Research, strategy: ‘Food for life’ technology platform delivers its Strategic Research Agenda
‘Food for life’, an EU-backed technology platform charged with breathing new life into the food and drink industry through research and innovation, has released a draft of its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).
The ‘Food for life’ technology platform’s mission is to enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s food and drinks industry – one of the largest industries in the EU – through top-end R&D and innovation. The agri-food industry generates some €600 billion a year and employs 2.6 million people – excluding farmers – mainly in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU-15 alone.
The SRA, which charts a course for the industry up to 2020, has identified seven research challenges, or drivers of innovation: creating food and drink products which are both healthy and enjoyable, offering consumers a healthy diet, developing value-added food products, ensuring food safety in order to retain consumer trust, achieving sustainable food production, managing the food chain, as well as communication and consumer interaction.
“We are convinced that this [SRA] represents a unique opportunity for the stakeholders in the European food chain to increase their competitive strength and ensure the continuing welfare of consumers across Europe,” the authors maintain.
The SRA also focuses on ways of complementing and contributing to the forthcoming Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which runs from 2007 to 2013. Two of the nine themes under FP7’s Co-operation programme are relevant to the platform: ‘Food, agriculture and biotechnology’ and ‘Health’.
Armed with this draft, the technology platform has launched a broad-based consultation at national level throughout the EU. It intends to use the feedback to formulate the final version of the SRA which it aims to publish in March 2007.
The Commission regards technology platforms as an important weapon in its competitiveness arsenal and will help make European industry face up to growing international competition by making better use of Europe’s scientific excellence.
“Platforms … represent a powerful mobilising force,” Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has said. “They can build the necessary scale of effort to achieve the major advances in research and development. Europe's growth and competitiveness depend on them.”
‘Food for life’ intends to work closely with other platforms operating in complementary fields. One such example is ‘Plants for the future’ which launched its SRA last year. It covers the period up to 2025.
The SRA addresses four key challenges: healthy, safe and sufficient food and feed; sustainable agriculture, forestry and landscape; green products; competitiveness, consumer choice and governance.
For each challenge, it examines the key issues related to it and sets out a detailed set of goals and deliverables, including timelines, to address them. For example, goal one of challenge one is to ‘develop and produce safe and high-quality food’.