GMIT-led project supporting female food entrepreneurs shortlisted for prestigious award

Dr Lisa Ryan.

Dr Lisa Ryan.

An innovative GMIT-led project supporting the growth and sustainability of female food entrepreneurs in the European Union has been shortlisted in the Green Gown Awards 2020 (UK and Ireland ).

The prestigious Green Gown Awards, in association with UK Research and Innovation, recognise the commitment that colleges and universities have to the global sustainability agenda. This year’s finalists represent more than 850,000 students and 130,000 staff.

Managed by Dr Lisa Ryan and Maria McDonagh, GMIT Department of Natural Sciences' Educate to Innovate: Developing and Sustaining Female Food Entrepreneurs is the only Irish third-level project to be selected for the finals.

“The stellar efforts of GMIT staff and their partners behind Educate to Innovate are truly worth celebrating," said Dr Orla Flynn, president of GMIT. "The project exemplifies the successful integration of so much of what GMIT strives for: inclusivity, sustainability, entrepreneurialism, regional development, and internationalisation.”

“We are proud of the impact the project has had already in sustaining and supporting females in the agri-food sector and look forward to its continuous success. GMIT is the only college in the Republic of Ireland to be shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 Green Gown Awards, UK/Ireland which is a huge honour for the team and the institute as a whole,” added Dr Ryan, head of department.

The Educate to Innovate project is led by the GMIT research team in partnership with the Baltic Education Technology Institute (BETI ) Lithuania, Confederazione Italiana Agricol (CIA ) in Tuscany, Italy, Comunitatea Pentru Invatarea Permanenta (CPIP ), Romania, and The Polish Farm Advisory and Training Centre, in Poland.

The project equips vocational education and training (VET ) educators with an innovative pedagogy guide and a resource platform influenced by food entrepreneurs; in summary, entrepreneurs helping to develop entrepreneurs. The European Commission has identified that women face more difficulties than men when establishing and running a business, mainly in access to finance, training, networking, and in reconciling family commitments. The project outputs will aid VET providers in developing a training course and resources that will equip females in the agri-food sector to overcome those difficulties.

Maria McDonagh said: “Supporting the growth and sustainability of female food entrepreneurs in this male-dominated sector is the main objective of this project which will, in turn, contribute to achieving social inclusion for this group and closing the gender gap in agri-food entrepreneurship. We anticipate that the project and its outputs will contribute to creating innovative agricultural and food activities, boosting rural enterprise across Europe.”

“This project has enabled us to establish relationships with female food entrepreneurs, academia, and stakeholders across the continent and gain extensive knowledge and skills from a European perspective. It is a privilege for Ireland, and in particular GMIT, to have the opportunity to actively contribute to the development of Europe’s rural economies and to the Europe2020 growth strategy.”

The project and its outputs have gained significant support from stakeholders across Europe. To this end, GMIT was awarded a further grant from Erasmus+ KA2 for a follow-on project AWARE - Advancing Women in Agri-Food Rural Environments. GMIT has also engaged with the University of Nom Lang in Vietnam via an Irish aid-funded project and delivered the Educate to Innovate Peer Led training to more than 90 Vietnamese female food science students. The GMIT project team has also secured further funding nationally through the Springboard initiative to offer the certificate in food innovation and entrepreneurship, commencing in February 2021.

For further information about the Educate to Innovate project in GMIT, contact Maria McDonagh at [email protected] or visit


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