‘Industry must not underestimate the benefits of research’
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has called for greater collaboration with Europe in drawing down money for research and innovation projects.
Speaking after a visit by the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Maire Geoghergan Quinn to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Hillsborough this week, Mrs Dodds said: “Commissioner Maire Geoghergan Quinn has travelled to Northern Ireland to open the second Collaborate to Innovate Conference which focuses on European Research and Innovation Funding for Small and Medium Enterprises. The Commissioner took time to visit the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute at Hillsborough which I had the pleasure of attending.
“The visit to AFBI was a real opportunity to assess what is possible with European funding and it was also a great way to demonstrate to the Commissioner the needs of the future. Research and innovation can make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and profitable. Over the past 10 years Europe has lost its focus on agriculture related research and innovation projects. In fact some may argue that Europe objected to exploring ways of using technology to make agriculture more productive.
“The Commission has recently been edging forward with proposals to increase the level of emphasis placed on agriculture research. There is a feeling that due to the demands of society for an agriculture sector which is focused on the environment and sustainable production, what in fact we have created is a replacement for quotas. This is apparent within the CAP proposals which include a provision for set aside, 30% greening payment, cross compliance measures and a completely decoupled system which pays on a per hectare basis. There has been little mention of direct support for food production and in light of all the evidence pointing to increased global population, reduced land area and water restriction, the challenge is how Europe will safeguard food production and grow productivity?
“The question is whether the Commission are going to drive forward agriculture production and sustainability using research and innovation?
“The Commission CAP proposals have supported the need for Research and Innovation but highlighted the need for greater knowledge transfer - an area which needs much more work. Support has also been proposed via the new Horizon 2020 research programme which Commissioner Quinn is responsible for. The issue with research funding to date has been the complexity of the programme both in applying and the audit process. The Commissioner made it clear her desire to simplify the system and rebalance the “trust and control” element of any programme. She praised the work being done at AFBI and was clearly impressed by the networks which the institute had built within Europe.
“Conducting research is important but unless the information is applicable and farmers have the ability to apply it then it is of no advantage. I agree with the Commissioner that knowledge transfer is the key to success with this programme but both DG Agriculture and DARD must make more funding available to allow farmers to make capital investment in new technology and developments in research. This is something which through the Rural Development programme DARD has failed to do which has affected the productivity of the sector.”
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