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European Research Area on Sustainable Animal Production Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SusAn (European Research Area on Sustainable Animal Production Systems)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2017-03-31

The animal production sector forms an important part of Europe’s (agricultural) economy and plays an essential role in the provision of Europe’s citizens with high quality animal products.
European animal production has to face challenges associated with increased globalisation and high price volatility for animal products. Simultaneously, European animal production is being challenged on a number of fronts by European society for ethical and environmental reasons. These include arguments against the production and consumption of animal products per se, or those which may be based on a wide range of complex issues for example covering diet and health, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, degradation of natural resources, global food security and animal wellbeing.
SusAn aims to fund research on innovative solutions for animal production systems to provide Europe’s citizens with sufficient, healthy and safe food, to safeguard natural resources, particularly land and water, to reduce fossil energy dependency and environmental impacts, and to take related societal concerns into consideration, whilst at the same time increasing food security.
In order to help deliver a unified vision for a more sustainable and secure future for animal production in Europe, partners agreed to pool national/regional resources in order to make better use of scarce public research funding and work together more effectively in identified key areas.
Cofounded call
28 funding parties from 21 European countries participated in the co-funded call. The initial call contribution totalled 16,6 million € of national/regional funds. The call was launched on 4 January 2016.
SusAn’s online call management tool included 1) a „partnering“ tool to facilitate networking among researchers who were looking for new research consortium partners, 2) a submission tool for applicants and 3) an evaluation tool to perform eligibility check(s) and evaluation of proposals.
74 pre-proposals were submitted requesting a total of € 66.9 m funding. A total of 54 pre-proposals were eligible according to both the call and the national/regional eligibility criteria and were passed on to an independent external expert panel.
The expert panel reviewed both, pre-proposals and full proposals. It recommended 29 out of 54 pre-proposals for funding and 29 full proposals were submitted.
After evaluation of the full proposals, SusAn selected 14 projects for funding, based on the ranking list of full proposals, with a total funding of more than 15,9 million € including EU top-up. An independent observer assessed the implementation of the co-funded call.
In order to facilitate monitoring and evaluation of the projects, a set of indicators for later evaluation of the project had been defined and had to be included in the full proposal.
A complete communication strategy and a communication material development plan has been produced to ensure proper exploitation and dissemination of the results of the funded research projects. The SusAn project website is online, is being kept up to date and is linked with the online call management tool.
A dedicated work package on ethics was introduced to ensure compliance with ethics requirements.

Additional activities:
WP6: Scientific topics have been gathered, discussed and ranked at a joint workshop of the ERA-Nets SusAn, ERA-GAS and ICT-Agri in November of 2016 in Potsdam, Germany. This activity may be the first step leading towards an additional call (knowledge hub or competitive project funding call).
WP7: The first step of writing a Strategic research agenda was to define the strategy for research gap analysis and mapping & elaboration of the Common Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda. This strategy is based on the analysis of existing documents and on interactions with stakeholders and experts at different stages of the process. In a preliminary work and in collaboration with the Animal Task Force, a data base including past and on-going EU-funded projects related to animal production from FP6, FP7, H2020 and ERA-Nets has been developed.
Progress beyond the state of the art
A joint kick-off seminar including all 14 funded SusAn research projects is being organised to take place in November 2017 in Bilbao, Basque country. The projects will subsequently be monitored and evaluated as elaborated in Work package 4.
A tool for monitoring of the research projects is under construction to allow the evaluation of the mid-term and final reports.
An additional activity following up the Potsdam workshop of November 2016 is planned for 2017. Both activities may together lead to an additional call (knowledge hub or competitive project funding call, non co-funded). Other additional activities have been listed and are under discussion.
Regarding the Strategic research agenda, past and present related EU and international research action will be mapped. To develop the research agenda, the mapping and the results will be analyzed in depth and validated by an independent panel of experts and stakeholders.

Expected potential impact
To tackle the challenge of sustainability, SusAn will promote the systems approach in a way that can be regarded as a new paradigm in research. Due to the new approach to research and by demanding simultaneous consideration of the three sustainability pillars - economy, environment and society - SusAn is expected to make a significant contribution to the development of a more sustainable animal production in Europe. SusAn aims at multidisciplinary, multi-actor actions that bring together different competences and actors across Europe and beyond. SusAn will thereby make a significant contribution to the building of the EU Innovation Union according to the EU 2020 Strategy and will give input for strengthening policies and action plans at European and Member State level.
SusAn will link to PLATFORM2 and participate in the networking to improve knowledge exchange between ERA-NETs and maximise 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) will be encouraged. A stakeholder workshop (organised in WP5) will support this challenge and will ensure that relevant actors are aware of the co-funded call and other joint activities.