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FACCE SURPLUS Report Summary

Project ID: 652615
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FACCE SURPLUS (SUstainable and Resilient agriculture for food and non-food systems)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The objective of FACCE SURPLUS is to strengthen the European Research Area in support of different integrated food and non-food biomass production and transformation systems, especially by organising, implementing and cofunding with the EU a joint call for transnational research projects on the topic of sustainable and resilient agriculture. As this topic falls within the scope of the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) of the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE–JPI), this ERA-NET Cofund will contribute substantially to the delivery of the FACCE–JPI SRA. It will thereby also contribute to the overall EU objective of building the European Research Area through enhanced cooperation, coordination and alignment of national research programmes.
The action FACCE SURPLUS also aims at implementing other joint activities such as organizing workshops, scientific events, clustering of research platforms and infrastructures in the field of food and non-food biomass production and transformation systems, and also additional joint calls without EU cofunding. Launching such joint calls on a regular basis would pave the way to the long term objective of FACCE SURPLUS to establish a self-sustaining joint programme for FACCE-JPI. This will include establishing links with ongoing FACCE-JPI actions as well as related EU and international initiatives. FACCE SURPLUS will also support innovation and value creation from biomass in a sustainable way.
The ERA-NET Cofund instrument is appropriate for that challenge, since it provides additional incentive to participating countries to engage financially on the field of sustainable and resilient agriculture, but also includes the flexibility to implement further activities to contribute to the establishment of a renewable bioeconomy in the ERA.

The overall objectives of FACCE SURPLUS are:
1) To improve collaboration and cooperation across the European Research Area in the fields of diverse, but integrated, food and non-food biomass production and transformation systems, including biorefining. To link up and create a network of research platforms, enterprises and clusters of enterprises (such as associations of family farms, SMEs etc.) and facilities/research infrastructures across Europe working on the sustainable intensification of agriculture as well as focusing on innovation for increased, resilient and sustainable biomass production and product transformation processes for added value creation.
2) To support innovation and value creation from biomass and biorefineries in synergy with the environmentally sustainable intensification of agricultural and other biomass production systems taking into account the required economic, environmental and social conditions.
3) To fund and organise a joint call between funding bodies from Member States/Associated Countries and the European Commission.

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

The work performed during the first reporting period was focused mostly on the co-funded call:

The co-funded call was launched early in 2015. A submission tool was computed, call documents written and published by call opening. Each funding organisation participating in the call had appointed at least one National Contact Person to answer enquiries from applicants related to national or regional specifications. The Call Office was available throughout the call duration for any general enquiries, e.g. regarding technicalities of the call, FACCE SURPLUS eligibility criteria, etc... By the submission deadline, 67 pre-proposals were received and passed out to the funding organisations in charge of the formal eligibility check of the proposals. The Steering Committee (SC) met virtually to finalise the eligibility check and 63 pre-proposals were declared as eligible, which were then forwarded to the International Evaluation Committee (IEC).
The IEC was built up during the pre-proposal submission: based on nominations from the SC members (experts from countries not participating in the call were welcome), an electronic vote was put into place to determine the Chair of this committee. This Chair made use of the nominations to select the 11 members of the IEC, considering the expertise required to cover the entire scope of the call. All members of the IEC have signed a declaration of confidentiality and of conflict of interest. In addition to that, via an electronic tool, each evaluator had to specify for each proposal allocated to her/him, whether s/he had a conflict of interest (by displaying the consortium composition of the submitted proposals). Only in case of no conflict of interest, access to the proposal was given.
Each pre-proposal was remotely evaluated by at least 2 experts, based on the 3 criteria displayed in the Call Announcement. The IEC met then in order to come to an agreement for the evaluation of each pre-proposal and finalise a ranking list of those. This ranking list was used at the following SC meeting to select those consortia which should be invited to submit a full proposal, taking into account that each funding organisation should not have an oversubscription factor higher than 3. While doing so, the SC followed strictly the ranking list provided by the IEC. 28 consortia were invited to submit a full proposal.
By the full proposal submission deadline, 27 full proposals were received and forwarded to the IEC for the peer-review according to the 3 H2020-criteria (excellence, impact, quality and efficiency of the implementation). Each full proposal was evaluated remotely by at least 3 experts. During that phase and in a matter of transparency towards evaluators, 2 virtual meetings of the IEC took place, e.g. in order to explain the technicalities of the selection of projects, the thresholds to the scores on each criterion... The IEC finally met on 10th and 11th November 2015 in Brussels to discuss in detail the evaluation of each full proposal, come to an agreement on the scores allocated to the proposals, and rank them. This meeting was also the opportunity to refine summaries of the evaluation of each proposal (which were afterwards forwarded to the proposals coordinators together with the selection letters), to check the scope coverage of the best-ranked proposals and thereby to identify potential gaps in research which might be first ideas for future activities and/or calls.
The whole evaluation process (including access to the electronic submission tool, participation to the IEC meetings, etc...) had been followed by an external observer who provided valuable feedbacks at this last IEC meeting on potential improvements and who wrote an observer report.
The ranking list was forwarded to the SC beforehand of a meeting on 25.11.2015 (due to the terror warnings in Brussels, this meeting had to be hold as a webconference). At this meeting, the ranking list was presented by the Chair of the IEC. The SC followed strictly the ranking list in order to select the best-ranked proposals, and thereby could select 14 proposals for funding. The proposals coordinators received positive or negative selection letters on 30.11.2015 including their evaluation summaries. Following this the preparation of the national/regional grants was started.
The whole call process was supported by adequate documentation and appropriate electronic tools (submission tool, eligibility check and evaluation tool, schedulers, survey tool, webconference tool...) in order to optimise the efficiency of the work performed and reduce the costs of administering the call. The active involvement of all funders engaged into the call shows the tremendous interest in the topics of FACCE SURPLUS and motivates the FACCE SURPLUS partners to use the created momentum to launch further appropriate additional activities.

