Research Center for Food of the Future: Empowering  food producers and SMEs with research-based learning (RBL)

Research-Based Learning: RBL is a learning model that focuses on building understanding through practice, experiencing  real situations, creating innovations from a systematic process of thinking and doing. The main goal is for learners to use the research process to solve problems, find answers from doing research, analyze data and create a body of knowledge on their own. In addition to being a form of education that is accepted in the modern academic realm, RBL is also used to increase the competitiveness of Thai SME entrepreneurs.

“Research Center for Food of the Future” is one of the activities of the Food Innopolis project, sponsored by the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), whose main goal is to support integrated research and development in food innovation, which includes increasing the competitiveness of entrepreneurs in the food industry. The Research Center for Food of the Future entails the implementation of the RBL process in creating a research ecosystem suitable for conducting research, development and innovation for SMEs in the food industry, who participating in the project.

Mr. Akarawit Kanchanaopas

Mr. Akarawit Kanchanaopas, acting assistant director of NSTDA and acting deputy director of the Technology Management Center for the Development and Promotion of Future Industries, said that the Research Center for Food of the Future, under the project “Developing the Potential of Entrepreneurs in Building Business Advantages with the RBL Process”, funded by the Program Management Unit for Competitiveness (PMUC), is a workshop activity for small and medium enterprises and startups that produce or sell food products that possess capabilities in production, marketing and investment, as well as the serious determination to develop their own products and improve their business, who applied and were selected in 2021, totaling 90 participants.

“We will use the RBL action research method to get a better overall understanding of the entrepreneurs first. Once we understand their agenda clearly we can tell them whether what they are doing is interesting or worthwhile. Because some things they want to do might have already been done. We would recommend doing other things that would be more appropriate and useful, meaning we can provide more relevant and helpful advice.”

Asst. Prof. Bundit Innawong, Ph.D., from the Food Innovation Center at Silpakorn University, as a research team member, and responsible for designing seminar workshops under this research project, said that action research under this project will provide knowledge and skills in the areas of branding, marketing and production design to food business operators that rely on problem solving through research processes. The workshops range from network to form synergistic business relationships, to looking at case studies of successful application of research and development processes. Additionally,  expert researchers are invited to work with the business operators in studying their problems or needs in order to develop into action research topics or thesis with clear goals and guidelines.

Mr. Akarawit, head of the project added that after theoretical training in the workshop forum, there will be RBL lessons through the Design Thinking activity for entrepreneurs, who want to develop new food or functional food, that have been selected. There will also be activities in product development, building awareness and branding, as well as creating understanding among consumers. The entrepreneurs will have access to hand-on practice with their products or product concepts, and will have involvement from researchers or developers to help develop a clear action research thesis. The entrepreneurs will have full access to the laboratories and expert researchers at Food Innopolis.

“After the end of the project, entrepreneurs participating in the project will be able to develop prototype formulations of products, new food products, or approaches to solving problems with at least 30 original products that with clear benefits and practical applications. At least 5 entrepreneurs will also receive functional foods or new foods research guidelines that comply with guidelines for FDA approval.”

Mr. Akkarawit concluded that using the RBL process through action research activities for SME entrepreneurs in food products during this workshop will enable project participants to develop their research and product development potential, allowing them to perform research, development and create innovations for their own products to meet the needs of their business and their customers. Aside from the obvious benefit of increased income, this will also create a competitive edge in doing business within the modern-day food industry. 

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