last 4 years, included Fit4Food2030, DITOs, SUSFANS, SISCODE, MoRRI, FoodShift2030, Food Trails, ALL-READY, NEFERTITI, CASA, GENDER STI, NewHoRRIzon and SUSINCHAIN, indicating the following main traits to achieve effective governance in the K&I: Food system transformation, Living labs, Network creation for EU food system actors, and Closing the science-practice-policy gap.

The literature review was conducted to understand the current academic debates regarding the governance of food system transformations. From a total of 101 articles, a final list of 36 key articles were selected, highlighting the power dynamics on food systems governance and policy; transdisciplinary work on the interfaces of science, policy and practice; discussing normative principles related to food systems transformation and understanding transformation pathways in the food system.

The policy review was conducted to identify directly and indirectly relevant EU-level policies that address K&I regarding food system transformation, at the international level, the Sustainable Development Goals, at EU level, the European Green Deal, the policy departments in the European Commission, Funding, Educational programs and other EU mechanisms. 

These sets of data together have informed the definition of a set of seven governance principles for mission-oriented innovation on food system transition. The following principles are proposed:

  • Multi-actor governance: recognizing the important role of multiple actors in governance and discussing the (potential) roles of various stakeholders in a variety of food system-related governance arrangements.
  • Knowledge and innovation policy: understanding of the policy landscape and its influence on the food systems and activities of CDIs.
  • Multi-level food system governance and policy: coordination and interaction of decision-making processes at different levels of scale; alignment and coordination of arrangements on different levels of scale.
  • Food democracy: rights of citizens to participate in food-related decision making; ensuring that transition processes are fair, equitable, sustainable and constructive.
  • Role of different types of knowledge: transdisciplinarity and the importance of other knowledge types beyond academia, the role of citizen science; crossing science-policy-practice divides.
  • Responsible Research and Innovation: aligning science with the values of society; connecting the relationship between K&I and society: public engagement, open access, gender equality, ethics, etc.
  • Transformation pathways: strategies or actions that can be taken to move towards a more sustainable food system; leverage points for systemic change and scaling of innovations.

This has led to the formulation of an ambitious agenda for action research in FOSTER WP4, centred around the following research question: how well do the principles for K&I governance provide practical guidance for innovation actors to make headway on four dimensions of societal uptake required for successful food systems transformation: the technological, legal, economic, and socio-cultural dimensions. Engagement with the CDIs through workshops has provided valuable input for co-designing the concepts and the strategies for empirical research.  These principles will be basis of the upcoming work, during task 4.2, with discussion with the CDIs on governance options and knowledge through a series of workshops and meetings. 

Please find below the Complete Milestone document, with a full description of the work conducted. 

Briefs of the 2nd FOSTER Project Meeting

The second FOSTER project meeting took place at the BioSense Institute in Novi Sad, Serbia on 28th and 29th of March, 2023.

28th of March

During the first day of the FOSTER meeting, consortium members engaged in several interactive sections to learn from each other and to learn with each other. The learning from each other is crucial as the consortium consists of a diversity of members who are active in linking the food system from theoretical and practical contexts.

During the several sections, each partner from the Citizen-Driven Initiatives (CDI) elaborated on their own experience and environment regarding policies as opportunities/barriers in changing food systems on local and national level, successes/barriers in knowledge exchange among different stakeholders for changing food systems, and how to improve public engagement as an opportunity or a hindrance in changing food systems. These were powerful insights to better understand the different points of view within the project, how the different CDIs interact in each level and actors of the food system, and the challenging obstacle that they are facing.

Between sections, participants discussed the FOSTER Knowledge Platform, about its ideas and content, what was already done and what is expected to be done in the future. Several points were discussed, including the main end-users of such platform, on how to improve it, its complexity, contents, databases, and sustainability.

The last two sections of the first day approached FOSTER´sliving narrative”, presented by Anne Loeber, regarding CDIs transformative role in the EU food system changing, and measures to improve the communication, dissemination and exploitation of FOSTER activities to specific target audiences.

29th of March

The second day of the project meeting was held under governance/policies ruling the EU food system with a preparatory session for further interactions within each CDI and knowledge partner.

In the interactive sections, each CDI could better elaborate on how they see themselves regarding their positioning in governance and policy authorities, on a local, regional, national, and EU level. This was a good way to kick off a fruitful discussion on policies that have an impact on each CDI, and Food Systems and Research and Innovation Policies, that may provide new opportunities, needs and barriers.

