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Specific research, technological development and demonstration programme in the field of agriculture and fisheries (including agro-industry, food technologies, forestry, aquaculture and rural development), 1994-1998

Part of the First Activity of the Fourth Framework Programme under the theme "Life sciences and technologies", this specific programme builds on and continues the work carried out under the first phase of the AIR programme. The programme covers all aspects of agriculture and fisheries, including processing industries, food technologies, forestry, aquaculture and rural development.

Research efforts will focus on providing the RTD base for the competitive, efficient and sustainable development of the four economic sectors encompassed by the programme. These relate to the primary sector (agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fisheries); the "input" industries (e.g. seeds, juveniles for aquaculture, fishing technology and inputs for fisheries, machinery, chemicals, fertilizers, feed, etc.); the processing sectors (e.g. wood, paper, pharmaceuticals, food, the starch industry, bioenergy, bioplastics, etc.); and, other rural and coastal activities.

Particular emphasis is placed on research responding to the growing demand for a wider range of healthy and nutritious foods and environmentally friendly non-food products, by bringing together multidisciplinary skills.

The programme's objectives will be achieved by both concentrated means (e.g. RTD projects) and thematic and concertation networks in support of national efforts.

The developments which arise from activities under this programme will both contribute to, and provide support for, the evolution of Community policies, especially the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the internal market and actions in the fields of rural development, the environment and energy.

In many areas of the programme, research complements related activities in the other specific programmes, in particular those covering biotechnology, marine science and technology, industrial materials, the environment, targeted socio-economic research and energy.

An integrated approach in biomass-bioenergy will be used covering the whole bioenergy chain, including production and combined processing of agricultural raw materials, conversion, and use of these materials for energy purposes.

The association of producers and users of technology and agricultural raw materials in inter-disciplinary projects will be pursued, in order to ensure an efficient transfer of new technological knowledge for the benefit of manufacturing companies, user services, and related public bodies.

Demonstration activities will directly follow experimental research and small-scale technological development, in order to ascertain the technical and economic viability of systems of production, of new methods of production, and of technologies or products. These pre-competitive projects will focus particularly on the application of new technologies and include the participation of producers and users.

Prenormative research will be initiated and supported in order to provide a sound scientific base for the establishment of standards and regulations relating to the production and use of biological products.

Research is also undertaken to investigate ethical, legal and social aspects covered by the programme so as to improve dialogue and understanding between the main national and socio-political bioethical positions, whilst paying due attention to the cultural differences which exist in the Member States.
To contribute to the improvement of the competitiveness of European agro-industry and primary production by the development of new technologies compatible with sustainable growth and taking account of consumer needs; to improve the quality of agricultural, forestry and fish products in general and food products in particular; to contribute to the implementation of the Community's Agriculture, Rural Development, Fisheries, Environment and Internal Market policies; to contribute to a better match between the production and utilization of biological primary materials.
Six areas:

- Integrated production and processing chains:
Integrated food and non-food projects combining all necessary skills and technologies, particularly biotechnologies, related to the individual links in the production chains. Particular emphasis is placed on collaboration between producers and users of biological raw materials in joint projects, closely cooperating with scientists. Five action lines:
. Industrial uses for cereal crops;
. Industrial uses for vegetable oil crops;
. Industrial uses for protein crops;
. Forestry-wood chain;
. Biomass for energy and non-food uses;

- Scaling-up and processing methodologies:
To develop improved methodologies for designing and testing innovative agro-industrial processes and for the application of biotechnology, while reducing the economic risks currently associated with investment in new technology;

- Generic sciences and advanced technologies for nutritious foods:
To develop generic technologies through the application of biotechnology to produce commercial crops with enhanced performance, improved production efficiency and improved nutritional qualities. Other activities concentrate on the generic scientific phenomena involved in the conversion of biological raw materials into food and multidisciplinary research into nutritional diseases and disorders;

- Agriculture, forestry and rural development:
Optimization of methods, systems and primary production chains; quality policy for agricultural products; diversification of production and farming sector activities, and new uses of land; animal and plant health, animal welfare; multifunctional management of forests, i.e. production, leisure and protection; and, scientific support for rural development;

