Different roles in knowledge development.
Over the years a variety of stakeholders, has come together on different occasions, in and outside the Netherlands, to discuss and exchange ideas on sustainable cocoa. Individually these different actors also play a role in knowledge development. Some play regulatory and coordinator roles while others lobby to increase the awareness of social and environmental issues in value chains. The role for universities is mainly to conduct fundamental research, while consultants provide practical knoledge that is directly applicable for their clients. In addition to the difference in role, the underlying motivation to promote knowledge development also differs: the private sector is primarly concerned with optimising their business and securing a good reputation; NGOs are mainly driven by societal concerns; and the goverment is eager to strengthen its innovative power and promote the Dutch knowledge economy. Let us took briefly at the different roles.
The private sector
Traditionally the private sector has played an important role in knoledge development on cocoa processing, effective means of transport, and other related topics. (A well-known example is the invention of the cocoa press by the Dutch chemist and chocolate maker Coenraad Van Houten; the treatment known as ‘Dutching’.)* The cocoa cluster – where the cocoa companies also organise logistics such as transport and storage – has created a competitive and cooperative environment around the Port of Amsterdam. In this innovative climante learning is essential.
The Private sector is also an important gatekeeper of knowledge on cocoa production processes. To secure large quantities of good quality cocoa at affordable prices is a core interest. This requires investments in upgrading the product and production process in cocoa producing countries and in knowledge development on these issues. Partly private companies invest in their human resources for knowledge development and invest in their R&D unit. Partly they invest in knowledge on, for example new plant varieties, new ways of combating pests and diseases that can affect cocoa production, etc. In the UK this situation led to strong link between research institutes and industry; in the Netherlands however, this link is rather weak.
*Van Houten ‘devises a process for making chocolate powder by using hydraulic pressure to remove almost half of the cocoa butter from chocolate liquor. This reduced the fat content from over 50% to about 25%, and made a hard cake that could be pulverized. Then, in order to make this powder easier to mix into warm water, he treated it with alkaline salts, which also made the colour darker and remove some of the bitterness.’
The role of the public sector
The Ditch have a tradition of innovation. The Dutch goverment is very keen to strengthen the Netherlands’ powers of innovation and promote its knowledge economy. This focus is important, as innovation has proven to be instrumental in achieving economic prosperity. With the establishment of the Dutch Innovation Platform in 2003, the Dutch goverment ackknowledged this tradition of innovation and recognised its importance.
The public sector has several important roles in knowledge development, by providing key investments in education, knowledge, innovation and enterprise. The goverment also plays an active role in knowledge development on sustainable cocoa chains. As mentioned earlier in this study, it is a key driver behind recent multistakeholder initiatives…. The Dutch goverment has also positioned itself as an important fundingagency for international research on sustainable cocoa. Thanks to the sustainable cocoa subsidy, provided at that time by the LNV with the aim to foster sustainable cocoa production and cocoa chain, the Dutch are seen internationally as a key driver behind knowledge development.
The LNV provided a subsidy that stimulated the sustainable development of cocoa and chocolate sectors for a period of four years (2004-2007). This subsidy was derived from the Dutch part of the revenues generated through the sale of the cocoa buffer stock. This stock has been accumulating since 1974, when the Netherlands became involved in several International Cocoa Agreements. The rationale behind this stock was that by jointly buying or selling cocoa countries would be able to maintain a stable price on the world market. Because of the limited effect of this system and liberalisation of trade, it was decided to liquide the stock in 1993.
The total subsidy of 12 million Euro has benefited 22 different projects in both consumer and production countires (such as Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and Papaua Naw Guinea). The allocation of the subsidy was in the hands of a steering committee of experts from the Dutch cocoa sector. The approved projects sought to contribute to the sustainable development of the sector and foster
- capacity and institution building in countries of origin;
- system, process, or product innovations that contribute to strengthening the economic structure of the sector or the improvement of the quality of products, especially food quality;
- improvement in the welbeing of employees working in the cocoa sector in orirgin countries and their families;
- reduction of the environmental impact of the sector.
Types of activities eligible for this subsidy include research and development; general information supply; edudation, training and technical assistance; and investment.
In addition to subsidies, also regulation stimulates innovation in the Netherlands. Dutch laws and regulation are strict, which contributes to fostering a climate of innovation. The next chapter, covering innovation in the Harbour of Amsterdam, will give some samples of how the key players perscaive these subsidies and regulation and will discuss their impact on knowledge development.
foto’s genomen op het Chocolate Event Amsterdam 2012 door Hay Hermans