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Abstract

The driver for this paper is the need to better understand the potential for learning and innovation that networks can provide especially for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which comprise by far the majority of enterprises in the food sector. With the challenges the food sector is facing in the near future, learning and innovation or more focused, as it is being discussed in the paper, ‘learning for innovation’ are not just opportunities but pre‐conditions for the sustainability of the sector. Network initiatives that could provide appropriate support involve social interaction and knowledge exchange, learning, competence development, and coordination (organization) and management of implementation. The analysis identifies case studies in any of these orientations which serve different stages of the innovation process: invention and implementation. The variety of network case studies cover networks linked to a focus group for training, research, or consulting, networks dealing with focused market oriented product or process development, promotional networks, and networks for open exchange and social networking.

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