Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) has become a key driver in conducting research and producing resources aimed at boosting innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe's rural communities through numerous European and international research projects.

Dr. Lisa Ryan and Maria McDonagh of the GMIT department of natural sciences, school of science and computing, recently travelled to Timisoara, Romania, to present one of the current European projects they are leading 'Educate to Innovate: Developing and Sustaining Female Food Entrepreneurs'. It is a collaborative project funded by the European Erasmus+ Key Action 2 Fund.

The GMIT team is working with four European partners: Baltic Education Technology Institute, Lithuania; Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori Toscana, Italy; Comunitatea Pentru Invatarea Permanenta, Romania; and The Polish Farm Advisory and Training Centre, to deliver the project's objectives.

Female-specific training

The main aim of 'Educate to Innovate' is to develop and support the growth of female food entrepreneurs by equipping Vocational Education and Training (VET) educators with an innovative pedagogy guide and resource tool - the main outputs of the project.

These outputs will provide VET trainers with the knowledge and materials required to develop female-focused entrepreneurial training influenced and delivered by food entrepreneurs. The emphasis is on entrepreneurs helping to develop entrepreneurs.

"There is a wealth of courses available to entrepreneurs in food to further develop and upskill," said Dr. Lisa Ryan, head of the department of natural science.

However, with females being grossly unrepresented in the sector, there is a need for female-specific training that addresses the unique challenges facing female food entrepreneurs.

The specific need for this project arose out of the findings from another Erasmus+ funded project 'Creating entrepreneurs in food', also led by Dr. Lisa Ryan and Maria McDonagh (GMIT).

This month, the project consortium presented the project and the training guide at its first multiplier event held in Timisoara, Romania. The conference-style event welcomed over 50 European VET trainers and educators to Timisoara to engage with the project team and have the opportunity to review and evaluate the training guide.

Sustainable approach

Speaking at the event, Dr. Ryan said: "GMIT is delighted to lead this project and it was a great opportunity to engage with so many VET providers in Romania. Providing the skills to develop an entrepreneurial mindset could be a sustainable approach to both supporting those involved in this industry and developing this industry.

Lack of training for VET teachers in innovative teaching methods tailored to females in the agri-food sector currently hinders the growth of appropriate training to foster female entrepreneurship.

"This project, therefore, will overcome this barrier by developing an innovative training guide and resource tool and making them easily accessible to VET providers across Europe."

The Educate to Innovate project is due to conclude in March 2021 with a range of research events and activities taking place over the next year.

These events will be held across Europe with the first scheduled for Warsaw, Poland, on May 22, 2020. The events are open to all involved in Europe's agri food sector.

For further information on the 'Educate to Innovate' project see: www.nurtureher.eu; and on social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.