Brussels, 17 June 2004
Today at a conference in Dublin (Ireland) on “Thinking beyond tomorrow: a safe and nutritious food chain for the consumer”, the European Commission announced it would award €192 million for food quality and safety research in the second year of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for Research (FP6, 2002-2006).
These funds will go to 31 research projects and networks of excellence and 13 smaller support actions, which will tackle a range of consumer-driven issues with an impact on the “fork-to-farm” approach.
The short-listed projects will tackle issues such as traceability, contaminants in food, emerging pathogens, diseases affecting animals and crops, food allergy, obesity and various aspects of nutrition. The consortia behind these projects will now negotiate funding contracts for the next 3 to 5 years with the Commission. This will bring to €402 million the EU contribution to research in this sector over the first two years (2003 and 2004) of the Sixth Framework programme. Pursuing its effort in this field, the EC is about to publish the next call for proposals with research priorities and an indicative budget of €360 million for the next two years.
According to European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin: “Now, more than ever, research in agriculture and food safety is critical to ensure the quality of life and safety of all citizens in an enlarged Europe, while sustaining the competitiveness of Europe’s largest industrial sector. Furthermore, many of these major research initiatives will contribute to the development of EU policies based on sound science.”
EU projects to be funded
185 proposals for European research projects were submitted during the latest call for proposals and evaluated by independent experts. Up to 44 proposals, representing an initial EU contribution of €192 million, are expected to receive funding (see table 1). This corresponds to a 23.7% success rate. Most topics were effectively covered by successful proposals, yet some very good proposals could not be funded due to budgetary constraints.
Integrated projects and networks of excellence (NoE)
Designed to provide EU activities with a greater impact, integrated projects (IPs) and networks of excellence (NoEs) help achieve the critical mass and better co-ordination of research at the European level, to tackle some of the major and growing concerns of scientists, public authorities and consumers in key research fields. For projects selected within the second FP6 call, the average EU contribution will be about €12 million.
For the second call the short list includes 10 IPs, which will study issues such as chemical contaminant screening in food, obesity, traceability in food (including genetically modified or “GM” food), nutrition in early life, food allergy and emerging pathogens. Two NoEs will focus on food information and cancer risk from nutrition and the environment. The number and scale of these projects reflects the will and ability of European scientists to fully participate in a true European Research Area, an internal market for science and knowledge.
Specific Targeted Research Projects and Co-ordination Actions
For the second call the short list also includes 15 STREPs, with an average EU contribution of €2.2 million. These include projects on animal diseases, biotoxins in seafood, flavonoids, reducing and recycling of food production wastes, and nutrition during adolescence; and 4 CAs on topics such as plant diseases, aquaculture and the impact of diet on fertility.
Specific Support Actions
In addition to the research projects, 13 SSAs are short-listed for funding for a total EU contribution of €6 million. Their aims include developing food safety networks in an enlarged Europe, fostering international co-operation, improving industry participation (especially SMEs), communication on science and society, etc. More SSAs can be submitted in September 2004.
The overall number of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) participation is 187 out of 865 participants (21.6%) and the percentage of the EU financial contribution is 13.8%. This is an improvement from the first call and additional efforts are being made to continue to improve industrial (esp. SME) participation towards reaching the target of 15% of FP6 budget.
Mid-term overview for Food Quality and Food Safety research funding
Following the first two annual calls for proposals, the European Commission will have funded 80 research initiatives with a total EU contribution of €402 million (see table 2 for details). This includes pioneering networks of excellence such as NeuroPrion on BSE-related diseases and GAÂ²LEN on allergies, and integrated projects such as SEAFOODplus, LIPGENE and NuGO.