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EIT Food Discovered: Keeping the heart of an organisation pumping

EIT Food Discovered: Keeping the heart of an organisation pumping

This month our HQ Operations Project Manager, Anne-Marie Banescu, gives us her reflections on her role and why she feels that Operations is the heart of our organisation

Hi Anne-Marie! Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what led you to join EIT Food?

I’m Belgian and was born in Brussels. My first degree was in Political Science and then I completed a Masters in Environmental Science as I am personally very interested in environmental issues. I worked for an MEP in the European Parliament for 3 years and then the European Commission for a further 7 years on topics covering agriculture and food safety. So even before I joined EIT Food, food was already in my career portfolio!

That’s quite an impressive CV! So what led you to join EIT Food?

I was really interested in the scope of the organisation and the objective to improve the food sector in a more sustainable way. So to work for an organisation whose values were very similar to my own and that was driving real change and impact was very attractive. I also loved the fact that my role was going to be so diverse: I turned up on the first day as one of the three first people in the organisation and we had to establish everything from scratch, from setting up the systems to allow funding from the EU, through to ordering computers for everyone and furniture for the office!

And what’s your role now at EIT Food?

It’s very broad. Within the Operations team we are responsible for managing the grant cycle process, from when the call for funding process opens, supporting procedures for proposal identification, all the way through to getting the funding contracts signed and monitoring the progress of funded projects throughout the year. This process finishes with us coordinating the end of year cost and performance report. As a team we also draft and amend the Business Plans that go to the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) each year to make sure that we get the funding we need as an organisation.

As a bit of an EIT Food ‘veteran’, what are your reflections on how the organisation has developed since you’ve been here?

The organisation has needed to grow quickly from those first three employees! And during that time I have gotten to know so many great people – that’s been a highlight for me. We are still in a startup phase, and this means that many processes need to be shaped according to our vision. I believe that we are at a crucial moment in the organisation’s growth.  

And what challenges have you personally come across as the organisation has developed?

The obvious downside to high growth of an organisation is that it becomes increasingly difficult to know who does what. My personal challenge has always been to keep sharing central information with new colleagues in the right way: you don’t want to be seen as ‘the boring one’ who is trying to get people to follow rules, but in reality I do what I do to help new employees understand the organisation structure and to avoid going through the same problems and pains that we did!

How do you think that the work you do in Operations is driving impact in EIT Food?

For me, Operations is the heart of the organisation – if you don’t submit a high quality business plan to EIT, you won’t receive the expected grant to implement the projects supporting our strategy. So without a team to do this the EIT Food projects are at risk. This might sound very administrative and uninteresting to some people, but it is critical: we are here to find a balance between what we want to do and what EIT and EU funding rules allow us to do and it is mastering this balance that allows us to deliver impact. Our senior management team are already working together with the EIT and other Knowledge & Innovations Communities (KICs) to simplify and improve procedures.

And if you could change one thing about the food sector, what would it be?

There are so many things that I would like to change! Perhaps the best thing we could do would be encourage consumption of food that is locally grown, seasonal and sustainable. I think this would have real impact as we would be reducing food transportation, supporting local businesses and minimising our environmental footprint.

Finally, would you like to nominate another employee to be interviewed for the next instalment of EIT Food Discovered?

I would like to nominate Barbaros Corekoglu as I think the work done in the Public Affairs team with European Policy Makers is very important for positioning EIT Food on the European stage.

“For me Operations is the heart of the organisation – if you don’t submit a high quality business plan to EIT, you won’t receive the expected grant to implement the projects supporting our strategy. So without a team to do this the EIT Food projects are at risk.”

(Anne-Marie Banescu, HQ Operations Project Manager)