Brussels, Apr 2004
Despite suffering from a lack of resources since the break up of their centralised economies, there are many high quality animal research centres in Central Europe's new Member States and candidate countries that could make a significant contribution to Europe's research activities.
In particular, there is a pressing need to extend expertise in areas such as food safety and traceability from more long standing EU countries to the newer Member States, in line with the extension of the EU's borders. Yet awareness of the EU's research programmes and structures among institutions in Central Europe remains low and, equally, potential partners in Western Europe don't know enough about the competencies and specialities of their Eastern counterparts.
Therefore, the European Commission has decided to fund a specific support action under the 'food quality and safety' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to address these issues. 'CEC Animal Science - support to animal science organisations from Central European candidate countries' will spend a total of two years attempting to better integrate animal research centres, their staff and their clients from the region into Europe's research landscape.
The project includes representatives from all of the new Member States and candidate countries in Central Europe, as well as organisations from France, Italy and Israel with specialised knowledge of the EU's research Framework Programmes and promoting international cooperation.
CORDIS News spoke to Olivier Chartier, from the project's French coordinating company Euroquality, and asked him to outline those areas was there is a lack of expertise among animal research centres in Central Europe. 'Certainly, in areas such as animal breeding, veterinary practices and reproduction techniques, for example, these counties are behind other parts of the EU. But you have to understand that they have been carrying out research in their own countries, focusing on their own requirements, so their areas of expertise are understandably different,' responded Mr Chartier.
With a high proportion of the region's population living in rural areas, and given that supermarkets are a relatively new arrival, it shouldn't be surprising that issues that receive a lot of attention in Western Europe, such as food safety and animal welfare, are not high priorities, Mr Chartier added.
The initial aim of the CEC Animal Science project, then, is to map these country's areas of expertise by surveying more than 100 research organisations through a questionnaire process, which began in January. The results will be compiled into a database of these research organisations and their staff, which can then be used by potential participants in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to search for partners. 'The database will be ready for the next call under the food quality and safety priority in July,' said Mr Chartier.
Other initiatives are also planned, including establishing five working groups focusing on genetics and breeding, nutrition and animal feed, meat technology, animal health and welfare, and fisheries. Their aim is to develop joint research programmes involving partners from Central Europe, and to assess project ideas for future collaboration.
'Ideally, we would like to create links between these research institutions and EU projects that are already ongoing under FP6,' said Mr Chartier, although he added that the focus among EU policy makers seems to be more towards adding small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to existing consortia, rather than partners from Central Europe.
When asked what he considers to be the most important element of the project, Mr Chartier emphasised the creation of a wider European network of animal science researchers, saying: 'Our message to research institutes in the established Member States is that there is now a network to help you identify partners in animal research in Central Europe. To organisations in the candidate countries and new Member States involved in animal science and interested in participating in FP6, we urge them to make contact and register with us and include their details in the database.'
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