Monday, 23 May 2011

PAEPARD's contribution to Public consultation on the EC Green Paper

On 9th February 2011, the European Commission presented a Green Paper 'From Challenges to Opportunities: Towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU research and innovation funding' (COM (2011) 48).

  • This paper proposed major changes to EU research and innovation funding to make participation easier, increase scientific and economic impact and provide better value for money.
  • The changes, to be introduced in the next EU budget after 2013, would bring together the current Framework Programme for research, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
  • The Commission was seeking the views of all interested individuals and organisations on these proposed changes and on the specific questions set out in the Green Paper.
  • The deadline for contributions was Friday 20 May 2011.

Following international organisations/research institutes or projects related to agriculture have submitted a contribution:

Hereunder  is an extract of the Contribution of PAEPARD to the Green Paper:

The ‘Africa’ Call for proposals under the 7th Framework programme generated considerable interest and over one hundred proposals were submitted.  However, only a small number of proposals were funded and the role of African organizations in the partnership teams tended to be quite limited.  This reflects the findings from the early stages of PAEPARD which showed that there are serious barriers to the participation of African organizations in the framework programmes.  The reasons include:
  • The limited number of research themes that are relevant for African organizations, in spite of the large scope for topics of mutual interest and benefit to Europe and Africa.  The new EC-funded African Union Research Grant Program is a welcome development which will help to address this issue.
  • The focus on ‘high end’ science in which only organizations with an established track record are able to compete successfully.  Funding agricultural research for development does not necessarily compromise research quality.  This may involve a degree of risk when new partners are involved.  But there should be a willingness to take on a certain level of risk where the potential for impact is high.
  • The participation of small and medium-sized enterprises and civil society organizations in Africa is constrained by the strict eligibility requirements which are difficult for them to meet.
  •  The complexity of the administrative procedures discourages African organizations from participating. 
  • European researchers may be reluctant to enter into partnerships with organizations from Africa because of the high transaction costs in project management activities. 
  • In many European research organizations, there are limited incentives for staff to engage in work with a strong developmental orientation.  Ultimately, researchers are judged by their ability to publish in high impact factor peer-reviewed journals.

These factors point to the need to simplify administrative procedures and review eligibility criteria.  They also suggest that there is a strong case to provide more support for capacity strengthening at both the individual and organizational level.  Currently, the EC provides this type of support through its EDULINK and ACP Science & Technology programmes.  These are very useful programmes, particularly as they provide opportunities for strengthening the capacity of educational and research organizations in areas such as strategic planning, financial management and quality assurance.  The strengthening of organizational capability in such areas will allow African researchers to participate more effectively in EU-funded research programmes.  A good example is the ACP S&T project "Strengthening Research and Innovation Management in Africa and the Caribbean" which has established a communication network for persons engaged in research and innovation management issues. 

Many African research and educational organizations currently have a highly skewed staff age structure.  This has been caused partly by a long period of under-investment leading to low levels of recruitment.  An additional factor is the low retention rate due to the unfavorable working conditions and low remuneration.  In some countries, more resources are now being allocated and recruitment has begun to increase.  Furthermore, there are now increasing opportunities for staff to upgrade their skills through postgraduate studentships and mechanisms such as internships and exchange programmes.  An encouraging development is the emergence of regional PhD programmes offered by universities in Africa supported by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Strengthening in Agriculture.  One of these programmes is on Agricultural and Rural Innovation Studies (ARIS) and is being established with support from the EU. 

However, when these researchers return to their organizations the opportunities for them to apply their new skills is often limited.  We recommend that greater emphasis is placed on instruments that support Fellowships for young professionals in order to assist them to fulfill their potential.  This will contribute to the development of a cadre of researchers who are able to contribute effectively to EC-funded research programmes.