R&D partnerships: an approach to accelerate innovation

QOOT Cluster brought together Lebanese enterprises and SMEs, knowledge providers and support institutions to learn about joint R&D projects, shedding light on the economy within the current crisis situation. More than 60 professionals joined QOOT Cluster’s Zoom In & Learn webinar to discuss different initiatives, bringing together a collaborative approach in the agri-food sector.

QOOT Cluster's Crucial Role

Today, more than ever, QOOT Cluster's role is crucial in being the medium between the different stakeholders in the agri-food sector, and bringing together Academia, Research Centers, and the Private Sector to work and solve common challenges.

Nadine Khoury, President of QOOT Cluster and COO at Robinson Agri, emphasized the importance of the cluster in times of crisis: “When we first launched QOOT Cluster we had in mind two main goals : promoting Lebanon’s agri-food sector by encouraging innovation and sustainability, but also bringing Lebanese agri-food stakeholder together so we can work and develop. That is exactly what a cluster does, helping, supporting, and sharing."

Stressing on the importance of the agri-food sector in time of crisis, she added: “In addition to health concerns, we should consider the basic necessities such as water, electricity, fuel, Internet… and above all food. Our food security is by far the most critical, we should make sure that our communities are not disrupted by unforeseen events, people should not starve. So, now more than ever we are aware of the role that our cluster must play. It would be impossible to survive unless we collaborate and innovate. As we give tribute to doctors and nurses in hospitals fighting for the life of patients with COVID-19 virus, we should include food suppliers who despite the risk, are working daily to bring food to our plates.”

Industry-academic partnerships: an approach to accelerate innovation

The webinar combined speakers from the professionals and academia, to present and discuss the importance of collaborative strategy to overcome the actual situation in Lebanon. The speakers included Dr. Rabi Mohtar - Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) at the American University of Beirut, Antoine Abou Samra - Senior Business Consultant of the Euro Lebanese Center for Industrial Modernization (ELCIM) and the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CIT) at the Industrial Research Institute (IRI), and Huda Saigh - Program manager at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Dr. Rabi Mohtar discussed the importance of accelerating innovation through industry-academic partnerships. He insisted on the importance of having an integrated strategy to bring the sector forward, partnering the government, industry, and academia to accelerate innovations and bring the sector forward to reduce resource gaps.
Antoine Abou Samra presented how ELCIM has been providing to help the sector, they have been providing over 350 companies technical assistance, and 600 business assessment missions. ELCIM has been financing support program through the Innovation Voucher Program and ESSP Program.

Moreover, Berytech has partnered with ELCIM to mobilize academia and research institutions to work on commercializing Lebanese intellectual property for the benefit of different sectors and to advance the Knowledge Economy. The goal is to create opportunities for innovators through different pillars including valorizing Lebanese research to commercialization and industry advancement. Four grants of $25,000 each are available through the ACT Smart Innovation Hub for projects innovating in the agri-food or cleantech sector. Read more

Huda Saigh presented the technical assistance opportunities available through EBRD, as they are helping small and medium-sized businesses access the know-how they need to grow. She explained how they can help the agri-food accompanies to support them improve their decision-making, expand to new markets, qualify for new certifications, among others.

The interventions ended with a great exchange, where the different academics and professionals discussed the future steps to strengthen the collaboration between academia and the private sector.

QOOT Cluster announces newly appointed board members

QOOT Cluster announced the newly appointed board members for the next two years. The board will be meeting regularly to ensure and validate the strategy of QOOT Cluster, meeting with different stakeholders, and recruiting potential new members working on innovation in the agri-food sector.

Nadine Khoury, the president of QOOT Cluster board and COO at Robinson Agri stated, "We, the founding members of QOOT Cluster, worked on strengthening and developing collaboration across the agricultural stakeholders from academia to the private sector, Industry, financial institutions and the Government. Participating in the launching of this cluster was a dream coming true, focusing on very important values, how to cooperate and not compete."

She added: "It is about the evolution of  Lebanese Agriculture and Food industry, about how we can brand our tasty healthy fresh produce and food, about innovation and the introduction of new techniques, and about fulfilling Corporate Social Responsibility. QOOT Cluster is the platform which will eventually play an important role in building a greener, more innovative, more cooperative and more effective economy."

