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About the Author: Ana Casillas

Innovation Consultant - Ana holds a B.Sc. degree in Biochemistry, which she completed in the Bioremediation department of Queen’s University (Kingston – CA) through the TASSEP Program, and a M.Sc. degree in Applied Plant Biology, both from the Complutense University of Madrid. She started her professional career developing projects in BIOPLAT (the Spanish Technology and Innovation Platform ‘Biomass for the Bioeconomy’) and continued as a Bioeconomy Advisor in the bioeconomy area of the Andalusian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development. Ana defines herself as a defender of the environment and critical thinking.

The year 2024 brings with it new opportunities to finance and boost competitiveness in the agri-food and bioeconomy sector, which have a very important role to play in achieving green and social goals in Europe. The European Commission makes available to citizens and companies several financial instruments and mechanisms to work, both individually and collaboratively, to improve the sustainability and efficiency of the agri-food production system.

Support for research and innovation

On the one hand, if we talk about research and innovation in agri-food and bioeconomy, Horizon Europe stands out as the largest source of public funding in the European Union (EU), with a total budget of €95.5 billion. The program, divided into several thematic clusters, devotes around €9 billion to Cluster 6 on “Natural Food, Bioeconomy, Agriculture and Environment” for the period 2021-2027. This cluster aims to address and anticipate problems faced by farmers, foresters and rural communities, as well as to fund projects that develop new knowledge and innovative solutions together with researchers, practitioners, advisors and other stakeholders, producing results that can be put into practice.

 

Cluster 6 is grouped into several ‘destinations’ that mark the themes on which to submit collaborative research and innovation proposals in each of the years of program implementation. All the destinations and topics to submit proposals can be consulted in the Cluster 6 Annual Work Plan for 2023-2024. For this 2024, in each of the destinations there are published:

  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services (BIODIV) – 9 new topics.
  • Fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems from primary production to consumption (FARM2FORK) – 11 + 7 new topics.
  • Circular economy and bioeconomy sectors (CircBio) – 10 + 6 new topics.
  • Clean environment and zero pollution (ZEROPOLLUTION) – 3 + 2 new topics.
  • Land, ocean and water for climate action (CLIMATE) – 7 new topics.
  • Resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities (COMMUNITIES) – 3 + 2 new topics.
  • Innovative governance, environmental observations and digital solutions in support of the Green Deal (GOVERNANCE) – 13 new topics.

Similar to Cluster 6, the Circular Bio-based Europe (CBE JU) public-private partnership program funds projects that develop innovative and sustainable bio-based solutions, focusing on raw materials, processing, products, as well as cross-cutting aspects of communication and environmental sustainability. In a few months, the 2024 call will be open for proposals until the middle of the third quarter of the year.

Other interesting calls can be found through the European Innovation Council (EIC), funding SMEs and start-ups with a high degree of innovation, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology in Food (EIT Food), which funds innovative projects to accelerate the transition to a sustainable agriculture and food system.

Support for competitiveness and sustainability

On the other hand, the now classic Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU major instrument for supporting the agricultural sector, is focused on increasing productivity, efficiency, and sustainability, as well as supporting rural development. For the period 2021-2027, the EU has €386.6 billion, to be distributed through two major funds:

  • The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) which, with a total budget of €95.5 billion, helps to strengthen the social, environmental and economic sustainability of rural areas, supporting rural development objectives such as the sustainable management of natural resources, climate action, and the balanced territorial development of rural economies and communities. This fund co-finances national and regional rural development programs (RDPs), together with national budgets. In addition, the EAFRD provides investment support for rural enterprises and projects through various financial instruments, such as loans, guarantees or equity.
  • The European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF), with a total budget of €291.1 billion, provides financial support to rural development projects and farmers, while promoting sustainable agricultural practices, including crop, livestock and forestry production, investments in the modernization and diversification of agricultural activities and the development of rural tourism and agri-food businesses.

If you work in the agri-food sector, whatever your model or project idea, it is worth looking at all these opportunities that can help you get off the ground or improve the performance of your business.

You can access more information on these European calls for proposals through:

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