Operational Groups are intended to bring together multiple actors such as farmers, researchers, advisers, businesses, environmental groups, consumer interest groups or other NGOs to advance innovation in the agricultural and forestry sectors.
Types of projects
The types of projects or areas of action for Operational Groups can be very broad, but the project must contribute to the EIP-AGRI objective of promoting agricultural innovation thatis more resource efficient, productive, low emission, climate-friendly, and resilient and that operates in harmony with the essential natural resources on which farming depends.
This might range from projects that target the development of new products, practices, processes and technologies to testing and adapting of existing technologies and processes in novel geographical and environmental contexts.
Field trials, pilot projects, joint working processes, short supply chain activities, initiatives for climate change adaptation and mitigation, collective environmental projects, and many more activities might be involved.
The formation of any Operational Group should take place on the initiative of the actors involved. The Operational Group is recognised ("labelled") by the selection of its project. In general terms, the types of project that Operational Groups can develop and implement are either:
- a new project from a new grouping of actors, or
- a new project from an existing grouping of actors.
The EIP-AGRI aims at a flexible and open system for the bottom-up creation of a multiplicity of Operational Groups, tackling the needs and opportunities of farming practice. No specific conditions are laid down by the EU regarding the composition or minimum size of an Operational Group (apart from the fact that a minimum of two entities must be involved). A higher number or diversity of partners in an Operational Group may not always be beneficial: the specific and targeted composition of the Operational Groups is what counts, benefiting the specific project with the best cost-benefit ratio, making the best use of different types of knowledge (e.g. practical, scientific, technical, organisational, etc.) in an interactive way. It is important to combine different skills and types of partners to get well founded results that are also ready enough to be used in practice.
It is not up to the Managing Authority to set up Operational Groups, since they should generate from bottom-up ideas and needs. However, some Managing Authorities of Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) may want to add a focus on specific themes related to their national, regional or thematic priorities for rural development. Also, some specific conditions in applications concerning such aspects as selection or eligibility criteria may be set at national or regional level to clarify the subject, focus, and composition of Operational Groups. Potential partners in Operational Groups should therefore always check the specific conditions in their respective RDP and in particular in the call for Operational Groups, If needed, they should contact the Managing Authority to find out what kind of projects they have in mind.
Needs from practice
An Operational Group is meant to be 'operational' and tackle a certain practical problem or opportunity, a 'need from practice', that may lead to an innovative solution. Therefore, Operational Groups have to draw up a plan, that describes their specific project and the expected results. Furthermore, the Operational Groups have to disseminate the results of their project, in particular through the EIP-AGRI network.
The exact activities in a project plan depend on the actors that are involved and the problem or opportunity that will be tackled. However, the Operational Group must cooperate in a project which will contribute to the aims of the EIP AGRI (Art.55), to the EU rural development priorities, and to the linked national/regional strategy. Operational Groups should be composed of those key actors that are in the best position to realise the project's goals, to share experiences and to disseminate the outcomes broadly.
Spread the word
Operational Groups have an obligation to disseminate, which relates to substantial results that can be of use to others. The emphasis of the Operational Groups is on creating knowledge which is freely available for everyone to use, even if some private co-funding is used. Because of the linkages with other funding and policy instruments, in the framework of the EIP-AGRI network, it is important to raise awareness and open up contact possibilities between Operational Groups to communicate on the activities of Operational Groups from the start of their project. Therefore, a common format ("practice abstract") has been developed to communicate on Operational Groups as from the start of their activities and to disseminate their results. Guidance for the elements of the format and on the content of the “abstract” for practitioners is provided in the Annex of the EIP-AGRI guidelines and here. The key aim is to connect Operational Groups with each other and render their activities visible. This may for instance help the exchange with other stakeholders or projects and the promotion of the results acquired, but it may for instance also reward the researchers involved.