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European Research Area on Sustainable Animal Production Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SusAn (European Research Area on Sustainable Animal Production Systems)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2022-02-28

What is the problem/issue being addressed?
The livestock sector is associated with a variety of challenges with regard to emissions (including climate change), biodiversity, resource use, rural livelihoods, animal health & welfare, and global food and nutrition security.
For the future, global meat consumption is projected to increase significantly, while animal production will increasingly be affected by climate change and competition for natural resources, particularly land and water, and it will have to face the need to reduce fossil energy dependency and environmental impact.

Why is it important for society?
SusAn aimed to fund research on innovative solutions for animal production systems to safeguard natural resources, to reduce environmental impacts, including greenhouse gases, to take related societal concerns into consideration, whilst providing Europe’s citizens with sufficient, healthy and safe food. SusAn thereby addressed several societal challenges and associated themes under Horizon 2020, for example sustainable agriculture, environment, resource efficiency and Europe in a challenging and changing world.

What are the overall objectives?
In order to help deliver a unified vision and solutions for a more sustainable and secure future for animal production in Europe, SusAn partners pooled national/regional resources to make better use of scarce public research funding and work together more effectively in identified key areas.
To tackle the challenge of sustainability, SusAn applied a systems approach that covered the three sustainability pillars - economy, environment and society - to livestock farming in a way that can be regarded as a new paradigm in research. This is expected to make a significant contribution to the development of a more sustainable animal production in Europe.

Conclusions of the action
The ERA-NET SusAn successfully managed to implement this EC funding instrument to support public-public partnerships. SusAn terminated after six years, on 28.02.2022 after a one-year prolongation. SusAn established significant collaboration with other ERA-NETs, namely the ERA-NETs FACCE ERA GAS, ICT AGRI 2 / FOOD and SusCrop, resulting in two additional, non-cofunded calls with broad system approaches. In parts, this additional collaboration was the first of its kind and is regarded by their partners as a good preparation for future European Partnerships.
Together with the ERA-NETs involved in the Joint Calls, SusAn mobilized approximately 35 million euros of public funding for research from the Member States. The calls, together with other joint activities, created a momentum, which will be sustained after the end of the ERA-NET.
From the discussions during the SusAn final conference in January 2022 it became clear that SusAn contributed to the development of more sustainable agri-food systems and that continued efforts are needed in the direction layed out by SusAn. During the duration of the ERA NET, the consortium partners have built mutual trust and common processes. This is a substantial step towards future collaboration.
Calls for proposals
Three calls were implemented during the runtime of SusAn:
The cofunded call (launched 2016) was on sustainable animal production. It involved 28 funding parties from 21 European countries, and 14 research projects were finally selected for funding (€ 16 million including EU top-up).
The first non-cofunded call (launched 2018) on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was a joint activity with the ERA-NETs FACCE ERA GAS and ICT AGRI 2. 27 funding parties participated, including Canada, Chile and New Zealand, and it resulted in eight projects selected for funding (€ 11 million).
The second non-cofunded call on circularity (launched 2021) was again a joint activity with the ERA NETs FACCE ERA GAS, ICT AGRI FOOD and SusCrop. 25 funding parties participated, including Argentina, New Zealand and Uruguay, and it resulted in nine projects selected for funding (€ 12 million).
A communication and knowledge exchange plan was developed and successfully implemented from SusAn and all funded projects

To ensure compliance with ethics requirements, the ERA NET SusAn established a dedicated Ethics work package. Further, an ethics screening was performed in each call for proposals, upon selection of the research projects. This ensured that the proposals complied with the relevant rules and regulations.

Other joint activities
SusAn’s “Other joint activities” (Work Package 6) started with two joint expert workshops, 2016 and 2018, implemented together with FACCE ERA-GAS and ICT-AGRI2. These workshops contributed to prepare the two non-cofunded joint calls.
Main other activities were:
- A joint SusAn and FACCE JPI expert workshop on animal genetics and breeding (2019), in which 36 participants from 14 countries identified research gaps and discussed future cooperation.
- A workshop (2021) in which 25 selected early-career researchers were trained to identify visions and challenges for future sustainable animal production systems in Europe.

Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda
A Common Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (CSRIA) was developed based on expert consultations and the identification of research gaps. This process included four workshops, two stakeholder surveys, a gap analysis and a mapping of related initiatives as well as direct contributions of external experts to the agenda’s text.
Agriculture and food production play an essential role in both, to fulfil the European Green Deal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A transformation of the livestock sector will have a significant effect in the environmental domain and also in the domains of economy and society.
To tackle the challenge of sustainability, SusAn promoted the systems approach to agri-food systems in a way that can be regarded as a new paradigm in research. Due to this new approach, SusAn can be expected to make a significant contribution to a more sustainable livestock production. SusAn aimed at multidisciplinary, multi-actor actions that bring together different competences and actors across Europe and beyond. This effort was underlined by the implementation of the two Joint Calls with the ERA-NETs FACCE ERA GAS and ICT-AGRI2 and, repectively, FACCE ERA-GAS, ICT AGRI FOOD and SusCrop.
SusAn improved knowledge exchange between ERA-NETs and enhanced synergies between partners and other EU initiatives. Depending on national/regional regulations in the respective research programmes the participation of project partners from the livestock community (SMEs, extension services) was encouraged. All stakeholders were involved in SusAn seminars, the research agenda and in SusAn’s final conference.
Knowledge exchange within and between the projects of the three calls was being facilitated through various networking events. Regular seminars, like Kick-off, Mid-term and Final seminar were organized to disseminate research activities and results to a broader audience of stakeholders.
The research projects resulting from the calls and the CSRIA will give input for strengthening policies and action plans at European and Member State level. The SCAR Collaborative Working Group on Sustainable Animal Production (CWG SAP) will continue and use the results of SusAn in fulfilling its role as advisor in the livestock sector for the EU Commission and the Member States.