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Ariadna Curtuiusan from Spain gets project in innovation methods for agrifood start-ups off to a flying start

Antien Zuidberg is Professor in Design Methods in Food. Her research focus lies in design methods that help more food innovations reach the market successfully. In particular, meaningful food innovations that help consumers towards sustainable and healthy food.

Antien’s work includes in-depth research in students’ final-year projects. In February, such a project will start, aimed at developing a method to help agrifood start-ups with innovation.

Stimulating student exchange in research

Post-graduate intern Ariadna Curtuiusan, from the study programme Food Science & Technology at Universita Autonoma de Barcelona, spent the past 3 months carrying out exploratory research for this project. The Universita Autonoma is a partner of HAS University of Applied Sciences. One of the aims of partner institutions is to stimulate student exchanges through internships or studying abroad. Ariadna came to the Netherlands as part of the Erasmus programme.

Gaining international experience

Ariadna tells us that she had not yet been abroad during her studies and that this opportunity offered her a great chance to gain valuable international experience. In her study programme, she had heard little about innovation methods, so this research gave her the opportunity to explore the topic. She chose the Netherlands because of the country’s leading role in agrifood in Europe, as well as its track record when it comes to sustainability.

Supporting a project

For Antien, Adriana’s arrival meant she could get her project off to a flying start. “If you want to develop a method, then you first need to map out what’s required and what the target group needs,” she explains. “This means carrying out and writing up lots of interviews. Ariadna was able to really focus on this. Once the final-year project starts, we can get straight on with working on the model, using the conclusions from Ariadna’s exploratory research as a basis, instead of relying solely on existing literature. This gives us a huge head start.”

Dedication and commitment

Antien highly recommends working with international interns. The fact that, during her career as a lecturer, she’d already supervised many interns also helped in this case. “International students are motivated, dedicated and willing to bridge any linguistic and cultural gaps. They can give a project a real boost. Internationalisation in research has added value for me as a professor and also for the intern.”

Dutch mentality

Ariadna also learned a lot. She travelled through the whole country talking to people about successful and less successful innovations; the challenges they faced and what they needed to get their innovation to market. “I really got to know the Dutch culture. It was noticeable how open the people are here, and they didn’t mind talking to me in English. This tells you something about the Dutch mentality. In Spain, we all think that the people from the north are introvert, but that isn’t the case. Not even towards a Spanish intern,” Ariadna says with a smile.