The French agricultural research system (public sector)
Guided by the ministry of higher education and research (MESR), the first edition of the national research and innovation strategy (SNRI), covering the period 2009–2012, enables France to meet society’s needs and expectations more effectively and to be part of global scientific and economic competition.
It defines three priority research areas: (1) health, welfare, food and biotechnology; (2) environment and environmental technology and (3) information, communication and nanotechnology.
Agricultural research in France should be considered in its broadest sense: sustainable production, diet and nutrition, food safety, ecology, regional development and landscape management.
The big issues facing society, such as climate change, food security, sustainable development and population ageing, have received special attention during discussions on the SNRI - national research and innovation strategy, the PNDAR- national multi-annual agricultural and rural development programme, the national programmes for sustainable agricultural productions and innovation, and the national programme for food (PNA).
Ministries in charge of the agricultural research system.
The agricultural research is a part of a wider system of agricultural knowledge, including research, education and training, innovation, and extension. This system brings together 35 000 researchers, engineers and professors, training 190 000 students, among which 12 500 students from higher education, and 1 000 foreign post-doc; it is in charge of coordinating several international networks for teaching, training and decentralised cooperation. It works in close relations with organisations representing around 350 000 farms and 4 000 agro-industrial SMEs. Its annual budget is around 2.6 billions €, and consists mostly of public sector funds.
The system for agricultural higher education and research is mainly under the authority of 4 Ministries: Agriculture, Higher Education & Research, Environment and Foreign Affairs :
– Agriculture : www.agriculture.gouv.fr
– Higher Education & Research : www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr
– Environment : www.environnement.gouv.fr
– Foreign Affairs : www.diplomatie.gouv.fr
Public funding comes largely from the interministerial research and higher education mission, which has annual appropriations of EUR 10 billion, 8% of which is for the agricultural knowledge system. These appropriations are managed mainly by the four ministries listed above.
• Additional French government measures to support research and innovation include the following.
° ‘Investment for the future’ projects (Investissements d'Avenir) receive funding of EUR 35 billion, earmarked for supporting health research and promoting the emergence of a bio-economy, based on life sciences and new ways of using renewable biological resources.
° The research tax credit is an incentive to promote basic research granted on company research and development (R&D) expenditure: a total of EUR 1.5 billion in relief on corporate R&D spending was provided in 2007.
- Regional and departmental authorities (Conseils Régionaux, Conseils Généraux) are also major funding providers to agricultural technical education and agricultural research.
• The budget of the technical institutes totals around EUR 250 million, almost 80% of which comes from taxes and compulsory/voluntary levies. The budget of the chambers of agriculture totals EUR 650 million, of which 50% comes from the additional tax on undeveloped land.
• In conclusion, France spent EUR 39 billion on R&D in 2008. This represents a total R&D investment of 2% of France’s gross domestic product (GDP), around 0.75% of which is government R&D, with corporate R&D averaging 1.27% in 2008. The figure varies between economic sectors and is estimated at less than 0.5% of GDP in the corporate agricultural and agro-industrial sector.
In the past decade, funding agencies such as the French national research agency (ANR), the state-owned company OSEO (funding for innovation and business support), the French national agency for water and aquatic environments (ONEMA) and the French environment and energy management agency (ADEME) have planned and financed research in all sectors through calls for competitive and thematic research projects.
The « Agence Nationale de la Recherche » (ANR), launched in 2006 is a funding agency for research programmes in the public and private sectors. Its two main missions are: to increase the scientific knowledge and encourage networking between public and private laboratories.
The « Agence de l’environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie » is a public organisation, under the authority of 3 Ministries: Environment, Energy and Research. Its missions are to coordinate, to stimulate, to facilitate and/or to undertake operations in relation to environment protection and/or energy management.
ONEMA - the French national agency for water and aquatic environments, is active in the field of environmental French public service. It operates under the supervision of the ministry in charge of ecology and sustainable development. Its mission is to contribute to overall and sustainable management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems.
Onema organises and produces high-level science and technology advice to assist in formulating, implementing and evaluating public water policy, and it stimulates research and development.
Research organizations mainly devoted to agricultural research
OSEO is a partner of local, regional and central authorities in France, with a strong focus on local partnerships and private enterprise.
It helps entrepreneurs and their financial partners take on new challenges and related risks through action of three kinds:
- support for innovation: financing and back-up for innovative technology-based projects,
- guarantees in support of bank financing and equity contributions,
- financing for business investment and operation, in partnership with banks and other financial institutions.