The newly appointed board members include:

Nadine Khoury | President of the board, and COO at Robinson Agri

After graduating in 1995 with a B.S. in Agriculture Engineering from the American University of Beirut, Nadine Khoury went to the Kingdom of the Netherlands for a six months training before launching her roses and colored pepper project.
Equipped with an important operational experience, she started working at Robinson Agri, the company founded by her father Sami El Khoury. Armed with a solid belief in the potential of Lebanese Agriculture with the help of a highly specialized team, Nadine ascended the role of COO, directly contributing to the expansion of the Greenhouse & Seed businesses of Robinson Agri, and the establishment of Agrigrow - the professional plant nursery founded in partnership with Dutch company Grow Group, an international front runner and specialist in grafting vegetable plants.
Her focus on innovation pushed Robinson Agri to the forefront of advancing agriculture in Lebanon. Not stopping at agriculture, Nadine worked on the establishment of Elysee WISE in joint venture with Elysee - Cyprus, a factory for irrigation and potable water PE pipes and is actively heading its Business Development Unit.
Over the course of her career, Nadine has served as a member in different professional associations like LDBA, the Association of Lebanese Industrialists and Byblos Industrialists Assembly, and recently as board member in WLC and in Agrytech Program, also as the President of QOOT Agri-Food Innovation Cluster.

Youssef Rifai | Vice president of the board, and Operation Manager at Alrifai

As the operation manager at Alrifai, Youssef leads, trains, and develops the team serving the customers at the retail stores; he also coordinates with purchasing and manufacturing to ensure products availability including working with marketing to develop new products.

Paul Eid | Treasurer of the board, and Co-Founder and CFO of 209 Lebanese Wine

Paul Eid is a financial expert with more than 25 years of experience in Strategy and Financial Engineering, including but not limited to budgeting and planning, banking relations, fiscal & legal relations as well as running shared services units in the MENA region.
Paul contributed to the drafting of different fiscal regulations with the Lebanese Ministry of Finance Authorities mainly on the VAT front.
As a Co-Founder and CFO of 209 Lebanese Wine, Paul leads on the Financial Strategy and Operations of the company. He is also partnering and contributing in the financial management of different successful startups.
Paul translated his experience into coaching and training modules with local and regional accelerators such as Smart ESA Business School and CEWA middle East. He holds a B.S. in Banking and Finance and a master’s degree in Business Administration.

Hilbert Van der Werf | Supply Chain Manager at Brasserie Almaza

Hilbert Van der Werf held several positions at Heineken in the Kingdom of The Netherlands, DR Congo and Ethiopia before settling in Lebanon as the Supply Chain manager at Brasserie Almaza in January 2019.
His main expertise lies in brewing, quality, people and organizational development, and continuous improvement.
Hilbert studied Food Quality Management at Wageningen University from 2002-2008, at the time the Food Valley initiative started there.

Nabil Shuman | General Manager of Agriplus Offshore

Nabil Shuman has extensive experience in Management, Marketing, R&D, and Business Development in the Agri-food industry. He has held several managerial positions in poultry integrations in Lebanon, Yemen, and Sudan, and has served on the board of several institutions in Lebanon and abroad. Currently, he is the General Manager of Agriplus Offshore and the Chairman of the board of Brands Holding.

Rana Abdou | Agriculture Program Manager at Arcenciel

Rana Abdou is an agricultural engineer specialized in Environmental Engineering. After her graduation in 2012 from the Lebanese University, she went to Greece to undertake a 2-year Master of Science program at the Mediterranean agronomic Institute of Chania (MAICH), focusing on Sustainable Agriculture.
After coming back to Lebanon in 2014, she started working with Arcenciel at the Domaine of Taanayel as project coordinator within different projects such as hydroponic, postharvest, composting, etc. In 2015 she moved to Arcenciel’s headquarters as the Agriculture program manager.
Her main expertise lies in agricultural production, agro-food production, water quality, program development, process improvement, strategic planning, quality assurance, project management and organizational development.

Valerie Zakka | Founder of Zakka Technologies

Born into the world of packaging machinery, Valerie has since an early age developed a love for industry and trade, working alongside her late father for many years learning the challenges and requirements of serving customers in the various industrial fields.
Today, managing her own company - Zakka Technologies, Valerie offers innovative packaging and processing solutions and technical service, always finding ways to bring greater value to her customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

QOOT Cluster opens adherence eligibility to Associate Members

QOOT Cluster has gathered, over the past year, successful Lebanese SMEs and large companies working on innovations in the agri-food sector to collaborate, promote and develop smarter solutions in the sector. Adherence to the cluster is on a membership eligibility basis.

QOOT Cluster has now announced adherence eligibility to Associate Members allowing companies providing services, expertise, or knowledge for the agri-food businesses focusing mainly on innovation to join. Service providers eligible to join as associate members include among others, consultancy firms, law firms, laboratory for food safety analysis, financing and auditing firms, insurance companies, certification bodies, as well as marketing and communication firms.