- Fisheries and aquaculture:
Impact of environmental factors on marine resources; environmental impact of fisheries and aquaculture activities; biology of species for optimization of aquaculture; socio-economic aspects of the fishing industry; and, improved methodology;

- Other activities, mainly implemented by concertation:
To promote the concertation of efforts in areas where the Member States have extensive programmes, through the establishment of European concertation networks. Examples of areas where this is appropriate are:
. Primary production in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture with the main emphasis on competitiveness, sustainability, quality, security of supply and interactions with the environment;
. Conservation, development and management of the natural, semi-natural and man-made landscape;
. Rural, including mountain and coastal, development with particular attention on training and alternative economic activities;
. Food production and processing, including socio-economic, health and safety aspects.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the programme, assisted by a committee consisting of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a representative of the Commission. The Commission is further responsible for drawing up a work programme, detailing the scientific and technological objectives of the action, the stages in the programme's implementation and the corresponding financial arrangements. This work programme may provide for participation in certain activities originating from the EUREKA framework.

Calls for proposals for RTD projects are issued by the Commission on the basis of the work programme. Outline proposals may be submitted at any time (a continuously open call for proposals) and those proposals selected will receive a feasibility award to search for partners and to prepare a detailed proposal. That proposal will then be evaluated in order to decide on the funding of the research project itself.

Participation in the programme is open to all legal entities regularly carrying out RTD activities in the Community or in countries with whom the Community has concluded specific agreements. To this end, the Commission is authorized to negotiate bilateral agreements with European third countries not covered by the EEA, with a view to involving them in all or part of the programme.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate in the indirect activities covered by the programme. It will also contribute, through its own programme of direct activities, to the realization of the RTD objectives set out in the specific programme.

The programme is mainly implemented through shared-cost activities, concerted actions, specific measures and various preparatory, accompanying and support measures.

Community support for shared-cost RTD projects and finance towards the infrastructure or installations necessary for the realization of a coordinated action does not normally exceed 50% of total costs. Other shared-cost activities, (e.g. networks, training, feasibility awards and accompanying measures) may receive financial support of up to 100% of either the additional costs or the total costs of the action.

Concerted actions, which consist of the coordination, notably through "concertation networks", of RTD projects already financed by public or private bodies, may qualify for a contribution of up to 100% of the concertation costs. Specific measures, such as those encouraging standardization, and those measures intended to set up general service tools for research organizations may also be eligible for funding of up to 100% of total costs.

Technological stimulation measures, based on the experience of the CRAFT action and feasibility awards, will be implemented in order to encourage and facilitate the participation of SMEs in the programmes activities.

The programme budget is divided between the six areas as follows: Integrated production and processing chains ECU 91 million; Scaling-up and processing methodologies ECU 42 million; Generic sciences and advanced technologies for nutritious foods ECU 97 million; Agriculture, forestry and rural development ECU 225 million; Fisheries and aquaculture ECU 103 million; and, Other activities mainly addressed by concertation ECU 49 million (of which 2% is allocated to fisheries, 3% to agriculture, and 3% to agro-industrial research).

These figures include an allocation equivalent to 7.3% for personnel and administrative costs. A sum of ECU 5.5 million is earmarked for dissemination activities and the valorization of results. Of the overall programme budget, approximately 6% of credits are assigned to horizontal demonstration activities, 1% to horizontal activities on ethical, social and legal aspects, and 5% to training activities. Up to 10% of the overall budget is reserved for measures in respect of SMEs.

A sum of ECU 77 million, representing the difference between the estimated amount deemed necessary for this programme and the amount foreseen within the Fourth Framework Programme for agriculture and fisheries, is set aside for direct actions to be carried out By the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and for S&T activities.

The budget allocated to the programme may increase before the end of June 1996, in accordance with the Decision establishing the Fourth Framework Programme.

The Commission will continuously review the implementation of the programme to ensure that its objectives, priorities and financial resources remain appropriate. On the basis of this review process it shall, where appropriate, submit proposals to adapt or supplement the programme.

In addition, regular assessments of the activities covered by the specific programme will be conducted by independent experts who, upon completion of the programme, will carry out a final evaluation of the results achieved compared to initial objectives. A report of this final evaluation will be communicated to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee.