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AGRISPIN Report Summary

Project ID: 652642
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AGRISPIN (Space for Agricultural Innovation)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-02-29

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

AgriSpin: creating SPace for INnovation. The project name reflects the overall aim of this project: to strengthen support systems in creating space for innovative farmers. Innovative farmers are everywhere, but their environment determines the rate of success. The project aims to create more space for innovations, through amplifying good examples of innovation support services and through multi-actor learning about ways to stimulate innovation and remove obstacles. The main target group is intermediaries who connect initiators to other actors such as farmers, knowledge workers, actors in the value chain, administrators, civil society groups, etc. with the purpose of involving them in creating innovations. The 15 European project partners are playing this intermediate role, at least at part of their duties. Three of them are Scientific institutions. Each regional partner will host a cross visit which is the basis of the project. The visiting team, composed of project partners, study selected cases of agricultural innovations. The scientists provide sound conceptual basis for making these visits valuable. Throughout the project period partners support each other in an emerging professional innovation network. They inspire each other and initiate improvements in their own systems. The project also addresses the institutional environment, involving public managers, administrators and policy makers. Case studies and lessons learned are made available to a wider public via traditional channels and social media. Attention will be given to cultural and historical particularities, requiring tailor made solutions for every region. The scientists explore lessons to be generalised and added to the scientific discourse on intermediaries and innovation support services. Once the approach of joint learning through cross visits has been well tested and the professional network is functional, the project will then be ready for collaboration with other partners such as thematic networks and operational groups under the EIP as well as other regions interested in joint learning about innovation support systems.

Innovations in agriculture are practices that are new to farmers and related stakeholders, no matter where they are generated (Research and development, farmers, practitioners etc) and become accepted as good alternatives for what was common. The AgriSPIN project focuses on innovations that contribute to the sustainable development of farming households and enterprises, the agricultural sector in which they operate, as well as the rural area where the activities take place.

The origin of good initiatives can vary and innovative farmers can be initiators. But also creative advisors, researchers, administrators and civilians can bring the first spark into a process and companies that provide farmers with new technologies and services generate potential innovations in their R&D. Sometimes ideas emerge when people meet in unexpected compositions. Experience shows that what really matters is that farmers and relevant stakeholders embrace the idea; the source is less important. Such initiatives are the starting point of innovation processes, to be facilitated by intermediate actors.
Environments are different in regions throughout Europe while institutional structures for supporting agriculture within such regions vary as well. Historical backgrounds and cultural particularities are different, which means that - ‘one size fits all’ solutions do not exist. This is why AgriSPIN will concentrate on regional systems, rather than on national institutions.

Innovators encounter a wide range of barriers. Although some structural ones are identified in many previous projects, a weak links between researchers and practitioners is often mentioned as a crucial problem. In many cases, incentive structures for researchers discourage them from attending to farmers problems. But also advisory service providers, in their struggle to survive in a competitive market, tend to avoid risky experimental activities that are required for innovations at farm level. Barriers might also include difficulties in finding funding for experimentation, administrative restrictions, lack of interest from local politicians, acceptance by civil society groups or mistrust by nature conservationists, etc.. The path towards innovations therefore does not only require technical expertise but also skills in designing and implementing multi- stakeholder learning approaches – the latter is a key focus of the AgriSPIN project.

Specifically, the project aims at improving and valorising European agriculture innovation systems by:
1) Identifying, examining, and cross comparing successful/best-fit practices on innovation support services across Europe,
2) Analysing and better understanding the role of innovation intermediaries and support services within agriculture related innovation processes,
3) Creating and strengthening effective networks among AKIS stakeholders at European level, and
4) Facilitating a cross-learning process towards supporting innovation processes, scaling up identified best–fit practices and strengthening the innovation capacities of the stakeholders.

In the AgriSpin project we work in close cooperation with the EIP Agri.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Below is a description of the activities and achievements in each WP - the work that will secure the impact of the project.

For the WP1 the overall objective is to build a conceptual framework, guide the inventory of innovative practice cases and provide a methodological approach to the WP2. The WP1 provides the project with a scientific basis to start with, and a scientific perspective and view on the results. The starting point was to create a baseline of perceptions and assumptions about innovation, and the project partners has written stories highlighting examples of innovation processes and the role of innovations support services in their country. An overview of theories and concepts and a comprehensive analytical framework was made as theoretical point of departure to support and guide the understanding and analysis of innovations, innovation processes and the role of innovation support services – to support the work at the cross visits. Furthermore a methodological guide for documentation and selection of AgriSpin innovation cases was produced in the WP1 – this guide supports the work in WP2 and helps the partners in selecting the cases for the cross visits. To be expected from WP1 is a report on typology of innovation support services with the aim of making it easier to characterize the existing innovation support services. Furthermore there will be a synthesis report on the compiled and described innovation cases with in depth examination of the cross visits observations and results.