Lastly, partners had an opportunity to discuss the specific actions for each work package. One of the main discussion topics was the Summer School, which will take place in the Netherlands, on 3rd – 5th of October, 2023, together with Wageningen University & Research and Food Transition Coalition, on a first approach to Food Systems.

At the end of the meeting, FOSTER partners had a wonderful opportunity to meet face-to-face and had fruitful discussions where they were able to share their thoughts and ideas on what is needed from every project member to effectively achieve the project’s goals.

FOSTER 2nd Project Meeting

FOSTER – Fostering food system transformation by integrating heterogeneous perspectives in knowledge and innovation within the European Research Area

FOSTER is an ambitious Horizon Europe-funded project that will build food system capabilities, knowledge and new governance mechanisms for scientists, citizens and policymakers.

It is just on the next week that FOSTER will have the 2nd Project Meeting! It will take place in Novi Sad, Serbia on 28th and 29th of March 2023!

The meeting will have the participation of all partners, that are working together to gain insight into how knowledge and innovation systems can be adapted, made more inclusive and better governed to transform Europe’s food system outcomes for improved health, enterprise and the environment.

The main outcomes will be on the table, namely FOSTER Platform, Summer Schools and newly developed methodologies. 

We will use this opportunity to discuss the work we have done so far, and focus on the interaction with our Citizen Driven Initiatives (CDIs) partners! 

The main topics for the brainstorming will be: 

  • legislations as opportunities/barriers in changing food systems on local and national level
  • successes/barriers in knowledge exchange among different stakeholders for changing food systems
  • public engagement as opportunity in changing food systems

We will focus on involving the CDIs knowledge and experience, on what/when/how can we improve the food system knowledge and innovation beyond the AKIS (Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems) to a FOKIS one (FOod system Knowledge and Innovation System).  

The event will be hosted by our partner BioSense, and we will discuss and plan the future work.

Check out our social media for continuous updates during the meeting!





New HORIZON EUROPE project fostering food system transformation

FOSTER – Fostering food system transformation by integrating heterogeneous perspectives in knowledge and innovation within the European Research Area

FOSTER is an ambitious Horizon Europe-funded project that will build food system capabilities, knowledge and new governance mechanisms for scientists, citizens and policymakers.

The vision of FOSTER is to build a foundation from which a new Knowledge and Innovation System (KIS) for Europe’s food system can emerge to better address the emerging challenges of providing healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The key objective of FOSTER is to gain insights into how a new KIS can be built to address this challenge in a more inclusive, transdisciplinary, and effective way, addressing food system challenges from an integral food systems perspective rather than by looking at its different components separately. FOSTER will help transform Europe’s food system outcomes and will achieve this by building a FOSTER Platform and establishing the FOSTER Summer School. For the platform food system, state-of-the-art knowledge will be gathered, and new knowledge will be included by semi-automated Horizon scanning, foresight trend and threat analysis, and new multi-dimensional scenarios of EU food systems for 2040. Summer schools will be held on a yearly basis and will focus on various aspects of the food system as well as provide access to external stakeholders. The project also includes trend and threat analysis foresight, as well as an exploration of policy support and governance options for food systems KIS. In all of this, FOSTER will work closely with six Citizen Driven Initiatives (CDIs) across five countries, through which new knowledge, strategies, and Action Research Agendas will be gained. As a result, new approaches and solutions for various R&I policy support mechanisms for mission-oriented R&I policy will be developed. This way, FOSTER aims to develop insights into how the KIS can be broadened from an agricultural-KIS to a food system-KIS. To inspire the adoption of FOSTER learnings, over 20 workshops and a final conference will be conducted, and scientific position papers and policy briefs will be widely communicated.

Since the beginning of FOSTER, the different partners have been working together on the horizon scanning of Food Systems, building context scenarios, and establishing a FOSTER knowledge platform. Also, laying the foundation for a European Food Systems Academy based on assessing current food systems understanding across the CDIs, will guide a series of Summer Schools drawing together citizen and “mainstream” scientists. FOSTER started the engagement with the CDIs to gain further insight into their organisational structure, their main objectives, and their integration into networks and political structures as the basis for the development of tailored recommendations on food system innovations. FOSTER mapped the European policy landscape for food systems K&I and created an inventory of recent European research projects focusing on the governance of food systems transformation.

FOSTER was launched on September 1, 2022, and includes a multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder consortium with 18 different institutions, including representatives from the CDIs and leading scientists from 7 European countries. The FOSTER kick-off meeting took place in Brussels on September 20 and 21, 2022, and the second full project meeting is set for March 28 and 29, 2023, in Serbia. 

Consortium Picture