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Brussels, 25 July 2003

Improving food quality and safety: EU to fund 24 new research projects and networks

24 food quality and safety research projects and 12 support actions have been awarded an initial EU contribution of €166 million in the first year of the EU 6th Research Framework Programme (FP6). They are the first projects of this kind to receive FP6 funding, totalling close to €20 billion over 4 years (2003-2006). The projects and networks, some of which will receive up to €17 million each, will tackle consumer-oriented issues such as food-related diseases and allergies, the impact of food on health, environmentally-friendly production methods, and environmental health risks, making extensive use of the new approaches offered by FP6. Most of these major new research initiatives will contribute to the implementation of relevant EU policies with sound scientific data and recommendations.

Announcing the new research projects European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: “In Europe, we are proud of the quality food we produce. I am encouraged by the great response we get from our researchers across Europe to work together to increase our knowledge about our food and to make it even better and safer. Through our European research programmes, we give our top scientists and companies the necessary resources to improve the food we eat and its effects on our health and well-being.”

The EU 6th Research Framework Programme

FP6 started on January 1st 2003, with a first crop of calls for proposals published on December 17th, 2002. FP6 has a budget of close to €20 billion, to be allocated on the basis of evaluations following calls for proposals over 4 years. For Priority 5 - Food Quality and Safety - the initial budget is €685 million. On the basis of the evaluation of research proposals by independent experts, the best proposals have been short-listed by the Commission to receive EU funding. Following approval by the Commission and a review by the programme committee(1), contract negotiations will be initiated with project co-ordinators.

Projects to be funded

Following the closure of the call in April, 200 proposals, representing almost €1.4 billion, were evaluated by independent experts under the supervision of the Commission. The experts' shortlists form the basis of the funding decisions of the European Commission. Subject to budgetary constraints, up to 36 proposals, representing an initial EU contribution of €166 million, are expected to receive funding (see table).

Due to the overwhelming number of high quality proposals and a limited budget a number of topics could not be covered and some of these might be re-introduced into the work programme for 2004.

Overview of submitted proposals and shortlist of projects

Funding approach

Proposals evaluatedBudgetary requestPassing the thresholdProjects short-listedInitial EU contribution
Integrated projects 69€1157.7m256€127.7m
Networks of Excellence246
Specific Targeted Research Projects70€193.4m3311€31.4m
Concerted actions61
Specific support actions31€19.3m1212€6.9m

New instruments

FP6 foresees two new funding instruments: integrated projects and networks of excellence. These new instruments are designed to give EU activities a bigger impact and bring about better co-ordination of research conducted in Europe. A high proportion of the newly-funded projects use the new instruments of FP6 to tackle some of the major and growing concerns of scientists, public authorities and consumers. These comprise 6 integrated projects, with an average recommended EU contribution of €13.6 million, and 6 networks of excellence, with an average recommended EU contribution of €14.4 million. The number and scale of these projects reflect the will of European scientists to structure the European Research Area. These ambitious projects will investigate issues such as low input and organic production systems; prevention, control and management of prion diseases; improved strategies in animal welfare for improved food quality; and allergy and asthma. See Annex for short descriptions of these.

Traditional instruments

A further 12 projects use traditional instruments: one is a co-ordinated Action on the influence of nutrition on healthy ageing and 11 are specific targeted research projects (STREP) with an average recommended EU contribution of €2.6 million. The STREPs include projects on pathogen-free production systems; health risks from heat-treated foods; biological crop protection systems; and antibiotic resistance in animals, plants and humans. The Annex provides a full list of targeted and funded topics.

Supporting research

In addition to the research projects, 12 specific support actions are short-listed for funding for a total EU contribution of €6.9 million. Several of these target training and networking researchers and technology transfer, particularly in candidate countries, while other actions aim at disseminating results, sharing good practice stemming from research and helping international discussions in the light of technical progress.

International participation

Overall 17% of participants in the shortlist are from outside the 15 Member States (MS). For traditional instruments out of 162 participants, 134 are from MS, 16 (10%) from candidate countries (CC) and 11 from other countries associated with FP6, such as Norway and Israel, or third countries(2): Russia and China. For the new instruments, out of 403 participants, 334 are from MS, 26 (6.5%) are from CC, 33 from other associated countries, such as Iceland, and 10 from third countries such as Australia, Canada, China, Cuba and the USA. For SSA, 50% of participants are from non-MS.

