New research on urban food enterprise seeks collaborators on future project development

22 December 2015

New research on urban food enterprise seeks collaborators on future project development

New research on urban food enterprises in Reading, London and Almere highlight barriers and opportunities to the realisation of an ideal marketplace, and what support structures might be put in place in the form of a business incubator or accelerator to help them access and grow this market

New research on urban food enterprises in Reading, London and Almere highlights barriers and opportunities to the realisation of an ideal marketplace, and what support structures might be put in place in the form of a business incubator or accelerator to help them access and grow this market. 

Cities on the Grow is a cross-disciplinary project that has been funded by Climate-KIC, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. It seeks to support the sustainable growth of urban food enterprises toward the implementation of more commercially viable business practices. It also seeks to secure the social and climate benefits of these enterprises while enhancing their role in city-regional food economies.

Dr Richard Nunes of the School of Real Estate & Planning, who is co-leader of the study, said "This is an important project. We are now looking for ethical business investors and other partners who may be willing to support the prototyping and implementation of a support platform for these enterprises. We aim to take forward this study, addressing the urban and rural inequalities in food access and health. Identifying policy levers that reinforce city regional food economies must be underpinned by a focus on these inequalities."

Urban food enterprises play a significant role in generating socio-economic and climate benefits. This community of craft and micro enterprises is diverse with regards to their ideological motivations and business models. Though their funding streams, albeit varied, are predominantly sourced from fixed grants. This places the viability of these enterprises and their potential benefits to local and regional economies, the environment and the communities they serve at risk.

Cities on the Grow has paved new inroads into this relatively emerging and underexplored area of policy intervention. With a focus on the local food systems of London (UK), Reading (UK) and Almere (NL), the project partners have identified business incubator or accelerator models to support urban food enterprise. The project findings place these support platforms at the centre of complex cross-sectoral policy interrelationships and the diverse collections of community-based initiatives in any one locality.

The project partners conclude that there is a need for brokering knowledge exchange within and between policy and civic arenas, and their wider networks. This would require an approach where volunteers and professionals, working together for an incubator or accelerator, can act as serious complementary counterparts to other stakeholders across wider agrifood systems.

The project has identified the following areas for the future development of such a support platform: (i) entrepreneurial skills and knowledge development, especially on new financing mechanisms; (ii) leveraging and establishing new financing mechanisms, such crowd funding; and (iii) physical places or hubs where demand and supply can meet, where the logistics of distribution can be organised, and where expertise can be exchanged.

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