Innovation is the keyword for the future of our agriculture and rural development policies, says Mariann Fischer Boel, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. Speaking at the Ost-West-Agrarforum in Berlin on 22 January, Ms Fischer Boel emphasised the vital role that research and universities have to play in developing new forms of agricultural practice that are both sustainable and economically viable. 'In my view we need a farm to fork approach to competitiveness and innovation. As in other sectors, we need to get good R&D [Research and Development] out of the lab and into the food industry and farms,' said Ms Fischer Boel. As the Commissioner explained, the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) has already done a lot to stimulate technological innovation, and to encourage the utilisation of research results and the transfer of knowledge and technologies in the agricultural and the rural development sectors. 'More important perhaps is that the Seventh Framework Programme will build on what we have already achieved and will reinforce the importance of research in the drive towards an increasingly sustainable Europe,' stated the Commissioner. 'It goes without saying that agriculture is closely linked to overall sustainability and that agricultural research has a vital role to play in the ongoing 'greening' of the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy], she added. FP7 will recognise that agriculture is a key source of renewable resources and that whilst it should be used to strengthen EU competitiveness, it can also contribute to meeting the Kyoto objectives and reducing dependency from energy imports, Ms Fischer Boel continued. According to Ms Fischer Boel, the new European Strategy Document for Rural Development will make a clear link between rural development and the Lisbon strategy. It will lay down the basis for a more strategic approach to competitiveness, job creation and innovation in rural areas by providing new training and investment measures. These measures will help boost on-farm efficiency; open new outlets for production; encourage a more sustainable use of resources and hopefully promote the development of renewable energy. Furthermore, the improvement of local services and infrastructure, for example in wiring information technologies (IT) into villages, would also open many new doors for people in remote rural areas by enhancing employment and education opportunities and accessibility. As part of the new rural development policy, investment measures to promote competitiveness of the agricultural and food processing sectors will also be given priority. With an agricultural and rural development policy increasingly focused on innovation, 'the European Commission will pursue a framework for targeted policies focusing on investment in competitiveness, but also rural viability, quality of life and sustainable agriculture, as well as creating new employment and income opportunities for farmers and their families,' concluded Ms Fischer Boel.