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Mapping and improving the data economy for food systems


Data driven innovation is fast reshaping the way we produce and consume food. It enhances the potential to manage natural resources more efficiently and to care for the ecosystems that our food production relies on without exceeding finite boundaries. It improves the transparency of our food systems, processes and products from farm to fork, enables a more resilient, safe, circular and customised supply and more personalised diets. It motivates policy-makers, regulators and researchers to make better use of data for monitoring and for generating new insights.

Proposals should gather expertise from a broad range of disciplines and food system participants to obtain new insights and achieve a deepened and more comprehensive understanding of the data economy for food systems. New insights and understanding should relate to the data economy’s structure, its functioning, its present and potential development and its performance versus relevant EU policy objectives, as a basis for future policy recommendations, improved governance and monitoring.

The research that is conducted should therefore go well beyond technology insights and include a holistic assessment of the state-of-play of the data economy, data driven innovation and data reuse[[]] in EU food systems, of the drivers, barriers and enablers of digital transformation, and of ongoing and expected trends, including behavioural. Proposals should assess actual and expected impacts (positive and negative) of this transformation on the performance of EU food systems versus the 3 dimensions of sustainability and versus relevant EU policy objectives, including “the European Green Deal” (and therein “the EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy”), an “Economy that works for people” and “a Europe fit for the digital age”. In their assessment of impact, proposals should include a review of the inclusiveness of the ongoing digital transformation in EU food systems (e.g. participation of micro-companies and SMEs, role of gender), and study the fairness of the data economy (e.g. presence of power asymmetries based on data holdings, unfair competition and practices, fair distribution of added value among actors, empowerment of consumers, including the most vulnerable). Proposals will perform 5-10 detailed end-to-end case studies of data flows and reuse in specific parts of our food systems, from farm to fork.

Proposals will put in place a broad stakeholder dialogue to facilitate and discuss new insights, to boost mutual learning and cooperation, to increase awareness among policy makers and stakeholder representatives about the benefits and pitfalls of digital transformation, and to generate new ideas and approaches to improve governance of the data economy in food systems. The stakeholder dialogue should attract and involve players from all parts of the data value chain and representing different sectors and markets. Special care should be taken to involve SMEs, young entrepreneurs, young farmers, start-ups, cities and consumers, and to include relevant actors that are not directly linked to the food value chains (e.g. social media companies, knowledge brokers, educators).

Proposals should develop a framework for the data economy in food systems, as a basis for monitoring its future development, its performance and impacts.

Proposals should formulate recommendations (including technological, societal, economic, legal) for policy makers (EU, national, regional, local) and other stakeholders. They should do this with a view to accelerating the uptake of data driven innovation and data reuse in a socially acceptable way and to improving the development, functioning, governance, monitoring, impact and fairness of the data economy in food systems, within the context of overall EU policy objectives. These recommendations should also take into account trends and opportunities[[Trends and opportunities can be cross-cutting (example: demands for a better trade-off between the need for data-driven innovation and the need for personal data protection and data sovereignty) or specific to food systems (examples: demands for greater transparency about the food people eat with regards to health and sustainability; demands for more circular, resilient and customized food supply; a greater prevalence and uptake of personalized nutrition solutions)]] that the research identified, that are expected to be important drivers of change in food systems, and for which improved governance, adapted legal frameworks, new policy initiatives and enhanced societal engagement (from citizen science to prosumer approaches) can significantly increase the positive and mitigate the negative impacts of future changes. This includes efforts to explain and map how the recommendations generate co-benefits for the four Food 2030 priorities: nutrition for sustainable healthy diets, climate and environment, circularity and resource efficiency, innovation and empowerment of communities.

These recommendations should also address the need for more (and more effective) exchange and reuse of data assets across parts of EU food systems, national boundaries and language barriers, public and private sectors, and for a wider adoption of data driven-innovations. They should also help to mitigate power asymmetries based on data holdings, ensure fairer competition in the data economy, maximise benefits for citizens and food system actors and enable more open access to data. More specifically, an EU data space for Food systems, in which data is shared for the common good (“data commons”), should be examined to support the objectives of the EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy. Integration of such a data space, with the European Open Science Cloud, the common European data space for research and innovation, should aim at allowing the research community to create new knowledge in this domain.

Proposals should set out a clear plan on how they plan to collaborate with other projects selected under this and any other relevant call, by participating in joint activities, workshops, as well as common communication and dissemination activities.

This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.