EU agreements on farming and cohesion open up research funding for agriculture and the regions

29 Jun 2021 | News

€387B agriculture programme has money for technologies that make food production more sustainable. Meanwhile, €373B cohesion policy will boost regional investment in research and innovation

After months of negotiations, the budgets for regional development and agriculture over the next seven years have been approved by EU institutions, and both emerge from the legislative mills with significant sums earmarked for research.

It still awaits formal approval by the Parliament, but EU agriculture ministers finally agreed to the €387 billion spending programme for agriculture on Monday, while last Friday the Parliament voted through the €373 billion cohesion policy.

In addition to direct subsidies to farmers, approval for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from 2021 – 27 opens up targeted research and innovation funding through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

This money will be complemented by another €10 billion from Horizon Europe to fund research in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy.

The European Commission wants to build on agriculture research funding to make food production more sustainable, with less reliance on pesticides. The EU is also reviewing its policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in an attempt to catch up with the rest of the world and allow the use of the latest gene editing technologies for precision plant breeding.

In Horizon Europe, researchers can apply for a slice of the €10 billion through a dedicated cluster on food and natural resources. The calls in this cluster will support work to make agriculture and food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Part of the money will go to projects that aim to apply digital technologies to the transformation of agriculture and rural areas. 

To align agriculture investments with these goals, member states are expected to establish national CAP networks, which bring together farmers, organisations and researchers to promote innovation in agriculture and rural development. Governments have 12 months to set up these networks.

CAP will also be able to draw on the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) to link research and farming practice, encouraging farmers to adopt innovation more quickly, and also inform the scientists about the research needs of farmers.

New cohesion policy

Last Friday the Parliament approved the cohesion policy, a whopping €373 billion to be spent on building road and rail infrastructure, and to help regions become less polluting economy and adopt digital technologies.

Policymakers expect at least a third of these funds will be invested in research and innovation.

In the previous EU budget, member states spent €65 billion of the cohesion money on projects including the construction of large research infrastructures in central and eastern Europe.

The Commission estimates 30% of cohesion funds in the previous budget were invested in innovation projects more broadly, particularly through the smart specialization innovation agendas coordinated by EU regions.

The new cohesion programme brings in a new instrument for research and innovation, in the shape of the Interregional Innovative Investment, which will help regions work together to promote excellence in scientific research and innovation.

The new cohesion programme comes into force on 1 July.

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