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European Initiative for a better use of the results of agri-food research

Final Report Summary - AGRIFOODRESULTS (European Initiative for a better use of the results of agri-food research)

AGRIFOODRESULTS was one of the first projects supported by Directorate-General (DG) Research and Innovation focusing on dissemination of food research results. As a 'pioneer project', it covered key issues related to the communication of scientific communication: the study of current practices (through a survey on dissemination activities in the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programme (FP6 and FP7) projects relevant to the food sector), capacity development (through the preparation of guidelines and the delivery of training), the development of innovative communication tools (wiki website, web 3D) and the study of best practice for the food sector (through a study on the cost-effectiveness of dissemination activities).

The main results of the project include:

1) a survey report on dissemination practices in FP6 and FP7 food research projects;
2) a report on strategies for communication of scientific results in the food sector;
3) four guidelines: a general guide for dissemination manager and three guides for communication towards specific audiences (food small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), policy makers and consumers);
4) a directory of information relays: an online directory with contact details of more than 200 information relays relevant to the food sector;
5) virtual supermarket: an innovative web solution for communicating project results;
6) AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/wiki: a collaborative website presenting results of food research projects;
7) Communication Star 2011: a European competition rewarding European food research projects for their dissemination practices;
8) a final report summarising the key findings and presenting recommendations that should be taken into account to achieve success in communicating results from food research projects for in the Framework Programme Horizon 2020.

Seven training sessions on communication have been organised. The project also helped to disseminate results of 19 national and European food research projects.

The reports and tools will remain available at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu at least until 2014. Register members have access to the directory and can publish information themselves about their events. Scientists and communication managers are encouraged to include their results in the virtual supermarket and in AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/wiki.

Project context and objectives:

The European food sector is facing several challenges for its future development:

- to supply safe and cheap food, in sufficient quantity, in the context of a growing world population;
- to provide healthy food that answers consumer demand and addresses public health concerns; and
- to reduce its impact on the environment while increasing its competitiveness.

In other words, the food sector needs to answer the societal and consumer demand for safe, healthy and sustainable food while continuing to provide jobs for more than 4 million people across Europe.

Innovation is becoming a key factor for successful development of the sector: to answer these challenges, more and better innovation is required. The food sector has certain characteristics that make innovation more challenging than in other sectors. One of these characteristics is the importance of small businesses: among the 310 000 companies involved in food and drink production, more than 90 % are SMEs. Compared to other sectors, such as automotive, ICT or health, innovation is much more incremental and there are fewer connections between the research performers and the users of research results.

The project AGRIFOODRESULTS has been developed against this background: taking into account the specificities of the food sector, the ambition of the project is to boost innovation by ensuring better use of the results of agri-food research. Enhancing the use of research results requires the improvement of dissemination practices in food research projects.

AGRIFOODRESULTS was one of the first projects supported by DG Research focusing on dissemination in the food sector. As a 'pioneer project', several issues related to scientific communication have been covered: the study of current practices (through a survey on dissemination activities in FP6 and FP7 projects), capacity development (through the preparation of guidelines and the delivery of training), the development of innovative communication tools (wiki website, web 3D) and the study of best practice for the food sector (through a study on the cost-effectiveness of dissemination activities).

Project results:

(1) Survey report on dissemination practices in FP6 and FP7 food research projects

The AGRIFOODRESULTS survey on dissemination practices identified which activities have been implemented in FP6 and FP7 agrifood research projects. The results from 49 projects (differentiated in large projects (LP) and small projects (SP)) show that:

- FP6 and FP7 research projects are primarily targeted to the scientific community. According to the respondents, the most important users of the project results are: researchers (35 % of the projects), policy makers (30 %), food industry (28 %) and consumers (7 %).
- Too few specialists in communication are involved in FP projects. Besides the requirement to have a work package dedicated to dissemination, there is a lack of professionalism; half of the projects interviewed do not employ a specialist in communication and do not design a dissemination strategy.
- Dissemination activities have been continued after the end of the projects. According to the survey, 90 % of SP and 65 % of LP intend to continue dissemination after the end of the project.
- The most common dissemination activities include the development of websites (100 % of the answers), publications of scientific articles in peer review journals, the participation in scientific conferences (all LP and 88 % of SP) and the publication of newsletters (84 % for SP, 96 % for LP).
- Some differences: almost all the LP use videos for presenting the results (96 %) while less than half (48 %) of the SP produced a video. The preparation of leaflets for other audiences such as consumers or policy makers is done by 52 % of LP, whereas the majority of SP (80 %) do not develop such leaflets. 80 % of the LP but only 30 % of the SP have organised or will organise training or workshops for scientists or regulatory bodies. Overall, the LP reported more activities targeted at food companies than the SP.
- Few activities are targeted at food companies. Only half of the SP took part in conferences that were dedicated to food industry, whereas around 75 % of the LP attended these conferences. Self-organised training for the industry was also seldom (20 % for SP, 57 % for LP). 40 % of the SP and 48 % of the LP actively visited food companies.

The report is available at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/reports.php

(2) Report on strategies for communication of scientific results in the food sector

This report looks at dissemination strategies in food research projects. It provides general guidance as well as the results of a study on the effectiveness of dissemination activities.

