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International Mobility Programme to Strengthen Skills and Excellence in Research for Agriculture

Final Report Summary - AGREENSKILLS (International Mobility Programme to Strengthen Skills and Excellence in Research for Agriculture)

The COFUND AgreenSkills international postdoctoral fellowship programme was designed to promote international mobility of postdoctoral young researchers with up to 7 years postdoctoral experience who wished to carry out research projects in the fields of agriculture, food, nutrition and environment.

AgreenSkills held 8 standard bi-annual selection rounds and 3 short-cycle selection rounds which have led to the evaluation of 265 applications, the selection of 99 candidates and the recruitment of 86 postdoctoral researchers, during a four and a half year period between 2012 and 2017. Of the 86 fellows that received funding, 61 were for incoming mobility projects to France, with the remaining 25 concerning outgoing mobility projects of Agreenium’s members researchers to countries, outside of France, mainly in a number of EU countries, USA, India, China, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Norway and Switzerland. The average selection rate has been of 37,4%. The calls were announced on the AgreenSkills website and on international web based scientific journals and academic job platforms.

AgreenSkills’ key distinguishing features have been:
1) A great openness, taking into account the specific situation of each candidate and her/his personal career situation, including career breaks, maternity leaves, availability and dates of mobility and the particular needs of lecturer-researchers.

2) A diversity of culture and origin of incoming selected candidates: coming from everywhere in the world, mainly from the EU and EFTA regions, followed by USA, Canada and Latin American countries. A few researchers came from Asia, Oceania, North Africa and non-UE/EFTA countries in Europe.

3) The programme has been open to a large diversity of research themes and disciplines, with no particular requirements regarding neither academic discipline nor research approach. A high proportion of the applications and selected projects have been in Plant Sciences and also in Environmental Science and Forestry, Soil science, Food and Nutrition science.

AgreenSkills was handled by a Management support team leaded by the Programme Coordinators, supported by a Scientific Committee that was focused on assessing and ranking the reviewed project proposals. For its part, the Steering Committee mandate was to validate the ranked list of applications proposed for funding by the Scientific Committee and to take the final decision regarding their recruitment, notably in terms of financial sustainability. Both Committees met twice per year.

The research activities were complemented by several career development activities offered to the fellows. Also, the programme organized every year Annual Fellows’ meetings which typically lasted three days in October and included fellows speed presentations and poster sessions, along with scientific key talks and training sessions. These sessions were dedicated on various cross-disciplinary topics and research practices, among which a regular special session on ethics. Moreover the hosting institutions that participated in the programme committed to providing every fellow with access to training through focused seminars, workshops, conferences and other learning opportunities. Each fellow had a scientific mentor at the hosting laboratory who facilitated any research and non-research training needed to carry out the project.

AgreenSkills has not only helped to attract inventive, promising and experienced young researchers, but also offered them a unique multi-disciplinary scientific and international environment in which they could optimally pursue their research. With the end of the programme most of the 86 fellows successfully completed their fellowships and research, and a large majority of them have found more permanent positions in academia or research. The programme has largely contributed to the internationalisation of scientific practices and cross-pollination between different cultures and scientific communities around the topics researched by the Agreenium’s members and favourably achieved its goal for fellowship years with an achievement rate of 93% by the end of the programme.

The programme was coordinated by INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in collaboration with Agreenium-IAVFF, the French Agricultural, Veterinary and Forestry Institute. Agreenium currently comprises 4 research organisations and 14 higher education institutions working in the fields of agriculture, environment, food and nutrition, animal health for applied and/or basic research. This extension increased the number of potential hosting labs for incoming fellows, up to around 350 labs and more than 900 research teams.

The list of host organisations is as follows:
• CIRAD (French agricultural research and international cooperation organization).
• IRSTEA (National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture).
• AgroParisTech (Paris Institute for Life, Food and Environmental Sciences).
• Agrocampus Ouest (Institute for life, food and horticultural sciences and landscaping).
• Montpellier SupAgro (International Centre for Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences).
• INP-ENSAT (Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Toulouse).
• Anses (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety).
• AgroSup Dijon, Bordeaux Sciences Agro.
• Université de Lorraine-ENSTIB.
• Ecole Nationale supérieur du paysage.
• Engees (National School for Water and Environmental engineering).
• ENSFEA (National Teacher Training School in Agronomy).
• Four National Veterinary Schools: INP-ENVT (National Veterinary School in Toulouse) VetAgro Sup (in Lyon), Oniris (in Nantes) and ENVA (in Paris-Alfort).

Contact details:

For questions from participants of the programme and fellows:
Programme Coordinators:
AgreenSkills website:
Agreenium-IAVFF website: