Redigert Bilde Kari Og Jenny LL 4 Grass Ceiling
Produsenter | 28.05.24

Rural women innovators in Trøndelag contribute to EU-level research

The GRASS CEILING-project is now half way in its course. The fifth Living Lab gathering takes place this Thursday, when a selection of women rural entrepreneurs meet to share of their experiences to be heard all the way to EU- decision making level.

By Mai Løvaas/Oi! Trøndersk Mat og Drikke


For the duration of three years, eight rural women innovators in Trøndelag are part of the research project GRASS CEILING. The project is funded by Horizon, the world's largest funding program for research and innovation, and a EU resource to acquire new knowledge in Europe. 
Oi! Trøndersk Mat og Drikke and Ruralis are the two Norwegian project partners among the nine European Union countries that are participating in the project. Countries like Spain, Italy, Lithuania and Croatia all ask their rural women innovators the same questions: What is it like being an entrepreneur in agriculture and local food production in rural areas? Do women have the same access to resources as men do, and what are possible barriers for women starting their own businesses and upscaling their companies?
- I'm very happy with the Living Lab and I think it's working really well. We're a good mix of great women, and I'm very pleased to be part of the project, says Torunn Bjerkem.

 Torunn Bjerkem. Photo: Kulturgården Bjerkem

Bjerkem has been part of building the heirloom flour mill company Gullimunn, and is now in a substantial restructuring- and innovation process with her farm Kulturgården Bjerkem, offering local food, accommodation and cultural events.
- It's great that someone like Mikael Forselius will be at the next Living Lab, talking to us about networking and his diverse experiences in the local food- and hospitality industry, says Bjerkem.

Three Living Labs a year for three years

During the three annual Living Labs the project managers gather knowledge and experiences from the rural women innovators, in a data collection process. This data is analyzed as research that is delivered to the top level of the EU-project. In this way the European Commission can make informed decisions about how they can support rural women innovators in the future.
So far, research has shown that rural women innovators contribute to more business in rural areas, they create sustainable innovations, and initiate and build healthy social communities. 
- I really enjoy the social aspect when we meet for our Living Lab gatherings. Vi support each other, and give each other ideas and perspectives on each other's businesses and products. It's a good thing to be able to share the things that can feel heavy about owning a business, says Kari Øye.

 Kari Øye at the showcase with the EU project GRASS CEILING in Brussels. Photo: Mai Løvaas

Øye has created the company Havfruene, producing Omega 3-rich cod liver oil made from locally sourced ingredients. They have a stand at the annual food festival in Trondheim: Trøndersk Matfestival, and Øye attended the Grass Ceiling-showcase i Brussel, where she presented her business to the rural women innovators and project partners of the other countries, as well as representatives from the European Commission.

Workshops and 'homework'

In the Living Labs the participants have gotten workshops and lectures by various consulting- and funding agencies, such as Innovation Norway, Fosenregionen, SISU Business and Proneo.
- We got homework to ask our customers why they choose our product, says Sissel Langørgen.

Her and her husband own the dairy farm Høstadsand Gård, and sell fresh milk and yogurt to commercial kitchens, restaurants and people in the region.
- I thought I knew the answer; that people buy our farm's milk and yogurt because of price. We have put the price of our products to a very beneficial level for our customers. But the answer I got was that my customers buy the milk because of how good it tastes. That was news to me, she says.

Lunch at Pilegrimsgården during the April Living Lab. From left Rita Moseng Sivertsvik, Living Lab co-lead from Ruralis, Maja Farstad, PhD and researcher at Ruralis, participants Sissel Langørgen, Jenny K. Domås, Kari Øye, Torunn Bjerkem, and Living Lab co-lead Mai Løvaas from Oi! Trøndersk Mat og Drikke. Photo: Pilegrimsgården in Trondheim

In the coming year and a half two more women innovators from the project will travel to Vilnius and Brussels respectively, to present their businesses to the project. The participants are excited to learn about the final results of the GRASS CEILING project, which will be presented by the end of 2025.

Read more about GRASS CEILING HERE.