Policy Officer for SmartAgriHubs
DG AGRI, European Commission
One year anniversary for SmartAgriHubs, and a lot has happened already. Various milestones and challenges have been met.
The project has well established its name, called the attention of the agritech community as well as of many other stakeholders, including scientists and policymakers. Many actors have been able to observe the development of the project and its progress. – Building on strong communication and management efforts as well as on existing and evolving networks, the project has been present at numerous occasions across Europe and successfully hosted high-level events.
One of the landmarks of the last year is that SmartAgriHubs has been mentioned in the Declaration of cooperation ‘A smart and sustainable digital future for European agriculture and rural areas’ signed by the great majority of EU Member States in April 2019.1 By signing the Declaration, Member States have committed to joint efforts to boost the digitalisation of the agri-food sector with a number of actions. This includes facilitation of networking between SmartAgri Innovation Hubs and EU Digital Innovation Hubs to be supported under the future Digital Europe Programme. This is an important step to widen and strengthen networks around the project and to achieve lasting legacy and sustainability after its formal closure.
SmartAgriHubs has been mentioned in the Declaration of cooperation ‘A smart and sustainable digital future for European agriculture and rural areas’ signed by the great majority of EU Member States.
The project has also raised expectations: Expectations that it will deliver results allowing the agrifood sector to make a step forward in the field of digitalisation and to bring about lessons learnt, which can be considered in research and innovation as well as in policy-making. Regarding the latter, the importance of digital and data technologies in EU policies has been reinforced with the new European Commission, as reflected in the recently published Communication “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future”.2 The potential of digital technologies to enable the agri-food and other sectors to increase their competitiveness and sustainability is reflected in the proposal of setting digitalisation as a cross-cutting objective of the future Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) as well as in the European Green Deal. Expectations are high that projects such as SmartAgriHubs not only deliver innovative approaches contributing to those policy ambitions, but also foster inclusive innovation that leave no one behind, as reflected in the Commission’s priorities.
The contribution by all the individual hubs will be essential to boost the uptake of innovation in their region, going beyond front-runners and key players and extending to all actors, e.g. by linking up with Operational Groups of the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural productivity (EIP-AGRI). Considering the outreach and the high number of partners involved in the project, there is potential for impact. The large size of the project is an opportunity and a challenge at the same time, as keeping such a large network active and effective over a longer period requires profound management. A key ingredient for this is strong focus on the common strategy and the operational objectives supplemented by tailored communication
In its first year, the project has already been challenged by external circumstances: Due to the Corona virus, the anniversary event planned for March 2020, had to be postponed. Yet, well managed networks are resilient and the SmartAgriHubs community will be able to celebrate the development of the project and to recap on the last months with the present newsletter.
I look forward to forthcoming work with and around the project in collaboration with Joel Bacquet from DG CNECT and I am confident that at the end of 2022 a lot will have been achieved by the SmartAgriHubs community.
Doris Marquardt, Policy Officer for SmartAgriHubs,
DG AGRI, European Commission
For more information on the declaration, see https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/eu-member-states-join-forces-digitalisation-european-agriculture-and-rural-areas.
The Communication can be found under https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-shaping-europes-digital-future-feb2020_en_3.pdf.