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The aim of this study is to analyze the potentiality of the extension services in agriculture, to mainstream innovation in terms of sectoral competitiveness, when integrated into the agro-food supply chain. In doing this, the case of Venetian agriculture will give empirical evidence to the assumptions of this study, serving the identification of key factors, related to the use of extension services integrated into the so-called Integrated Supply Chain Projects (ISCPs), which are emerging as influential for the performance of the agro-food chain. In principle, the extension services are integrated within the entire agricultural knowledge system, which encloses several activities such as research and experimentation, vocational training, advisory and information. In the context of the Rural Development Policy, the farm advisory services are implemented through the measures 114 “Using farm advisory services” and 124 “Cooperation for development of new products, process and technologies”, included in the Rural Development Programmes (RDPs). The present study focuses on the observed benefits that such measures deliver when integrated into the ISCPs, by adding value to the entire agro-food chain and bettering its performance. In fact, the systemic approach to the implementation of the research and of farm advisory services into the ISCPs seems to enhance their own potentiality to increase the entrepreneurial performance and contribute to create a competitive advantage for the entire agro-food chain. In Italy, within the RDP 2007-2013, the ISCPs are foreseen as an instrument for better achieve the increase of competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector, the improvement of the quality and the marketing of the productions; create and consolidate the value chain as a whole, by balancing the profit margins of each single segment. To this end, several Italian RDPs foresee the opportunity for a partnership involving different economic actors playing a role in the agro-food chain to define such project in view of achieving an overall common strategic objective. Each integrated supply chain project is set up through the implementation of several measures, which are supposed to contribute to the achievement of that overall objective. For the purpose of this study, a desk research has been carried out mainly on the fiche of the measures foreseen by the RDPs and by the tender documentation. The information gathered regard basically the type and the matter of the advisory services and of the research implemented by the measures, the number of beneficiaries achieved, the financial resources committed, and some result indicators (i.e: number of enterprises supported starting a new processes or realizing a new product; productive segment covered by the support; quality production; increase of the gross value added for the value chain). These information led mapping the model of an integrated supply chain project and identifying the different factors influencing the performance of the agro-food chain.


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