Associate Members will provide support and guidance to the cluster members, and will have the opportunity to deliver workshops and trainings within their respective expertise.

QOOT Members are invited to the meetings and events organized by QOOT Cluster as well as receiving discount voucher to the paid workshops and events. Being an Associate Member will allow the company to stay up-to-date about new development projects in the agri-food sector, having priority to work on the agri-food members development projects, having a company profile on the QOOT Cluster website, benefiting from B2B meetings organized by QOOT Cluster, and the opportunity to meet potential investors and business partners via Berytech's international connections.

The yearly associate membership fee varies per company’s size. It is $350/year for small companies (1 to 10 employees), $650/year for medium-sized companies (11 to 50 employees), and $1,000/year for large companies (more than 50 employees).


Become an associate member of QOOT Cluster by clicking here.

QOOT Cluster signs R&D agreements with universities of Lebanon

As part of its mission to bring together MSMEs, multinational companies, knowledge providers, support institutions, and investment entities to collaboratively catalyze and innovate in the agri-food sector in Lebanon, QOOT Cluster signed 4 Memoranda of Understanding with 4 different universities: American University of Beirut - Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Balamand, American University of Science and Technology, and University Saint Joseph - ESIAM.

Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Vice President for Internationalization & Engagement at the University of Balamand, Professor Rami Abboud remarked that such collaborative work with the industrial partners, especially those who emphasize innovation and R&D, is key to advance the competitive advantage of their graduates. [1]

These collaborations between the agri-food economic players mainly private sector, and academia and the research institutions, will allow to accelerate the innovation in all areas of the agri-food sector, and help put Lebanon back on the global agri-food innovation map. Indeed, the QOOT Cluster as well as the universities will work jointly to raise awareness amongst Agri-food sector players on the research and development capabilities of the universities and emphasize on the necessities of conducting R&D activities for better competitiveness and sustainability.

QOOT Cluster will be providing different challenges and needs of its different member’s, allowing the final year projects be based on the local and regional market needs while getting feedback from the cluster stakeholders.


[1] Source: Balamand University News

QOOT Cluster organizes crisis management sessions

QOOT Cluster organized several sessions to discuss the different solutions to the different challenges faced by its members in times of crisis.

The members met to discuss the challenges faced in this critical situation, and brainstormed about common solutions. They also attended an inspirational breakfast session with Dr. Roger Van Hoesel, Executive Director of Food Valley NL, to talk about the cluster role in time of crises while emphasizing on some international agri-food companies resilience and the way they succeeded through rough times.

Cluster members worked together and focused on different strategies to overcome this critical period by mapping and prioritizing the key risk areas stressing on the importance of finding substitutes of raw imported materials and building collaborative projects between industries.

Learn more about the importance of Clustering and the Role of Agri-food in crisis with Dr. Roger Van Hoesel here.

Crisis Management workshop

Risk management workshop for QOOT Cluster members

Crisis Management workshop

QOOT - the agri-food innovation cluster, organized a workshop for its member on "Managing your venture's cash-flows during crisis and developing your crisis and risk management plan", presented by Constantin Salameh, senior coach and investment advisor at Berytech.

During the workshop, they focused on different strategies to overcome this critical period by mapping and prioritizing the key risk areas. Also, they focused on the importance of maintaining the quality of the venture's cash-flow and corrective actions to address the funding gaps.

Rani Azzi, Assistant technical director at Chateau Kefraya and QOOT's vice president commented: "Great interactive workshop, a must during this tough crisis. Left with concrete strategies, practical solution to survive and how to turn it into an opportunity”.

Following the crisis management workshop, members benefited from one on one coaching sessions with Salameh to get feedback on their crisis management plan and develop it further.

Read more about the 10 simple steps to survive the crisis https://berytech.org/crisis-management-10-simple-steps-for-all-entrepreneurs/

With a mission to accelerate innovation in the agri-food sector, QOOT, initiated by Berytech and the Embassy of the Netherlands under the Agrytech program, was launched in February 2019 and gathers successful Lebanese entrepreneurs and pioneers to collaborate, promote and develop smarter solutions in the sector. 

World Food Innovation Platform_web-01

QOOT Cluster members on World Food Innovations Platform

World Food Innovation Platform_web-01

Global cooperation and innovation are key to face the world’s challenges when it comes to feeding a growing population while maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment.

By unlocking AgFood related knowledge, resources and solutions, Food Valley, and through its platform World Food Innovations, aims to accelerate AgFood innovation worldwide in order to contribute to an optimal quality of life.

World Food Innovations is a unique platform to discover and share developments, insights and innovative solutions, helping in stimulating global cooperation, innovation and business.

