August 04th 2020

Amazing innovations with apples, nuts and herbs

Exciting interim results in the EU project AlpBioEco | New business models, product ideas and distribution channels for apples, nuts and alpine herbs

MCI research team presents interim results on EU Project AlpBioEco. Photo: MCI
MCI research team presents interim results on EU Project AlpBioEco. Photo: MCI

The COVID-19 crisis has once again brought the importance of regional cycles and value chains to the forefront. Often it is innovative product ideas and unusual delivery processes to the customer that are particularly successful despite difficult conditions. The Interreg Alpine Space project AlpBioEco, which aims to develop new and particularly sustainable business models in the organic economy, has been running since April 2018. The research project focuses on business models based on apples, nuts and Alpine herbs. The results should also be transferable to other products found in the Alps. An interdisciplinary group of researchers from the MCI has been involved in the research process from the very beginning.

In the initial phase of the project, apples were examined for their characteristics at MCI laboratories. Specific potentials were identified and checked for their feasibility. Based on market studies, laboratory analyses, interviews and interactive knowledge exchange, the phase of developing business concepts with high sustainability standards were launched under the guidance of the MCI.

After 22 ‘Open Innovation Workshops’ with 182 participants at nine locations in five European countries, the results were astonishing: farmers, entrepreneurs, scientists and representatives of regional and economic interest groups developed 440(!) new business model ideas. Those 440 ideas were condensed into 26 concepts, which turned into seven detailed business models called "blueprints". Business concepts spanned from disposable tableware made of apple pomace, to pacifiers with herbal essences, innovative revegitation of ski meadows, gluten- and allergen-free flour and much more. These business concepts are listed in a recently published report.

MCI researchers talk enthusiastically about the project as the collaboration of several scientific disciplines as well as the involvement of a wide range of professional and interest groups was an outstanding process. MCI project leader Oliver Som from the MCI Department of Business & Management emphasizes that the chosen open innovation format is an excellent catalyst for creativity: "We deliberately mixed the workshops in order to take advantage of different perspectives and to promote the transfer of ideas across industries”. These are enormous opportunities and potentials for farmers, but also for SMEs, to reposition well-known products by means of innovative processes and distribution channels and to add value to previously worthless by-products, such as apple pomace. MCI-Food technologist Katrin Bach also praises the interdisciplinary of the research group: "Due to the special orientation of the MCI as an Entrepreneurial School® we had the opportunity to bundle business administration, food technology and process knowledge. We have benefited greatly from each other". The workshop participants also deserve great praise: "It was exciting and inspiring to be able to share the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience of the participants," MCI researchers agree on.

Those seven "blueprints" will now be implemented as pilot projects in companies and tested for their practical suitability. Ultimately, in addition to tips and suggestions for farmers and entrepreneurs, recommendations for political decision-makers will be developed.

Alp Bio Eco
AlpBioEco is an interdisciplinary project group with 13 partners in Germany, Italy, Slovenia, France and Austria, which has set itself the task of searching for new possibilities in the Alpine region for the bio-economy, i.e. the use of plant products. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg Alpine Space Program.

The aim is to generate added value for the Alpine region through sustainable use of by-products or waste products such as apple pomace or walnut press cake. This results in new perspectives for agriculture, away from pure raw material producers to greater depth of added value and new business fields. Additional potential and fields of application are created by the use of new technologies such as 3D printing.
For example, the interdisciplinary and cross-regional AlpBioEco project could lead to the opening up of new markets, support smaller farmers in their existence, create new jobs and, last but not least, strengthen the networks between farmers, producers and distribution platforms.

If you are interested in the project and the project results, please contact:
FH-Prof. Dr. Oliver Som
MCI-Professor (FH) and head of department "Innovation Management”
Research focus "Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Marketing“
Universitätsstraße 15, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Phone: +43 512 2070-3132, Fax: -3199,

More information on the report: CLICK HERE