Two-year consultation culminates in long-term plant tech agenda
If Wilhelm Gruissem, President of the European Plant Science Organisation has his way, Europe's economic outlook will not only be rosier, but greener. The European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), an independent body representing 58 members in 24 European countries that councils the EU and Member States on scientific policy and co-founder of one of the first European Technology Platforms, 'Plants for the Future', recently released the platform's Strategic Research Agenda.
The Strategic Research Agenda sets out how Europe's plant research community could contribute to meeting five key global challenges, namely:
- healthy, safe and sufficient food and feed;
- plant-based products - chemicals and energy;
- sustainable agriculture, forestry and landscape;
- vibrant and competitive basic research;
- consumer choice and governance.
'These five pillars fully support the development of a knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE) that helps to maintain European economic competitiveness and provides the means to secure future fuel and food supplies in an environmentally sustainable way,' the document states. For each challenge, short, medium and long-term priorities (up to 2025) are identified.
The new research agenda is good news in particular for Europe's farmers. 'To improve their future competitiveness, European farmers will need more diversified and environmentally friendly crops, producing more and better quality food and non-food products,' said Ricardo Serra-Arias of COPA, the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations. 'This real challenge will be talked through state of the art innovation, especially in plant biotechnologies.'
Plant science blooms in FP7
>The project partners are already working to implement their ambitious agenda. As Kurt Vandenberghe, Deputy Head of EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik's Cabinet pointed out, they have already succeeded in ensuring that plant sciences are given a high priority under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). A significant proportion of the budget for the knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE) priority is set to go to plant-based projects, he noted.
'It shows that the Plants for the Future Technology Platform has succeeded in making its case quite strongly at the European level,' he commented, adding that it is a good example of what the Commission would like to see Technology Platforms doing.
The project partners are also looking at other sources of EU funding, including social funds and the proposed European Institute of Technology (EIT). Furthermore, they are busy encouraging national governments and funding bodies to incorporate the agenda's priorities into their own plans. This process is facilitated by the fact that many of these bodies also fed into the consultation process.
'During the past few years the support of vigorous plant research was not a high priority on the political agenda in Europe,' said Professor Gruissem. 'We are convinced that the strategic perspective of the European Technology Platform will put plants back on the agenda of Europe's policy makers by focusing on key issues in plant and agricultural research that Europeans must address.'
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