Part of the objectives of QOOT as a cluster is to find opportunities to showcase Lebanese Agri-Food innovations worldwide. “Showcasing on this platform is an opportunity for our cluster members to increase their visibilities and to attract both European and international stakeholders, partners, and investors,” explains Jihane Chelha, QOOT Cluster Manager.

World Food Innovations: the global innovation hub and meeting place for innovators, companies, research organizations, universities, business clusters, investors, media, government and many more.


Trade mission

QOOT Cluster members on trade mission to the Netherlands

Trade mission

Eight companies, members of QOOT Cluster, participated in a trade mission to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, organized by the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon, the Lebanese Dutch Business Association (LDBA) and Food Valley Cluster in early October 2019.

The objectives of the trade mission were to allow the QOOT Cluster members to gain a broader perspective of the agribusiness sector while creating a connection between Lebanese and Dutch enterprises.

The two-day program included a workshop to better understand the retail system in the Netherlands. Members were introduced to the different main players in the Netherlands as well as the different trends in the European processed food industry. The members attended a workshop on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC- Corporate Social Responsibility, and participated in B2B meetings and visited Food Valley, Wageningen University and FrieslandCampine.

Samer Sfeir co-founder of Hum’n Go stated: “the workshops allowed me to better understand the European market trends in the food sector specially regarding innovation, social and environmental responsibility as well as convenience of the product, in what relates to opportunities that our products can provide in European market.”

The program also included a networking reception at the Lebanese ambassador's residence in The Hague with key people from government and the private sector of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

QOOT Cluster members participants in the mission were: Agriplus, Colonel Beer, Hum’n go, Karma, Mr. Leaves, Natagri, Riachy Vineyards, and Smart Gourmet.

FAFS Exhibition

Qoot at the Agricultural, Landscape, Nutrition, and Food Industries Exhibition 2019

Qoot Cluster members participated in the Agricultural, Landscape, Nutrition, and Food Industries Exhibition 2019 at the American University of Beirut Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences Courtyard on October 3-5, 2019.

Jihane Chahla, Qoot agri-food cluster manager, discussed how an innovation cluster is helping agri-food businesses in accelerating growth. As part of Qoot agri-food innovation cluster, more than 30 MSMEs and large companies are gathering to collaborate and increase opportunities for the country’s food sector, promoting it to a new level of innovation and global recognition.

Agricultural, Landscape, Nutrition, and Food Industries Exhibition

In its second edition, the AUB FAFS Alumni Chapter organized the Agricultural, Landscape, Nutrition, and Food Industries Exhibition, under the patronage of AUB President Dr. Fadlo Khuri. The event gathered attendees from agri-research institutes, NGO’s, farmers, ago-food industry members and included as well educational and scientific lectures presented by specialists of participating and exhibiting companies.

Next society FELIX

QOOT Cluster at FILEX France Forum

Next society FELIX

QOOT Cluster and cluster member Robinson Agri , participated in the first International Business development mission organized by THE NEXT SOCIETY in Paris as part of their Cluster Booster Track, for clusters in the MENA region and their members.

Lina Zgheib Business Development Manager at Robinson Agri joined 18 clusters and companies, benefitting from THE NEXT SOCIETY, from 7 different countries from the MENA region, and took part in the workshops organized by France Clusters and focusing on inter-cluster cooperation to support economic development of companies and the Mediterranean area by exploring potential synergies that can lead to business partnerships between different organizations.

QOOT Cluster benefits from THE NEXT SOCIETY - Cluster Booster Track, a peer support and learning business opportunities and open new channels for collaboration between clusters at national and international level.

International business development mission at FILEX France Forum

THE NEXT SOCIETY, in collaboration with France Clusters, organized the first International Market Mission for MENA clusters and member companies during FILEX France Forum, the national forum of sectors of excellence and territorial ecosystems on 12-13 September 2019. The forum brought together 250 cluster managers, poles of competitiveness, accelerators, incubators , territorial decision-makers, directors of schools, universities and technical centers as well as innovation funders to exchange on key themes.

Launched by ANIMA Investment Network, THE NEXT SOCIETY initiated a four-year action plan (2017-2020), co-funded by the European Union up to 90% for a global amount of EUR 7.8 million, which impacts 4 levels of the innovation ecosystem: Improve policy frameworks, Foster startup successes, Promote and internationalize clusters, and Accelerate technology transfer towards the enterprise. The exclusive partner in Lebanon of THE NEXT SOCIETY is Berytech – co-founders of the QOOT Cluster.

Read more on http://www.animaweb.org/en/thenextsociety-clusters-mena-filex-paris