The missions of these research oraganizations are : to produce and disseminate scientific knowledge; to support innovations and develop know how; to assist in decision making, through their expertise; to improve scientific and technical culture and to participate to the science-society debate; to contribute to higher education.
The research organizations mainly devoted to agricultural research are: INRA, CIRAD, IRSTEA, ANSES, Ifremer and IRD. These organizations have a large autonomy in setting up their research programmes.
ANSES - National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labour, is a public administrative institution under the responsibility of the ministers for health, agriculture, environment, labour and consumer affairs.
ANSES provides independent and multidisciplinary scientific expertise. Its main contribution is to ensure human safety in the fields of environment, labour and food.
It is responsible for risk assessment within its sphere of competence, providing the competent authorities with full information on such risks and with the scientific technical expertise required for drafting legislation and regulations and implementing risk management measures
The Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, CIRAD, is a French agricultural research organization working for development in developing countries and the French overseas regions. Most of its research is conducted in partnership. CIRAD has chosen sustainable development as the cornerstone of its operations worldwide. This means taking account of the long-term ecological, economic and social consequences of change in developing communities and countries. CIRAD contributes to development through research and trials, training, dissemination of information, innovation and appraisals. Its expertise spans the life sciences, human sciences and engineering sciences and their application to agriculture and food, natural resource management and society.
The National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) is a public institution for science and technology, under the joint supervision of the ministry of agriculture and fisheries and the ministry of higher education and research – established in 1946.
In terms of publications, INRA is the leading agricultural research institute in Europe and second in the world, and carries out mission-oriented research into safe, wholesome food, competitive and sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.
INRA research policy:
• research for and with society, supported by various partnerships;
• three highly inter-related research fields: agriculture, food and environment within a sustainable development framework;
• excellence in each discipline and interdisciplinarity between life science, materials science and social science.
IRSTEA (formerly known as Cemagref) - Research institute for environmental and agricultural sciences and technologies, is an applied research institute which reports to both the Research and Agriculture ministries. It is an environmental research hub in France, and plays a key role in environmental science and technology. It is a successful example of integrated environmental research, able to meet the challenge of an economic and human development which is both responsible and respectful of the natural environment.
IFREMER - the French research institute for exploration of the sea, is a public industrial and commercial institution under the joint supervision of the ministry of agriculture, food, fisheries, rural affairs and planning, the ministry of higher education and research and the ministry of transport and infrastructure.
Its mandate is to conduct and promote basic and applied research as well as technological and industrial development work designed to understand, evaluate and develop ocean resources and rationalise harvesting, to gain more insight into the marine environment and ways of protecting it, and to promote social and economic development in the sector.
Other research Institutes:
The IRD is a French public science and technology research institute under the joint authority of the French Ministries in charge of Research and Overseas Development.
The IRD has three main missions: research, consultancy and training.
It conducts scientific research contributing to the sustainable development of the countries of the South, with an emphasis on the relationship between man and the environment.
– CNRS : the main research organisation in France; www.cnrs.fr
– INSERM : medical research ; www.inserm.fr
– MNHN : Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle ; www.mnhn.fr
- Alliance for environmental research (AllEnvi): www.allenvi.fr
While continuing to promote scientific excellence, the removal of barriers between disciplines and interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged by means of alliances. For example, the aim of the national alliance for environmental research (AllEnvi) is to help to make France a leading authority in environmental and food science and technology within the European research area. AllEnvi comprises 12 founding members: BRGM, CEA, CEMAGREF, CIRAD, CNRS, CPU (the conference of deans), IFREMER, INRA, IRD, LCPC (the public works research laboratory), Météo France (the national meteorological service) and Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle(the natural history museum).
AllEnvi objectives are to:
• ensure strategic and operational co-ordination in systemic environmental research and to raise its profile in mainland France and its overseas territories, as well as in Europe;
• co-ordinate operators’ planning so that they set scientific priorities in accordance with the main national research guidelines;
• set up and co-ordinate thematic focus groups for each field of action identified;
• promote and organise co-financed joint programmes on ‘emerging’ issues by supporting (or generating) innovative interdisciplinary projects;
• increase the synergies between research operators, universities, schools and economic actors in relation to national priorities, especially innovation and development;
• encourage and strengthen collaboration with southern countries, together with the French inter-institutional development research agency (AIRD);
- ensure coherence between and provide leadership to all types of research infrastructure, particularly environmental monitoring, testing and research systems;
• conduct or incorporate forecasting.
