One of the themes of this CAP reform is the need for a major increase in research and innovation to address the urgent social challenges of providing more food in an environment of increasing land use competition and pressures on resources and the environment. Whether the Commission’s proposals actually deliver on this objective is still an open question.
Three instruments are envisaged in the Commission’s CAP reform proposals to support this agenda:
• Continued support in the Rural Development Pillar 2 for investment in physical assets, business development, cooperation for the development of new products, processes and technologies in the agriculture and food sector as well as a revamping of farmer advisory services to broaden their scope and improve their effectiveness.
• A new European Innovation Partnership instrument for agricultural productivity and sustainability (EIP-A) also in the Rural Development Pillar.
• Increased funding for agricultural and food research under the Commission’s Horizon 2020 research programme.
What do we know about the EIP-A
I last posted about the EIP-A in October last year just before the publication of the Commission’s legislative proposals on CAP reform. I commented then that EIPs were a new initiative under the Commission’s Innovation Union flagship programme and that little was known about how the EIP-A would work in practice.
The EIP-A will not have any funding attached to it, apart from support for the administrative costs of the operational groups and the EIP network. Its intention is to bring together main actors, policies and actions at EU and national levels, from research to market, around common objectives to address major societal challenges more effectively.
Since my earlier post, some limited additional material on the Commission’s thinking behind the EIP-A has come into the public domain, including the Commission’s impact assessment of different options with respect to research and innovation, a presentation at a conference on EIPs organised by the Polish Presidency by Martin Scheele who is the Commission official in charge of the EIP-A programme, and a Commission roadmap produced as part of the impact assessment process for new Commission legislative proposals.
Commission thinking behind EIP-A
In the Commission’s impact assessment, the EIP-A is motivated as follows:
In view of closing the gap between the vast range of innovative research results, on the one side, and the availability of innovative approaches applicable to farming practice, on the other, an European Innovation Partnership Agriculture “Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability” (EIP-A) is set up aiming at an EU agricultural sector that ‘produces more with less’, thereby overcoming the existing development path of enhancing productivity at the expense of the environment and natural resources. Currently new approaches take too long to reach the ground and the practical needs on the ground are not sufficiently communicated to the scientific community. This EIP-A will ensure a faster exchange of knowledge from research to “practical” farming and provide feedback on practical needs to science via operational groups.
Martin Scheele’s presentation gives a number of examples of possible areas which might be addressed by the EIP-A:
Solutions for increased resource efficiency (soil, water, energy, fertilisers, pesticides,..) and reduced GHG emissions, e.g. ICT and satellite based precision farming, decision support systems for pest management, etc.
Solutions with respect to recycling, bio-refinery (biomass conversion to produce fuels, power, heat, and value-added chemicals), development of specific primary production (e.g. pharmaceutical plants)
Solutions for farm management beneficial to eco-system services and soil functionality (e.g. function green infrastructures, pest suppressive soils, etc.)
However, we are still awaiting the Commission Communication itself which will spell out how the EIP-A will work and how it will be coordinated with the agriculture and food research programme in Horizon 2020.
EIPs have been launched by the Competitiveness Council which has insisted on its active involvement in the development of further EIPs, so it will also be interesting to see how the possible involvement of Research and Industry Ministers as well as Agricultural Ministers from member states will shape the proposed EIP-A.
For those able to get to an event in Brussels, a conference and dinner debate on the Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability EIP is being hosted by MEP Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos in the European Parliament on 24 January next.