Optimising interactive innovation project approaches and the delivery of EU policies to speed up innovation in rural areas
A number of recent initiatives and instruments for speeding up innovation deserve in-depth exploration. Horizon 2020 and the European Commission's Communication on the CAP towards 2020 have focused attention on innovation in agriculture and related sectors. The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability", a new approach under the Europe 2020 strategy, aims to speed up EU research and innovation by linking existing policies, instruments and actors. The agricultural EIP in particular implements the interactive innovation approach which relies on knowledge exchange and the empowerment of all actors concerned, and focuses on getting results implemented in practice. An EU wide EIP network is connecting the EIP Operational Groups funded under rural development programmes and provides interaction with Horizon 2020 projects. Apart from Horizon 2020 multi-actor research projects and thematic networks compiling practice-ready knowledge, other EU and national policies may also contribute to innovation, e.g. the Farm Advisory System, Rural Development funding supporting farm advisory services, knowledge and information actions, LEADER, specific national/regional or particular H2020 instruments etc. All of these contribute to innovation in agriculture and forestry. The challenge is to improve their targeting and interlinking - if and where needed - , and possibly learn from relevant insights from outside Europe.
Proposals should explore how instruments and approaches under the various policies could be further adjusted and how they contribute to innovation in the agricultural and forestry sector.
Learning also from experience at international level, proposals should investigate the design and implementation of interactive innovation projects, on the basis of a substantial number of case studies of interactive projects in a broad range of agriculture and forestry sectors.
An essential part of this topic would develop detailed best practices/approaches for H2020 multi-actor projects and thematic networks at project level. On the basis of a series of cases of existing multi-actor projects and thematic networks, proposals should develop best practices for consortia to combine as much as possible both scientific and practical knowledge in their projects and exploit them to the full. Special attention needs to be given to the role of facilitators that mediate between different types of actor and to the particular management/coordination needs of this type of project, with a view to intensifying knowledge exchange between actors. Examples of unsuccessful approaches where project implementation is not delivering as expected are also relevant: 'facts', 'feelings' and group dynamics should be taken into account. Activities should investigate how co-creation and co-ownership of project results can be improved and quantified/qualified in order to speed up the use of project results in practice. Activities will examine how practically/legally to construct consortia with different types of actor, taking into account the different status of the various types of organisations involved (partner, subcontractor, etc). Projects should also explore pathways for involvement of secondary and higher education as actors in interactive innovation projects, including H2020 multi-actor projects, thematic networks and EIP Operational Groups. Furthermore, activities should examine how multi-actor projects and thematic networks can seek synergies and intensify effective linkages with Operational Groups and other interactive innovation projects under national/regional/European policies.
Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach' involving key actors in the AKIS (farmers, advisors, researchers, research bodies, social scientists, managing authorities, network agents, enterprises, etc.) and using the work of the SCAR-AKIS Strategic Working Group, as appropriate. They may include insights from outside Europe.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
- a description of supporting mechanisms and governance for a more efficient management of interactive innovation projects, including pathways for improved interaction with existing sectoral, rural and innovation actors and networks at local, regional, national and EU level and to the Farm Advisory System under the Common Agricultural Policy;
- development of best practices for building and implementing multi-actor project proposals and consortia under H2020, including thematic networks compiling knowledge for practice;
- delivery of a set of good examples of various types of multi-actor research projects and thematic networks which compile practice-ready knowledge and connect successfully with Operational Groups;
- better quantitative and qualitative measurement of scientific efforts impacting agricultural practices and systems, including the impact of the facilitating actors and the involvement of education; and
- suggestions for public policy governance mechanisms, contractual arrangements and appropriate funding instruments providing for effective interactive projects, enhancing innovation-driven research and advisory services leading to more competitive, sustainable and climate-smart agriculture.