- Competitiveness clusters in the field of agriculture and food: http://competitivite.gouv.fr
A competitiveness cluster brings together large and small firms, research laboratories and educational establishments, all working together in a specific region to develop synergies and cooperative efforts. France is committed to creating a conducive environment for both firms and innovation. It offers assistance for cluster-based research and development, particularly via the Single Interministerial Fund (FUI), which provides support for cluster policy and for the forward-looking investments that are part of France's National Loan Programme.
There are 71 labelled Competitiveness clusters with 12 of them in the agrifood sector.
Applied agricultural research and agricultural advisory services
To strengthen research–education–innovation links nationwide and set up a triangle of operational knowledge in agriculture, the public authorities have successfully launched a number of initiatives to promote networking between partners in research, technical and higher education, technical institutes, civil society and business. This networking is based on instruments such as scientific interest groups (groupements d'intérêt scientifiques), skills clusters (pôles de compétences) and competitiveness clusters (pôles de compétitivité).
Over the past 10 years, in particular since the European Union Member States adopted the Lisbon Strategy, France has begun to overhaul its innovation ecosystem in order to stimulate corporate research and development and technology transfer. Increased non-technological innovation capacity (design and creation, organisational innovation) and better dissemination of information and communication technologies should also help to boost the French system in general and the agricultural sector in particular, especially among SMEs.
The technical institutes in the farming and agrifood sectors are the key players in the field of applied research in France, while agricultural advisory services are provided primarily by the chambers of agriculture, co-operatives and suppliers of agricultural inputs.
- Technical Institutes
The key players in applied research are the technical farming institutes (ITAs), grouped within the association for technical co-ordination in farming (Association de Coordination Technique Agricole [ACTA]), and the technical agro-industrial institutes (ITAIs), grouped within the French association for technical co-ordination in the agrifood industry (Association de Coordination Technique de l'Industrie Agro-alimentaire [ACTIA]). Since 2006, vocational technical institutes and centres with a national remit have, at their request, been entitled to be accredited as either a technical farming institute or a technical agro-industrial institute if they perform the public-interest missions listed in article D. 823-1 of France’s rural code and meet the specifications approved by the minister of agriculture’s decree. A total of 15 ITAs and 16 ITAIs were accredited in 2008.
- ACTA brings together 15 technical farming institutes (ITAs), each focusing on a different branch of the industry, depending on the needs of the profession or group of professions.
- ITA staff: 1 500, including 1 100 engineers and technicians.
- Mandates of the ITAs and ACTA:
• to define a technical policy for farm production to suit the economic environment, mainly in the form of scientific advice;
• to conduct applied research, either in their own testing stations or on a partnership basis, in stations where follow-up is carried out by research institutes upstream;
• to provide development support in two areas of information and training, in particular for technicians and advisors in the chambers of agriculture.
- ACTIA brings together 16 technical agro-industrial institutes (ITAIs), each focusing on a specific theme based on the needs of the trade (SMEs and SMIs) with strong local links between the institutes and those in contact with them.
- ITAI staff in the 16 centres: 760, including 305 engineers.
- ITAI and ACTIA mandates:
• to help to define technical policy for the institutes based on the needs of industry and the economic environment, largely in the form of scientific advice but also partnerships between institute directors;
• to conduct applied research either in their own structures or in partnership with upstream research institutes and industry, in particular the creation of technological concepts;
• to support development and technology transfer by focusing on a number of areas, including information and training, as well as service provision and business matchmaking.
- Agricultural advisory services
There is one chamber of agriculture per French département. Each chamber of agriculture operates across its own département and co-ordinates the development work for a multi-annual programme drawn up by farmers and their representatives, with a variety of professional partners. The programme focuses on high-priority issues and supports joint initiatives involving more than one institution. The work of the departmental chambers of agriculture is co-ordinated through the national multi-annual agricultural and rural development programme (PNDAR).
APCA: national organisation covering all France’s chambers of agriculture www.chambres-agriculture.fr
The chambers of agriculture represent:
• 116 public institutions: 94 departmental chambers of agriculture, 21 regional chambers of agriculture and one national organisation covering all France’s chambers of agriculture (Assemblée Permanente des Chambres d'Agriculture – APCA);
• 4 200 elected representatives (2.5 million voters, 50 000 professional associations, 10 electoral colleges);
• 7 800 staff, including 5 800 engineers and technicians.