In the WP2 the overall and most time consuming activity until now has been the cross visits – where we have built up a solid network between the partners, and harvested experiences with the different roles of the innovation support services. These experiences are mainly collected in the cross visits reports.
From the WP2 the following results can be expected:
• Recommendations. Every cross visit report contains specific recommendations. General recommendations follow after finishing the cross visits in September 2016.
• Action Plans. These action plans are the responsibility of the partners who have been hosts. Such plans usually take time to be developed and discussed within the partner organisation. According to the project agreement these plans will be collected after month 18 (August 2016).
• Methodological Approach. This approach is presented in the Cross Visit Manual, which is being updated after each visit.
• Support Network. During the multiple and intensive contacts generated by the cross visits friendships are created, that make it easy to connect for various questions. This has already led to several activities beyond the work of the AgriSpin project
• Support other Partners. The idea is that the cross visit approach will become interesting enough for partners who are not yet connected to AgriSpin, to invite AgriSpin partners for providing support. This activity is planned to start in month 18 (August 2016). Meanwhile, a start has been made to make professionals in innovation support aware of the AgriSpin project and its approach. In two upcoming events, AgriSpin will be presented: EUFRAS (European Forum on Rural Advisory Services). At the annual meeting in June 2016, to be held in Limerick, Ireland, a workshop about AgriSpin will be provided by Michael Kügler (VLK) and Peter Paree (ZLTO). The chairman of EUFRAS (Edgars Linde, LLKC) and the host of the meeting (Tom Kelly, Teagasc) are also partners in AgriSpin. IFSA (International Farming Systems Association). This scientific network will have its biannual conference in the United Kingdom, in July 2016. Andrea Knierim (University of Hohenheim), Alex Koutsouris (University of Athens) and Eelke Wielinga (ZLTO) are convenors of a workshop on “creating space for innovations in agriculture”. With 14 paper presentations this workshop receives good attention. Two papers about AgriSpin have been written and will be presented during this workshop.

WP3: To enable local, regional, national and European actors involved in supporting innovations at farm level to improve their practices and supports services, this WP offers tools and end user materials that will be made accessible so the actors can support innovation practices and services. The WP3 contribution to the impact is mainly in the last half of the project, but some activities are launched already to secure the objectives of the WP: During the cross visits the partners have made videos from some of the visited cases to illustrate the innovation process and the role of the innovations support service. From WP3 the following results and impacts will be expected:
• New insights from the key actors in an innovation practice or support service on approaches and methods used.
• New insights on why certain methods work.
• Project workshop that will result in best-fit practices
• Materials (videos, booklet, and webinar) to support the improvement of the innovation support services.

The WP4 is about networking and institutional uptake. In this WP the objectives are to create an advisory board (named “multiplier group”) to promote the institutional uptake of the results of AgriSpin. This board is established and will have its first meeting in September 2016. The recruiting process was based on a public call and on contacting the 53 organisations who sent a LOE. The outcome of the Advisory Board will be recommendations to the project, and prototype of support scheme under the Rural Development Program. A part of the WP is also a training tool kit for advisors in innovation support services.

The WP5 works to ensure dissemination of information, results and findings to external partners and stakeholders. Based on a dissemination plan the work is carried out in cooperation with wp-leaders and project partners. In order to enhance the visibility of the project a website is established and provides up to date information, also through other channels (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). At the end of each cross visit there has been a seminar for interested stakeholders to enable them to take advantage of the early results and reflections from the actual and the previous cross visits. As mentioned above (WP2) the project was presented at several occations (i.e. EUFRAS-meeting and IFSA-meeting).

The WP6 are about the project management and works to ensure the implementation of the AgriSpin project and overall coordination of the project team. The communication in the consortium works via consortium meetings, steering committee meetings and a common platform for communication and documentation: a SharePoint site for all members for the project.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The overall impact of the project will be improved methods and systems for agricultural innovation in the target regions primarily by means of:
* Innovation facilitator organisations and institutions stimulating and assisting the innovation process between stakeholders and providing the conditions for transforming good ideas into successful products and services.
* Multi-actor networking supporting and promoting the EIP initiative by linking research, advisory, practice and education and thus contribute to the development of innovation driven research

During the project period the following impact is expected:
1. A new inventory of innovation practices will be used by a rising number of innovation facilitators and advisory systems.
2. Increased private and public interest and actions for improving innovation support assistance systems and methods.
3. Regions and national authorities responsible for the agriculture and rural Development programs will have increased interest and incentives to examine the potentials for regional or national initiatives to support and uptake adopted measures in order to improve agricultural innovation and EIP AGRI network. An increasing number of interested regions will initiate official policies and support for more efficient innovation support structures or innovation measures. The project has received app. 20 Letters of Endorsement (LOE) from interested European regions out of total of 53 received LOE.
4. Increased European knowledge of best practices to improve innovation practice and support systems in agriculture.
5. The education of agricultural advisors and innovation systems will be improved by new updated knowledge.
6. Research partners will have refined methods and theories on agricultural research breaking new ground for agricultural innovation practices and methods.
7. Quantitatively the following impact is expected:
a. 3-400 members of the projects involved during the Cross Visits will benefit from the interviews, discussions, information and coaching of the visiting parties.
b. 600 from the target groups (stakeholders) will participate in and be informed of the project results during the public seminars arranged in relation to all the Cross Visits
c. 800 from the target groups will attend the national project end seminars
d. 150 from the target groups including the Commission will participate in the project end conference.

The core target groups are well represented in the project consortium, providing direct access to a membership of several 100.000 farmers / farmers unions, farm advisors, innovation facilitators throughout Europe across all sectors of agriculture. At this stage the organisations behind the hosts of the cross visit and the organisations behind the cross visit teams have got some feedback on their system via the selected cases. This feedback are concrete proposals on how to improve the innovation process in the country, region or organisation. We have done 5 cross visits and still have 8 to come, and as cross visits are the basis of the project and the main source of results further impacts are yet to come.

The long-term impact of the project is expected to be:
• Rising number of successful innovation projects in agriculture.
• Better quality of the innovation assistance from the agricultural advisors and facilitators
• Contribution to EIP-Agri initiative and existing and new networks between academia and practitioners.
• New knowledge to the managing authorities of Rural Development Programmes.

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