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Facing sustainability: new relationships between rural areas and agriculture in Europe

Periodic Report Summary 2 - RURAGRI (Facing sustainability: new relationships between rural areas and agriculture in Europe)

Project Context and Objectives:
The ERA-NET RURAGRI aims to improve coordination between on-going and future European, national and regional research programmes concerned with the interrelated issues of agricultural development, rural development and sustainable development.
While the challenges and issues are mostly common, and despite of the historical coordination at the EU level for agricultural and rural development policies, research on agriculture and rural development is mostly carried out at a national level and remains fragmented. Research funding bodies from 20 European member states and associated countries agreed to establish RURAGRI in order to enhance co-ordination and co-operation between national research programmes and thereby contribute to the development of a lasting focused network that will identify and support new research fields.

RURAGRI consists of 23 partners from 20 European member states and associated countries. RURAGRI started on the 1st October 2009 and will run until 30th September 2013.
In September 2012, 16 countries have launched a joint transnational Call.

Project Results:
RURAGRI started on the 1st October 2009. It has been created thanks to the major influence and support of the SCAR committee to the Member States and the Commission, (foresight activity and reflection on research priority setting at the European level). Two lines of inspiration contributed to the project RURAGRI, according to the two SCAR Collaborative Working Group that merged to elaborate its proposal in response to the call of the Commission: (i) the contribution of agriculture to sustainable development and (ii) rural development, moving in turn from a systemic approach to a local one.

A. The first concrete step was a Mapping of existing research and information exchange oriented towards a future joint activity. The mapping exercise of RURAGRI was mainly performed to understand:
- the principle funding mechanisms in the partner countries;
- the core expertise and the strengths of the partners involved in RURAGRI; and
- the main interests in future joint activities and thematic topics of RURAGRI partners.
20 country reports (Deliverable D2.1) have been elaborated for internal purpose. They are available on the RURAGRI internal Website. In addition, a synthesis report of the WP2 mapping has been published in 2011 and is available on the public area of the website.
B. The second step was the development of a common Strategic Research Agenda (SRA). The development of a common, mutually agreed SRA was considered to be one of the major, crucial tasks of the ERA-Net. This Strategic Research Agenda had been developed by RURAGRI Work Package 3 under the lead of FORMAS, (Sweden) and FOAG (Switzerland) in close interaction with the Management Committee of RURAGRI and in cooperation with the RURAGRI Expert Panel. The SRA was considered to be the major basis for the development of the RURAGRI call.

C. The third step was the work of WP4. It comprised the provision of relevant information on :
a) priority research topics of interest to the RURAGRI Partners
It dealt with the Mapping of the research priorities against the background of the strategic framework developed in the SRA. A survey has been undertaken among RURAGRI partners in order to assess the results of this exercise and identify key research topics associated with the priority research areas. Deliverable 4.1 contains the methodology and main results of the above-mentioned survey.

b) currently uncovered transdisciplinary topics of research;
The objective was to, within the context of the RURAGRI strategic framework, identify critical knowledge gaps. An overview of previous and on-going research has been undertaken through published materials with the use of a scientific database.
The focus of this work was on the identification of specific transdisciplinary research questions considering the “new relationships between rural areas and agriculture to face sustainability” (Deliverable 4.2).

c) identification of a suitable typology of rural areas that will facilitate enhance co-ordination and cooperation.
This objective was to address the importance of the spatial approach for the identification of relevant issues in the European framework bearing in mind territorial differences. The purpose of this work was not to develop a new rural typology but to identify one or more existing typologies that describe particular spatial differences for the 3 targeted priority areas: ecosystems and public goods, socioeconomics in rural areas and land use management.
The focus of this Deliverable 4.3 was to facilitate enhance co-operation and co-ordination of research between RURAGRI Partners by identifying regions across the EU that are faced with similar challenges and opportunities.

D. The fourth step, the culmination of 35 months of work, was to launch joint transnational Call (Deliverable 5.1) among 16 countries in September 2012.
On the basis of the Strategic Research Agenda and of the evaluation of the joint activities in WP4, RURAGRI developed a trans-national research programme. The RURAGRI Steering Committee identified three cross cutting issues as core reference to any research in the field of RURAGRI: Diversity, Rural-urban relationships, Governance. In addition, it was agreed that all RURAGRI Research projects will integrate at least two of the following three research priorities: Ecosystem Services/Public Goods, Socio-Economic Development, Land Use and Land Management. The estimated total budget for the RURAGRI Call was app. 8,5 mio €.

Potential Impact:
Research funding bodies from 20 European member states and associated countries have set up RURAGRI in order to develop a lasting focused network that will identify and open new research fields.
November the 30th 2012 was the closing date to submit a proposal to the RURAGRI Call. Thereafter, International Peer Reviewers will evaluate these proposals until February 2013. After 2 phases of project negotiations and national contracts, research funded projects will start in June or July 2013 and will end at the latest on July 2016.
RURAGRI will capitalize on the results of the research projects funded by the partners of the Call.

Last but not least the expected impact is to promote joint strategy and initiate a dynamics that will trigger joint research activities among partners.

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