FACCE SURPLUS is an ERA-Net which works in strong collaboration with FACCE-JPI. Many FACCE SURPLUS partners are also involved in FACCE-JPI which facilitates a perfect coordination between the JPI and the ERA-Net. In this regard, best efforts are being and will be made in order to harmonise the communication and monitoring processes. FACCE-JPI and FACCE SURPLUS are regularly in touch, which already provided valuable input and output: the participation of New Zealand to the co-funded call is a first example. FACCE-JPI finalised its Implementation Plan for 2016-2017 in November 2015: in this plan, a priority has been identified as related to FACCE SURPLUS. This priority has been presented to the SC and will be a valuable topic for additional activity(ies) of FACCE SURPLUS. The topic will first be assessed in the frame of a scientific workshop linked to the common kick-off meeting of the research projects, with the aim to refine the FACCE SURPLUS scope in preparation of an additional joint call for research projects to be launched in the beginning of 2017.

In parallel to the call, the communication strategy of FACCE SURPLUS was prepared: the FACCE SURPLUS website (a screenshot of the homepage is attached) was launched at the very beginning of the ERA-Net (March 2015), presenting news on FACCE SURPLUS, linking to FACCE-JPI items. A newsletter function was put into place. This website will also support the communication of the research proposals funded in the frame of FACCE SURPLUS in particular in terms of dissemination of research results. All research projects are presented on a specific subpage of this website (an example is provided in attachment). Communication material (poster, flyer) was produced and will be updated during the lifetime of FACCE SURPLUS.
Moreover, the common kick-off meeting of the research projects funded in the frame of the co-funded call was prepared. This will take place in the Aarhus University in Foulum, Denmark (see photo attached) in September 2016. This event will not only include project presentations, but also a training of researchers in terms of communication/dissemination towards stakeholders. Stakeholders will then attend project presentations which will be refined in order to specifically address the potential expectations of stakeholders (those presentations should be less academic and more directed towards the potential applications for stakeholders). Finally, a conference will be organised together with representatives of bioeconomy clusters and including specific side-sessions on defined topics to be defined according to the scope covered by the research projects.

Also the monitoring procedures have been prepared, which will be relevant for the research projects, taking especially into account the EC requirements (some data on the research projects are required by the EC). The reports required from the research projects will follow the structure of the templates which have been/are developed in the frame of FACCE-JPI.

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)

FACCE SURPLUS is expected to contribute to the aim of the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, FACCE-JPI, to tackle the Grand Challenge of ensuring global food security while respecting the imperatives of sustainable development. The strategic objective of the FACCE-JPI is to bring together European countries to identify, prioritise and deliver the research needed for agriculture to meet the challenge of responding to the demands of growing population in terms of food sufficiency within the context of climate change. An integrated European Research Area addressing the challenges of Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change is required to achieve sustainable growth in agricultural production, to meet increasing world food demand and contributing to sustainable economic growth and a European bio-based economy while maintaining and restoring ecosystem services under current and future climate change. FACCE SURPLUS, in providing the means for a joint call, is one of the actions of the JPI aimed at aligning research programming among its members over the long term to increase the efficiency of research funding, cover gaps, avoid duplications and provide high-level innovative research in Europe. By requiring a dissemination plan from the applying researchers and supporting them in terms of communication and dissemination, FACCE SURPLUS ensures an improved valorization of research results and therefore a socio-economic impact, e.g. via stakeholders’ events.
The organization of common kick-off, mid-term and end-term meetings of the research projects funded in the frame of FACCE SURPLUS will ensure an optimal exchange of information among the researchers. The end-term meeting, planned for fall 2018, will be the opportunity to combine it with the common kick-off meeting of research projects funded in the frame of the first additional call organized by FACCE SURPLUS so as to allow a transfer of results between finishing and starting projects. This additional call might focus on biorefinery (“refinery concepts for the multiple use of biomass” is a priority of the FACCE-JPI Implementation Plan, which was identified as well-linked to FACCE SURPLUS), therefore outcomes from the research projects from the co-funded call, providing e.g. optimized land use to increase biomass production and transformation can bring an important added-value to such “follow-up” projects. Relevant stakeholders will also be invited at the common meetings, with the aim to facilitate the knowledge transfer and the use of developed technologies, methodologies…
The strong synergies between FACCE SURPLUS and FACCE-JPI is ensured by the presence among the members (and persons working in) of FACCE SURPLUS of several organisations (and persons) active in FACCE-JPI, at the Governing Board level but also at the secretariat level. This synergy allows FACCE SURPLUS to gain visibility thanks to FACCE-JPI, and reversely FACCE-JPI can through FACCE SURPLUS implement part(s) of its SRA. The links with the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and Stakeholder Advisory Board (StAB) of FACCE-JPI have been made since the preparation phase of FACCE SURPLUS. In particular, the synergies with the StAB will permit to address specifically the socio-economic impact of FACCE SURPLUS.

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