Social challenges

Grants for Collaborative Projects, including Research, innovation close to market, Coordination and Support Actions, and other new schemes (i.e. prizes, innovative public procurement, etc…) oriented to Political Priorities and Challenges of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

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Ensuring the availability of and access to sufficient safe and nutritious food is a key priority that impacts all EU citizens and needs to be ensured today and in the future. At the same time the production and processing of food is a key economic activity providing jobs, skills and training, attracting investments, supporting rural and urban economies and also shaping landscapes.

Given the economic scale of the food sector, the potential gains from research and innovation, and the structure of the sector with a strong participation of SMEs, this focus area will develop competitive and resource-efficient aquatic and terrestrial food production systems covering: eco-intensification of production; sustainable management of natural resources, including the accurate valuation of ecosystems services, while addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation; technologies for a sustainable food chain; safe foods and healthy diets for all; and a global food security system. Enabling technologies and space-enabled applications, adequately set in a societal context, will be an important element in achieving these goals. Overall, research and innovation actions within this challenge will cover the whole food chain, including both the supply and demand sides.

The economic and strategic importance of the agri-food sector is reflected in the following figures: agricultural exports in 2011 were worth EUR 105 billion, or 7 % of the total value of EU exports; Europe’s food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the EU, and in 2010 generated an annual turnover of EUR 956 billion, almost half by SMEs, with over four million jobs. The whole agri-food sector employs 17 million people. Actions in this area will support the EU Approach to Food Security; the Europe 2020 Resource-efficient Europe Flagship; the European Innovation Partnership ‘Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability’; the post-2015 Development Cooperation Agenda; the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020; the Common Fisheries Policy; and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is expected that efforts in research will help achieve a 20 % gain in resource use efficiency (Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe); help reverse the diminishing trend of productivity gains in primary production by 2020 (European Innovation Partnership); enable food safety policy to be continually adjusted in the light of new scientific evidence (European Consumer Agenda); and provide the integrated EU approach needed for reducing ill health due to poor nutrition, overweight and obesity.

To maximise the impacts of activities undertaken under this Focus Area, WP 2014-2015 concentrates its efforts on key priorities for the EU to ensure that the critical mass needed to tackle the different sub-challenges is attained, while focusing on the main policy needs.

In particular, to progress towards sustainable food production systems, priority will be given in 2014 to minimising pre-harvest losses (including in aquaculture and fisheries), improving soil management and genetic resources supporting agricultural diversity and regional products, while 2015 will focus on improved livestock and crop productivity and genetics for sustaining agriculture. To support the production of safe food and healthy diets, priority will be given to food safety and to sustainable and competitive food production in 2014, and to nutrition in 2015. Finally, to integrate global drivers of food security, 2014 will focus on improving the understanding of current and future drivers of food security whereas in 2015 the contribution of the small farming sector will be investigated.

Given its markedly cross-cutting nature, this call incorporates contributions from different parts of Societal Challenge 2, and is also relevant to Societal Challenge 1 on ‘Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing’ and Societal Challenge 6 on ‘Inclusive, Innovative and Secure Societies’.