SME participation

The overall level of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) participation is 103 out of 666 participants (15%). However, the figure is substantially lower in terms of proposed EU contribution, indicating that additional efforts are needed to reach the target of 15% of the budget. Several among the selected consortia foresee open calls to extend their partnership towards the inclusion of SMEs as opportunity arises through progress in their research.

Note for editors

What are the “instruments” of the Sixth Framework programme?

  • Integrated projects (IP) aim either to increase Europe's competitiveness or address major needs in society. Their main tasks is to deliver knowledge for new products, processes, services, etc… Projects must contain a research component. They may also focus on technological development, contain demonstration components and contain a training component. A single project may span over the whole research spectrum (i.e. from basic to applied research).

  • Networks of excellence (NoE) are designed to strengthen scientific and technological excellence on a particular research topic. They aim to overcome the fragmentation of European research by networking together the critical mass of resources, networking the expertise needed to provide European leadership. NoE must also spread excellence beyond the boundaries of the partnership.

  • Specific targeted research projects (STREP) are research projects designed to gain knowledge or improve existing products, processes or services OR a demonstration project designed to prove the viability of new technologies. Typically between 2 to 3 years, but may be extended beyond 3 years.

  • Co-ordinated action (CA) aim to promote and support the networking and co-ordination of research and innovation activities. They cover activities such as: conferences, studies, exchange of personnel, exchange and dissemination of good practices, setting up common information systems and expert groups. A single project may span over the whole research spectrum.

  • Specific support action (SSA) aim to support the implementation of FP6 and in particular to stimulate, encourage and facilitate the participation of: SMEs, small research teams, newly developed and remote research centres, organisations from the Candidate Countries. For example: Conferences, Seminars, Studies and analysis, working and expert Groups, operational support and dissemination, information and communication, or a combination of these.

For more of instruments of FP6:

Food quality and safety

Priority 5 of the Sixth Framework programme focuses on the total food chain through research articulated in 7 specific areas:

  • Epidemiology of food-related diseases and allergies

  • Impact of food on health,

  • Traceability processes along the production chain

  • Methods of analysis, detection and control

  • Safer and environmentally friendly production methods

  • Impact of animal feed on human health

  • Environmental health risks.

    A number of specific topics were chosen on the basis of the call for expressions of interest carried out in 2002 were targeted for funding.

    Next call for proposals

    The second call for proposals, announcing the topics targeted for 2004 and deadlines for submission, is expected to be published in November 2003. All relevant information and documents will be available from the CORDIS web site:

    For information on the Sixth Framework programme:

  • Annex 1

    Highlights of the first Integrated projects and networks of excellence to be funded following the first call for proposals for Priority 5

    Food from low input and organic production systems: Ensuring the safety and improving quality along the whole chain

    This integrated project (33 participants) aims to lead to new technologies and systems for organic and low input production systems. One of its major strengths is a matrix structure whereby the research will consider the whole food chain from fork to farm for a number of sectors including protected crops (tomato), field vegetables (lettuce), fruit (apple), cereal (wheat), pork, dairy and poultry.

    It addresses consumer attitudes and expectations, impact of organic foods on nutritional, sensory, microbiological and toxicological quality/safety of foods, development of new technologies and identification of socio-economic, environmental and sustainability impacts of innovations.

    This project has the scientific rigour to provide the meaningful information that is lacking on the extent to which differences in production systems affect nutritional value, taste and safety of food. It is expected to make a significant impact on increasing the competitiveness of the organic industry in a number of sectors to the benefit of the European consumers.

    Prevention, control and management of prion diseases

    This network of excellence (29 participants) is expected to provide European researchers with an effective communication strategy with the public, with policy makers and between themselves, allowing the sharing of prior, current and future knowledge.

    It is expected to provide better value for money from European and nationally funded research, allow the better exploitation of knowledge and promote a concerted European response to issues or future TSE crises.

    Improved strategies in animal welfare for improved food quality

    This integrated project (48 participants) addresses these objectives and importantly, it pays particular heed to the “farm-to-fork” approach through establishing a strong society-science dialogue. In this context, appropriate and robust on-farm welfare assessment methodologies will be developed together with information frameworks and an array of targeted, high priority welfare improvements.

