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Slovenian Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Sciences

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SLO-ACE (Slovenian Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Sciences)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

The project represents an excellent and crucial opportunity to concentrate all resources from national and European funding, in order to build a Slovenian Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Sciences, which is unifying all national top level research capacities ready to interact with and contribute to the European Research Area. The strong belief in the success of the future centre of excellence SLO-ACE comes from the fact that the project has been designed in answer to an existing need well perceived in Slovenia in the recent years, and acknowledged and supported by the governmental institutions in the country.
Slovenia is small country at the crossroads of three very different climatic zones (Mediterranean, Alpine and Pannonian) and can, therefore, serve as a large-scale field laboratory for research of the influence of climatic changes on agricultural production in several very different environments, which can be than applied to other countries of the region and further. KIS and its partners in the SLO-ACE have the field research facilities that cover most of those environments and perform research as needed. The implementation of the research results into practice (TRL 6-9) can be achieved in cooperation with different stakeholders through the Strategic Development Innovation Partnerships platforms of Smart Specialisation of Slovenia.
All strategic documents in Slovenia include agriculture. Sustainable food production is now the basic pillar of Slovenian national strategies together with Ecology. Out of eight priorities in the Slovene RIS3, Agriculture and food production are the only ones for which there is no center of excellence yet in Slovenia.
Slovenia, as many other Eastern and Central Europe countries faces the lack of financial and human resources, the underdeveloped research infrastructure, the dispersed RTD capacities between different research units in the country as a whole. If the research capacity in the country is conditionally divided into three main groups: universities which should be providing higher education and basic research, institutes which are supposed to perform basic and applied research and Advisory services, which are responsible for knowledge transfer, the actual situation demonstrates unnatural competition for the same funds between different groups which face a weak financial situation for R&D in the country. For calls at the national level, all these parties are competing, despite the fact that there is a need for collaboration to produce the best research results. SLO-ACE aims to solve this difficulty.
The overall objective is to establish and develop a Slovenian Center of Excellence for Agricultural Sciences (SLO-ACE) as a joint initiative of Agricultural Institute of Slovenia (KIS) and world-class research institutes INRA from France and Aarhus University from Denmark with the support of five prominent Slovenian institutions.
Ethics requirements within WP1 are addressed during the implementation of SLO-ACE project. Main outputs were: justification for personal data collection; Procedures for collection, storage, destruction of data; Details on the procedures and criteria that will be used to identify/recruit participants to the discussions etc.; Detailed information on the informed consent procedures that will be implemented for the participation of humans; Template of any form of informed consent and/or method of information-giving.
Within WP2 research and innovation strategy of SLO-ACE was refined and a detailed SWOT analysis of the future CoE SLO-ACE was developed.
Our focus within WP3 was to foster strong discourse and cooperation with the public and regional authorities, industries, farmers, industrial associations, NGO and other stakeholders.
Within WP 4 organizational readiness for successful activities in knowledge and technology transfer was tested and proved to be ready for building capacity for innovation management. A frame and mechanisms for an effectively functioning and service-oriented administration and educational and training system in SLO-ACE were established.
Within W5 feasibility study for the assessment of the actual potential for the development of SLO-ACE was conducted and Business model for sustainable development of the centre was validated. Business plan with mid and long-term vision was developed.
Wider public and dissemination of the project developments and results was conducted within WP6. Employing different dissemination tools, organizing various events and closely monitoring the PR activities resulted in a very wide public and media reach. In addition to this, the scientific appearance of SLO-ACE team was highly recognized. Based on this, an Operational plan for the dissemination and exploitation activities in the following years was created.
The main result of WP7 was up to date and sound coordination and validation of project development and results among the partnership, as well as keeping up EC financial and administrative procedures.
The main output of WP8 was a Quality Plan, which was designed for standard operations foreseen in the project management.
The CoE SLO-ACE is expected to have a deep impact on the research and innovation landscape, human resources potential, and socio-economic development of Slovenia.
The scientific and educational impact of the establishment of the new Centre of Excellence will be significant. The provision of valuable training for a new generation of professionals will be of value at national, European and international level.
In addition, the SLO-ACE will generate results through technology and knowledge transfer, which will have highly applicable impact. SLO-ACE development will reinforce the innovation environment and will help to complete knowledge-information-innovation-production value chains in Slovenian agriculture. SLO-ACE will also build up a new generation of scientists with benefits in patents, spin-offs, etc.
SLO-ACE will represent a knowledge hub for sustainable agroecosystems research for producing food, feed, energy and bio-based products with critical mass of knowledge that will improve the value proposition along all agricultural commodities value chains e.g. meat production, wine production, etc.