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Establishment of an Agricultural Genomics Centre in Cyprus

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AGRICYGEN (Establishment of an Agricultural Genomics Centre in Cyprus)

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

The objective of AGRICYGEN is to establish a world class Centre to conduct high-throughput Agricultural Genomic studies in order to support the advancement and sustainability of the livestock and feed production sectors in Cyprus. The project addresses the specific scope of the H2020 CSA-Teaming call by aiming to provide, currently lacking, broad-range technological and scientific foundations for a Centre of Excellence to support activities of huge economic value to Cyprus. AGRICYGEN also has multifaceted alignment with the Smart Specialisation Strategy of Cyprus. The Centre development shall increase international visibility and competitiveness of Cyprus in cutting edge agricultural research, by enhancing research capacity in the area of genetics and genomics and its applications within the livestock and agricultural production industries. It will also strengthen collaborations and initiate new collaborative links for sharing expertise and knowledge in areas associated with agricultural genomics, and will create an ever-expanding, well-educated taskforce of researchers in this area. The Centre establishment and consolidation will be achieved by capitalizing on existing local research capabilities of three Cypriot Institutions, and through effective collaboration with three advanced European institutions that are world leaders in animal, plant and microbial genetic and genomics research. This long-term partnership will create the conditions for innovative research, and for extensive service and training provisions to animal, plant and other production chains. The Centre’s excellence will be strengthened through collaboration with the advanced partners for the development of a Cyprus-based postgraduate programme in agricultural genetics and genomics, affiliated to advanced partners. The long-term aspiration is for the Centre to become sustainable and to continuously expand its activities through investment in research, industrial engagement and education.At the end of phase 1, a comprehensive Business Plan has been developed, along with the Research, Industrial Collaboration and Education Strategies for the Centre. In addition, a variety of highly publicized and effective dissemination and communication activities have been organised during the time of the phase 1 CSA-action.
Work carried out during 12 months of the phase 1 CSA action:
a) Creation, engagement, communication and contribution of the extensive consortium members, including the advanced partners, for the purpose of drafting the proposed Centre’s Strategies on Research, Education, and Industry Cooperation, and all items relevant to developing the Centre Business Plan. This included 2 consortium meetings, 4 study visits to advanced partners, a launch event, organisation of an AGRICYGEN Seminar in Edinburgh, UK, a pre-conference workshop on AGRICYGEN in Cyprus, along with other events to increase the visibility of the AGRICYGEN efforts.
b) Development of a non-degree and degree Education strategy to be implemented fully as part with a joint effort with partner UEDIN, during phase 2.
c) Contact with local, regional and international stakeholders, and engagement in AGRICYGEN phase 1 events, in order to register and instigate their interest in the Centre activities and enable future collaboration.
d) Close communication was established with leading companies in genomic technologies, which have vested interest to expand their involvement in the region, through the AGRICYGEN Centre service provision.
e) Achievement of national and private engagement to fund Centre activities during phase 2 and decisively contribute to the Centre long-term sustainability.

Overview of results, which will serve as guidance for phase 2 proposal preparation: The following deliverables were produced during the 12 months of the CSA Action:
D2.1 Report on direction of partner cooperation for the Centre Research, Education and Industrial activities
D2.2 Operational Plan for Data Handling and Management
D2.3 Report on Knowledge Management
D2.4 Stakeholder map, relevance to Centre activities and forms of collaboration
D3.1 Strategic plan for research and innovation activities
D3.2 Strategic plan for industrial cooperation
D3.3 Strategic plan on education, academic knowledge transfer and training
D3.4 Guideline document on the Centre’s legal and institutional framework
D3.5 Centre Operational Plan
D4.1: Business Plan for the AGRICYGEN Centre of Excellence: The Business Plan included input from all WPs and Tasks and comprehensively presents the future business prospects of the AGRICYGEN Centre
D5.2 Project website
D5.3 Report on all dissemination activities performed

Within D5.3 a report is provided on how all publishable information from this effort has been extensively communicated and exploited to achieve public engagement and involvement of relevant stakeholders and approval and support from the wider society.
The results achieved up to the end of the project, as consolidated through complete deliverables, are listed above, since a single reporting period was applicable for the 12-month phase 1 project.

Impact related to the one-year activity (relevant for the CSA):
The implementation of Phase I of the project concentrated on developing the strategy for setting up the Centre. This strategy did not only deal with the Strategic Research Agenda but also a Communication Strategy that also engaged farmers, the dairy industry, policy makers (Department of Agriculture, Veterinary Services and others) and other stakeholders. In particular to the dairy industry, at present there is a heated debate in Cyprus about the future of Halloumi Cheese, pending the PDO approval. The Communications activities during the 12 months, promoted the development of an Agricultural Genomics Centre and brought all stakeholders around the table to discuss a strategy that tackles the Halloumi cheese issue at its roots. Communication events were also beneficial for the industry and society, by promoting collective actions and collaboration along agricultural product value chains. Additionally, the one-year activities generated a much needed basis for widening the scientific scope of the country in the area of agriculture, through the involvement of the three founding Institutes of the Centre. This contact also provided a paradigm for expanding their collaboration in additional research areas. During the one- year activity, increased communication with advanced partners, sharing of know-how and increased visibility of research activities and directions/priorities in Cyprus also had a positive research impact. Comprehensive mapping of stakeholder needs in terms of services, training and research efforts at the Centre, were also possible by establishing contact with related structures/stakeholders abroad and with regional stakeholders, and through dissemination events and consultations planned.