Happy 20th birthday says EQAsce and looks back to many years of cooperation. Like GIQS e.V., many other enterprises of the agri and food sector celebrate their 20th anniversary this year – such as QS GmbH or Qualitype GmbH.
Prof. Dr. Brigitte Petersen has been the chairwoman of the board since the founding of GIQS in March 2001 and since 2016 is chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the German-Dutch research and development platform.
EQAsce: What was the reason for founding an association in the Euregio and who were the founding members or partners in the first years?
Dr. Petersen: The driving forces for investments in German-Dutch cross-border research and development of the 1990s were scientists from the two universities of Bonn and Wageningen. The establishment of a joint R&D platform in the Euregio Rhine-Waal coincided with the turbulent time of the BSE and other food crises and the paradigm shift of industry ownership in consumer health protection.
The foundation of the non-profit association GIQS in March 2021 as the first public-private partnership network in Europe made it possible to include the topic of individual and inter-company quality management in the EU Interreg III A program. The topics of dismantling trade barriers in the common market of the EU and the introduction of the Euro currency at the beginning of the new millennium have occupied all industries. Especially the small and medium-sized structured agricultural and food industry in the Euregio needed fast organizational, technical, and professional support by science and administration.The founding members of GIQS were – in addition to the two universities of Bonn and Wageningen – the chambers of agriculture in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, animal health services and veterinary offices, cooperatively organized producer groups and slaughterhouses on the German and Dutch sides, the district of Kleve, Productschappen, and private-sector system developers and service providers. Start-up companies of that time also joined the GIQS network, such as QS-GmbH, Qualitype AG or Chainfood b.v., and actively participated in the projects of the first years.
To this day, the structure of the association as a public-private partnership network has been preserved and the objectives set out in its statutes – promotion of joint and collaborative projects, knowledge transfer and education – are as relevant as they were 20 years ago. In recent years, GIQS has been actively involved in the establishment of further international networks and has been the initiator and driving force behind numerous new forms of project collaboration.
EQAsce: What drives GIQS members to keep facing new challenges in cross-border cooperation over two decades?
Dr. Petersen: The members have a common vision: To overcome borders! The success of the past years is motivation to all GIQS members and new project partners to face the upcoming challenges jointly as a strong community. In the past years there have been over a dozen joint projects that enabled the GIQS-team to succeed in§
- Overcoming borders between different subject disciplines
- Overcoming borders in areas of competences and responsibility of public and private actors
- Overcoming state borders shaped by different language and working conditionsthrough their own intercultural competence in coordination and financial project management.
EQAsce: For more than a year, we have been living in a state of emergency worldwide due to the Corona pandemic. But other crisis events, such as climate change, are also part of the current debate. How does the situation of 20 years ago differ from the one we are facing today? And what contribution can GIQS make today to accelerate crisis response?
Dr. Petersen: Today, we live in the much-cited VUCA world that places new demands on science, business, and government in the D-NL border region. The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis make us feel the VUCA world every day. The acronym VUCA can be reversed from the original rather pessimistic view to an optimistic one. This can be achieved by opposing the four letters of the words used to describe the situation by four letters of future strategies. One of GIQS’ strategies for the future has always been – and still is – to always see an opportunity in a crisis:
- Vision against Volatility
- Understanding against Uncertainty
- Clarity against Complexity
- Agility against Ambiguity
Flexibility and quick action characterize the decision-making bodies of GIQS. To be prepared for the future, the public-private partnership network GIQS continues to rely not only on new technologies but also on the extensive experience of cross-border cooperation and the knowledge of how to deal with changes and master new challenges together. Combining research, innovation, and education through the members of the network will be an important success factor for the continuation of the association in the next years. Then, the challenge is to contribute to the sustainability and climate goals not only for the next generations in the border region, but also worldwide.
EQAsce: What are your wishes to GIQS for the future?
Dr. Petersen: To the GIQS leadership team on the Board of Directors I wish that they can use the current crisis as an opportunity. Another wish for the future is to be able to rely on a network that is committed to the paradigm shift of not only demanding the obligation to protect future generations, but also finding ways to implement it. Twenty years ago, it was the many fellow campaigners from science, business and industry associations who campaigned for a paradigm shift towards industry’s own responsibility in consumer health protection. Today, I wish the network reliable, motivated partners in the further development of cross-border research and development tasks and in knowledge transfer.