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MEMO/12/147

Brussels, 29 February 2012

The European Innovation Partnership "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability"

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability" for the period from 2014-2020 aims to address probably the two most fundamental challenges faced by European agriculture in the early 21st century – how to increase production and productivity in order to respond to the significant growth in global food demand (caused by population growth, changes in dietary patterns and the slowdown in productivity growth); and how to improve sustainability and resource efficiency (e.g. inputs of water, energy, fertilisers and pesticides) and address environmental issues (such as biodiversity loss). In short, it will address the challenges of "not only how to produce more, but also how to produce better".

This EIP aims to provide a working interface between agriculture, bio-economy, science, advisors, and other stakeholders at EU, national and regional level. It will help to bring innovative approaches faster from science to practice and to ensure a systematic feedback about needs from practice to the scientific community. The EIP is not about additional funding, adding measures or duplicating efforts. It is about facilitating exchange among innovation actors, sharing good practice, and informing about opportunities, in view of enhancing and improving the effectiveness of innovation-related measures on the side of both the Common Agricultural Policy and the Union Innovation and Research Framework.

Innovative actions

The agricultural EIP will be primarily implemented through actions via two EU policies:

  • Based on the Commission proposals for the post-2013 Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), our future Rural Development policy should provide co-funding for innovative actions of "operational groups" involving farmers, advisors, researchers, enterprises, and other actors. Key measures include 'cooperation', 'knowledge transfer', 'advisory services', 'information actions', 'investment', and 'business development'. In addition, Rural Development Policy would provide for the setting up of an EIP network facility at EU level.

  • EU Research and Innovation Policy ('Horizon 2020') will play its key role by providing the knowledge base for innovative actions on the ground. Possible key actions feeding into the EIP would include applied research projects, cross-border and cluster initiatives, multi-actor approaches, pilot or demonstration projects, as well as supporting innovation brokers and innovation centres.

Both policies provide opportunity to interested actors who can engage in actions on developing, testing and applying innovative approaches.

The complementarity of both policies results from the fact that actions under Rural Development Programmes are normally applied within the boundaries of programme regions, whilst research policy would go beyond this scale by co-funding innovative actions at the cross-regional, cross-border, or EU-level. Other policies, namely Cohesion and Education Policy, might offer additional opportunities.

Knowledge exchange - The EIP network

As a key instrument of the EIP, an EIP network facility should work as a mediator enhancing communication between science and practice, and fostering cooperation. It will encourage the establishment of operational groups and support their work through seminars, databases, and help desk functions.

In order to widen the knowledge base and share experience, the EIP network will gather and provide information about innovation actions. The EIP network will facilitate the effective flow of information beyond the local and regional level. The network facility will screen relevant research results and foster the sharing of good practice.

The EIP network aims to provide support for innovation activities at EU, national, regional and local level, through informing interested actors, including programming authorities, about opportunities for innovative action and funding options. Thus, the network will help actors to use effectively the opportunities provided for by EU policies.

What will be the respective roles of the EU and the Member States in the establishment, governance and financing of the EIP?

Funding, implementation, and prioritisation of actions under the afore-mentioned policies would take place through the delivery mechanisms already established by them. The EIP will rely on such mechanisms, and thereby avoid creating new structures and strengthening efficiency of existing ones. (For Rural Development Policy, this will therefore depend on the programmes put forward by Member states/regions – in cooperation with the Commission. As regards the EU Research and Innovation Framework, the European Commission will follow the well-established approaches of agenda setting and programming, involving Member States and stakeholders.)

The European Commission will engage in establishing an EIP Network in view of facilitating communication and exchange on innovation-related information, research results, practice needs, lessons learned, etc.

A high level steering board, consisting of representatives from Member States and stakeholders, will kick-off the process and give orientations to the EIP by establishing a strategic implementation plan. The governance of the EIP will nevertheless remain light as it will rely on existing structures and committees.

What is the role of operational groups? How will they be formed?

Operational groups will be established to carry out projects aimed at testing and applying innovative practices, technologies, processes and products. They will constitute themselves on the initiative of the interested actors - be they farmers, scientists, farm advisors, enterprises or others. The EIP therefore relies on a bottom-up approach. There will be a large degree of flexibility in terms of composition of operational groups, of their functioning, of themes covered, etc.

The European Commission will engage in establishing an EIP Network in view of facilitating communication and exchange on innovation-related information, research results, practice needs, lessons learned, etc.

A high level steering board, consisting of representatives from Member States and stakeholders, will kick-off the process and give orientations to the EIP by establishing a strategic implementation plan. The governance of the EIP will nevertheless remain light as it will rely on existing structures and committees.

What is the role of operational groups? How will they be formed?

Operational groups will be established to carry out projects aimed at testing and applying innovative practices, technologies, processes and products. They will constitute themselves on the initiative of the interested actors - be they farmers, scientists, farm advisors, enterprises or others. The EIP therefore relies on a bottom-up approach. The Commission will not impose obligations in terms of composition of operational groups, of their functioning, of themes covered, etc.

How will innovative projects of operational groups link with national/regional rural development programmes?

In the framework of the Rural Development policy, the projects/actions of operational groups will implement the national/regional rural development programmes by combining various measures favourable to innovation (e.g. cooperation, knowledge transfer, advisory services, investments). Thus, operational groups form part of normal programme implementation.

Whilst innovation actions under Rural Development Programmes are normally applied within the boundaries of programme regions, complementary actions are needed at the cross-regional, cross-border, or EU-level. Accordingly, cluster initiatives, multi-actor approaches, pilot or demonstration projects, as well as support for innovation brokers and innovation centres are envisaged under the EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme. Other policies, namely Cohesion and Education Policy, might offer additional opportunities.

Is it necessary to create three different networks under the Rural Development policy?

Under the Rural Development policy for the period 2014-2020, the Commission has proposed to create one generalist network (European Network for Rural Development) and two specialist networks (European Evaluation Network, EIP network). Having specialised networks increases effectiveness, as it ensures that the necessary knowledge on the various aspects will be mobilised. As regards innovation, a dedicated network at EU level is necessary in order to have the adequate expertise (technical, practical and scientific) and an effective two-way interaction between all the stakeholders working in the agricultural sector and the scientific community. This specific kind of interaction would be lost in a general network.

The number of networks at EU level does not affect national networks as Member States may handle matters the way they want at national/regional level. Furthermore, having more than one network in place at EU level does not increase the number of meetings or the intensity of cooperation, as the latter result from the subjects to be dealt with and not from the number of networks. On the contrary, going ahead with a specialised EIP network at EU level will allow a better-targeted, tailor-made service which means simplification for the recipients of those services, including the Member States.

Full text of the COMM(2012)79 available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/eip/pdf/com2012-79_en.pdf


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