In Focus: Ploutos Innovation Academy

The Ploutos Innovation Academy (PIA) is a virtual space where mutual knowledge exchanges around sustainability-oriented innovations (SOIs) take place.  Experts from different disciplines and actors within the agrifood supply chain, who are engaged in the implementation of Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPs), participate in these exchanges. Additionally, actors within the agri-food supply chain, involved in different SIPs, also exchange experiences and best practices to help cope with common challenges.

The first type of meetings provided by the academy is called “Experts-led”. During these meetings, the SIPs receive guidance, in the form of theoretical knowledge, on key components of sustainability, such as behavioural change, data-driven technologies, collaborative business models, and performance measurement systems, with the aid of real-world examples and practical tools. The second type of meetings is called “Peer-to-peer exchange”, allows actors involved in the SIPs to share and address real challenges and issues, drawing on their own experiences, with guidance from the experts. Peer-to-peer exchange meetings are important tools for professionals involved in the PIA to stay informed about relevant topics and issues related to promoting innovation.

Showcasing Synergies between Expert-led and Peer-to-Peer Approaches

The Ploutos Innovation Academy held two meetings in May and July of 2022, which aimed to highlight the benefits of combining both expert-led and peer-to-peer approaches. The theme of these meetings was “Rebalancing the agri-food supply chain”. During the May meeting, experts provided a theoretical understanding of the topic, along with real-life examples and case studies. Additionally, SIPs (Subject-matter experts) shared their personal experiences and challenges, allowing for a better understanding of the specific rebalancing issues faced in the context of Ploutos. The July meeting focused on finding solutions to these issues, and it included a review of best practices from academic literature and actual solutions proposed by the SIPs. Three SIPs shared examples of their own solutions, which were aimed at rebalancing the agri-food value chain.

The PIA’s One-on-One Meetings: Gaining In-depth Insight

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the specific challenges faced by SIPs (Sustainable Innovation Pilots) in their journey towards sustainable innovation and the potential solutions to overcome them, Ploutos Innovation Academy also conducts a series of one-on-one meetings. Between July and September 2022, the POLIMI team of experts held 11 individual meetings with all the actors involved in each SIPs project.

These meetings helped to identify the main challenges and priority actions for each SIPs, as well as common themes among different SIPs. The findings from these meetings will be used as input for a co-creation workshop that will take place in January 2023, hosted by TNO.

Overall, PIA is a structure & a virtual space that has the potential to establish an effective participatory methodology for the practical development of complex multi-actor sustainable solutions, as well as to generate new practical knowledge on topics such as behavioral change, data-driven technologies, collaborative business models, and sustainability performance measurement systems.
All of these can pave the way for the sustainable transformation of the agri-food supply chain.