- RMT - joint technology networks, and UMT - joint technology units: http://agriculture.gouv.fr/recherche-developpement
MAAPRAT introduced RMT - joint technology networks, (a new partnership arrangement stemming from Article 91 of the framework law on agriculture of 5 January 2006) to break down barriers between research, education and development and to foster innovation.
Each RMT network brings together, over a three- to five-year period, at least three accredited technical institutes or chambers of agriculture, a technical agricultural education institution (EPLEFPA) and a higher education institution or public research institute. There are currently 27 accredited RMTs. One example is the ‘animal production systems and environment’ RMT, whose partners are a research institute (several INRA research units), technical institutes (ARVALIS, CETIOM, IFIP, IE, ITAVI, UNIP), chambers of agriculture (Brittany, Pays de la Loire) and an institution of technical and higher agricultural education (Agrocampus Ouest), which are working to deliver and transfer tools for managing animal production systems to improve their environmental performance.
UMT - joint technology units, were also introduced by MAAPRAT as a result of the agriculture law of 5 January 2006 and aim to forge stronger working relationships between public research institutes or higher education institutions and technical agricultural or agro-industrial institutions, through mission-oriented research themes, in accordance with the target contracts of the network of technical agricultural or agro-industrial institutions
Vocational Training and Higher Education in the field of agriculture
There are currently 31 accredited UMTs. A typical example is POLYGREEN, the UMT on biopolymers from agricultural resources, whose members are ITERG (the French institute for fats and oils), the University of Bordeaux 1, ENSCPB (the graduate school of chemistry, biology and physics of Bordeaux) and the CNRS. POLYGREEN seeks to diversify the use of domestic sunflower and safflower oils, using sustainable chemicals to produce polymers from agricultural sources while safeguarding the health of operators and the environment and reducing dependence on fossil resources.
In France, agricultural education mainly comes within the remit of the Ministry of agriculture, food, fisheries, rural affairs and spatial planning (MAAPRAT), making it the second largest educational network after the Ministries of national education and of higher education.
- Vocational training: www.educagri.fr
It comprises over 800 public and private institutions, engaged for teaching more than 170 000 secondary-school students. Local public institutions of agricultural education and vocational training (EPLEFPA) often include a state-run agricultural general and technical secondary school (LEGTA), an apprentice training centre (CFA), an adult agricultural vocational training centre (CFPPA), a farm and/or a food technology workshop.
The fact that this education system covers the entire country makes it strategic in terms of spatial planning. The pathways for obtaining a diploma or an agricultural education certificate are currently through initial training, accredited continuing education, apprenticeship and experience.
- Higher education: Engineering Schools (Grandes écoles) and Veterinary Schools: www.sup.chlorofil.fr
MAAPRAT has a network of 19 institutions of higher education in the strict sense, including seven private institutions under contract with the state, totalling 15 000 students. These institutions provide training for: engineers (master degree) in agricultural, environmental, food, horticultural and forestry sectors; specialist managers; teachers; veterinarians and landscape architects (holders of the DPLG diploma awarded by the government).
All of them operate joint research units (UMR) with INRA, IRSTEA and other research organizations.
Twelve Public higher-education institutions in the fields of agronomy and veterinary:
Agrocampus Ouest - www.agrocampus-ouest.fr
AgroParisTech - www.agroparistech.fr
Agrosup Dijon - www.agrosupdijon.fr
Bordeaux Sciences Agro - www.agro-bordeaux.fr
ENFA - www.enfa.fr
Engees - www.engees.unistra.fr
ENSP - www.ecole-paysage.fr
ENVA - www.vet-alfort.fr
ENVT - www.envt.fr
Montpellier SupAgro - www.supagro.fr
ONIRIS - www.oniris-nantes.fr
VetAgro Sup - www.vetagro-sup.fr
Six agricultural and veterinary research and higher education stakeholders (INRA, CIRAD, AgroParisTech, Montpellier Supagro, Agrocampus Ouest and Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse) joined forces to found ‘Agreenium’ to strengthen ‘higher education–research’ links and raise the profile of their work both nationally and internationally. This new institution harnesses and co-ordinates its members’ resources and skills at the interfaces between ‘research, training, development and the international dimension’.
- Universities www.cpu.fr
Higher education in France is divided into Grandes écoles and Universities. The Universities are under the authority of the Ministry for Higher Education and Research.
There are 83 universities in France. Some Universities have curricula (bachelor, master, PhD) in the fields of agriculture, environment and food. ENSAIA Nancy and ENSA Toulouse, two engineering schools (master degree) in the field of agronomy, are with the University of Nancy and the University of Toulouse, respectively.