The agri-food sector faces a number of challenges, not only in Bulgaria, but in all European countries, and it needs support to set foot on the global tracks. It is in response to this that the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was created – a European Union body whose aim is to stimulate innovation across Europe by bringing together leading organizations from the business, education and science, supporting them to work better together and to tackle the global challenges.

We are happy that after 2 years of active work EIT Food Hub Bulgaria, coordinated by Agricultural University Plovdiv together with Cleantech Bulgaria – an official partner of EIT since 2016, and Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, we can boast of the first results for the inclusion of Bulgarian participants in the international activities of EIT Food.

To create a world where everyone has access to safe and healthy food, to engage European citizens in the transition to a smart food system, to increase sustainability through sound resource management, to build a functioning bioeconomy, to build trust along the entire farm-to-fork chain – these are only a small part of the goals that EIT Food Hub Bulgaria works towards.

Within just 24 months, EIT Food Hub Bulgaria organized over 30 events and meetings with the innovation ecosystem in the country, which were attended by more than 1,200 representatives of state institutions, leading researchers and PhD students from universities and scientific organizations, entrepreneurs, managers, employees from the private sector and industry organizations. We are also proud to have held 2 large-scale international entrepreneurial formats of EIT Food – Challenge Labs, which helped students from different disciplines to develop their entrepreneurial ideas.

The agricultural products and food market adapts quickly to new policies, urbanization, changes in consumer needs and above all to the need for innovative methods to optimize and create sustainability in the sector. According to the European Commission, only 11% of all agricultural holdings in the EU are managed by farmers under the age of 40. Young professionals in the field should be supported through access to new training formats and funding. By increasing entrepreneurial capacity and key skills, professionals in the field increase their motivation and confidence to take part in international formats and competitions, and to offer their innovative products and services to the large European market.

EIT Food activities in Bulgaria are based on real needs and provide tools to support any innovative idea – from its inception to its transformation into a working business. Bridging the gap between business and academia in the agriculture and food industry is an outstanding goal for us. Only effective technological transfer will enable the agri-food industry to make the most of the achievements of the whole world, to make production that meets the highest European standards, to make the industry prosperous, highly productive and attractive to the young, capable and creative people.

We are convinced that 2023 will be even more successful for Bulgarian organizations and will provide an opportunity for many more universities, pupils and students, entrepreneurs and innovators to join the initiatives of the EIT community.