The key messages from the report are that target audiences should be identified at a very early stage and activities for each audience should be carefully chosen. The report provide guidance for selecting these activities by identifying the best activities to reach scientists, the food industry, policy makers and consumers:

- Scientists: publication of articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, participation to conferences, trainings or workshops and visits to other scientists.
- Food industry: active dissemination by visiting companies and organizing events, presentation of practical results trough leaflets or articles in specialised magazines.
- Policy makers: organisation of (or participation in) workshops and trainings, visits to policy makers as well as engagement with media (interview by journalist, dissemination of press release or organization of press conferences).
- Consumers: publication of articles (interviews by journalist, press release etc.) and dissemination towards consumer associations (direct contact, conference, distribution of leaflet etc.).

The report is available at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/reports.php

(3) Guidelines

The first guide provides practical advice for the development of an efficient strategy for the dissemination of food research results. The first section provides general guidance for communication managers and the second section advice on the main communication tools (press releases, events, publications, Internet and audio-visual tools and personal communication.

The second guide gives advice on how researchers can communicate their research results in the best way to food SMEs. The focus is on helping researchers to understand how to succeed in the knowledge transfer process. It starts when research results are already available or at least predictable. The identification, systematic collection, adaptation and formulation of research results to suit food SMEs are very important to generate their interest. This will in turn enhance the likelihood of them implementing the results. It is important that researchers who want to communicate their research results to food SMEs know the typical needs of their target audience. SMEs are not uniform in their behaviour. Therefore different approaches are necessary for the different groups of food SMEs.

The third guide gives advice on communication towards policy makers. The focus is to guide researchers in the process of communicating with policy makers: who to speak to and how, and the steps that have to be taken into account in this process.

The fourth guide gives advice on how researchers can communicate their research results to consumers. Communication of research results towards consumers is a complicated issue to embrace, the guide provides an overview on the aspects which have to be considered if researchers want to spread their findings among the general public.

The four guides, together with an introduction and a template for preparation of a dissemination plan are available at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/guideline.php.

(4) Directory of information relays

The website http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu is designed as an information platform for dissemination managers of food research projects. It includes a database with more than 200 events relevant to food research, reports and guidelines relevant to scientific communication as well as an online directory with contact details of information relays relevant to the food sector. The directories contains 204 entries including contact details of 114 food magazines, 40 industry associations, 25 consumer associations and 25 food authorities. The information can be searched by country, type of contact and by sector.

The directory is available at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/login-form.php

(5) Virtual supermarket

AGRIFOODRESULTS also included the development of an innovative web solution for communicating project results. An interactive virtual world in which visitors can explore ideas in a familiar environment has been developed. This world includes three examples of 'knowledge hot spots' which present different kinds of research results:

1. a supermarket with shelves for the dissemination of product oriented research results;
2. a bakery representing a process and technology oriented approach to disseminate R&D results focusing on bakery technology;
3. an information desk for cross-sectoral R&D projects and themes like 'food and consumer', 'food and health' or 'food quality and safety'.

The specific project results are represented via 'infopoints' placed at the shelves in the supermarket, at the machines in the bakery or at the information desk. Through exploration, the user can discover the results of R&D projects at his/her special point of interest. The infopoints in the supermarket function as one-stop-shops and teasers, giving a short overview on the project's results. They give easy access to more in-depth information via icons and to experts via an email link directly to the responsible project manager and project website.

This is an entirely new dissemination approach, using cross-media, to explain results in a web 3D-world. The program can be accessed via the Internet or on CD/DVD where the user can navigate in a 'virtual landscape' (representing the familiar environment of the target group) and where information (audio, video and text) can be placed and explored.

The virtual supermarket can be accessed at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/web-3d.php

(6) AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/wiki

AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/wiki is a website presenting results of food research projects. The website works as Wikipedia as it consists of articles, the main principle being '1 result = 1 article'. The website is entirely independent: the pages from AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/wiki can not be found on Wikipedia. The main advantage is that it is very easy to publish. The content of this website is edited by dissemination managers of food research projects. The information published is controlled as only registered members can publish contributions.

Results from national and European food research projects are available. Each result is presented in a synthetic way with a similar structure and links to other resources. Visitors can search information by keywords, by projects or by categories.

The website is available at http://www.AGRIFOODRESULTS.eu/wiki.php

(7) Communication Star 2011

The competition 'Communication Star 2011' has been organised between December 2010 and March 2011 to reward European food research projects for their dissemination strategies.

Around 120 food research projects have been invited to participate, 25 entered the competition (19 FP6 and 6 FP7 projects, 14 large and 11 small projects).

The jury, composed of two representatives from the food industry (Erwin Lamot, Director of Flander's Food and Mella Frewen, Director General of the CIAA), one representative from a consumer association (Ruth Veale, Head of the department Food, Health, Head of Environment and Safety at BEUC), one representative from science (Xavier Gellynck, Professor at Ghent University) and one representative from the media (Isabelle Gattegno, Deputy Editor at RIA) selected seven nominees (FLABEL, EU-FRESH BAKE, HELENA and META-PHOR for the category small projects, CASCADE, NOVELQ and SEAFOODPLUS for the category large projects).

Nominees have been invited to participate in the awards ceremony organized in Brussels on 1 March 2011. The final decision, based on short presentations by the nominees, has been made by the jury during the awards ceremony.

For the small projects, the award went to 'Healthy lifestyle in Europe by nutrition in adolescence' (HELENA) coordinated by Luis Moreno from the University of Zaragoza. For the large projects, the award went to CASCADE coordinated by Ingemar Pongratz from Karolinska Institute.