    The proposal bring together many important European players in a well-structured project that offers a real possibility for Europe to cement its position as a leader in farm animal welfare research.

    Allergy and asthma

    This network of excellence (27 participants) will study allergy and asthma across the course of life, including intrauterine life and foeto-maternal interface, interaction between genetic and environmental factors in early life and development of allergies via existing and new birth cohorts. It will establish an international network of European centres of excellence that will conduct specific integrated multidisciplinary research programmes on issues relating to environment (including outdoor and indoor pollution), nutrition, lifestyle (including occupation), infections and genetic susceptibility.

    Genetic and epidemiological studies will address gene-environment interactions that might underpin the dramatic increase in allergy rates in the EU in the last few decades. The work also encompasses, through region-specific epidemiological studies, the impact of nutritional status on allergic disposition.

    The project considers the dissemination of information and translation of research results to patients and public, as a fundamental task to reduce the socio-economic burden of allergy and asthma.

    Annex 2

    Table 1: Food quality and afety topics funded in 2003


    Areas/ topics addressedApproach*
    Area 5.4.1 Total food chain'
    Topic 1 Food from low input and organic production systems: Ensuring the safety and improving quality along the whole chainIP
    Topic 2Quality seafood for improved consumer health and well-beingIP
    Topic 3Pathogen free production systemsSTREP.
    Area 5.4.2Epidemiology of food-related diseases and allergies'
    Topic 5 Validated food information database for EuropeNI not funded
    Topic 6Influence of nutrition and lifestyle on healthy ageing aimed at preventing adult degenerative diseaseSTREP & CA
    Area 5.4.3Impact of food on health'
    Topic 10Functional genomics in relation to food, nutrition and healthNoE
    Topic 11Lipid metabolism and the metabolic syndromeIP
    Topic 12Health risks from heat-treated foods and food productsSTREP
    Topic 13Food safety, risk assessment and communicationIP
    Area 5.4.4“Traceability” processes along the production chain'
    Topic 17Development of reliable traceability methods and systems to establish the origin/ mode of production of food productsNI not funded
    Area 5.4.5Methods of analysis, detection and control'
    Topic 18Prevention and control of zoonoses including food borne diseasesNoE
    Topic 19Prevention, control and management of prion diseasesNoE
    Topic 20Development of quantitative risk assessment strategies on probabilistic, genomic and profiling approaches including a risk-benefit evaluation for novel foodsSTREP
    Area 5.4.6Safer and environmentally friendly production methods and technologies and healthier food stuff'
    Topic 24High throughput analysis of plant composition and metabolism for optimising end-product quality in the plant food chainNI not funded
    Topic 25Improved strategies in animal welfare for improved food qualityIP
    Topic 26Genomics of host-pathogen interactions in animalsNoE
    Topic 27Improved crop protection systems based on biological control methods for safer low-input production systemsSTREP (x2)
    Topic 28Antibiotic resistance in animals, plants and humansSTREP
    Topic 29Disease risk from alternative and enriched cage and free-range systemsNot funded
    Topic 30Simulation modeling for improved crop establishment in low-input systemsNot funded
    Area 5.4.7Impact of animal feed on human health'
    Topic 39New strategies to improve grain legumes for food and feed IP
    Topic 40Alternatives to antimicrobials in feedSTREP (x2)

    Area 5.4.8

    Environmental health risks'
    Topic 41Health implications of exposure to chemical residues in the environmentNoE
    Topic 42 Allergy and asthmaNoE
    Topic 43Neurotoxic effects of environmental contaminantsSTREP
    Topic 44 Effects of environmental exposure to complex chemical mixturesSTREP

    * types of instrument used to fund research on this topic:

    IP = Integrated project

    NoE = Networks of Excellence

    } NI = New instruments
    STREP = Specific Targeted Research Project

    CA = Co-ordinated Action

    } TI = Traditional instruments

    (1)The programme committee was held on 11 July 2003. It is made up of representatives of all Member States and countries associated with FP6, including candidate countries.

    (2)Third countries: countries that are not Member States and are not formally associated with the FP.

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