Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

EU agri-food expertise targets the Western Balkans

Improving the research capability of the Western Balkan (WB) countries will help these nations come closer to the EU and raise the standard of living in terms of food availability.
EU agri-food expertise targets the Western Balkans
The WB countries, comprised of ex-Yugoslav states beyond the EU and Albania, all have European aspirations and aim to implement EU standards in research across many fields. The EU-funded project 'Setting up of an agricultural and food research network in the Western Balkan countries' (BAFN) looked at enlarging the European Research Area (ERA) in the field of agriculture.

It aimed to provide WB researchers with valuable knowledge regarding agriculture and useful research results that could help the region. The project enabled 13 organisations to forge links between agri-food scientists from the EU and WB, establishing a database of almost 350 research groups and 500 companies in the field. Moreover, the project surveyed 180 research stakeholders on relevant research in the region and helped articulate priorities for research in the agri-food sector.

Apart from identifying common research topics for EU and WB researchers, BAFN worked on establishing several support mechanisms that help researchers in the region. A project study underlined how lack of research budget has hampered agri-food research in WB countries. This has limited the research landscape to a relatively small number of researchers, namely 3,500 focused around 80 research organisations, of which 16 are universities.

In addressing this challenge and calling for increased EU support, the project underlined that 'a small effort will have a big impact.' In its final report, BAFN outlined several actions to help agri-food research in the region. These included research training, incentives to buy research equipment, enhanced researcher mobility and improved access to data. The project focused strongly on biodiversity, indigenous species and conservation of genetic resources. Lastly, it underlined topics for collaboration and exploration such as animal husbandry, diseases, food allergens, chemical pollution, food toxins and nutrition.

Overall, intensified research could lead to improvements in the food chain, quality of life, protection of natural resources and a more robust WB agro-industry.

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