News | 08 Feb 2023

Inspirational ideas: Opportunities for advisors under Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe includes calls to set up EU-wide advisory networks. COREnet was the first such project, launched in 2022. Over the next two years, there are five more of these advisory network calls on different topics.

Opportunities for advisors under Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation, includes regular calls to set up EU-wide advisory networks. COREnet was the first such project, launched in 2022. Over the next two years, there are five more of these advisory network calls on different topics. Applying to such calls can be challenging, but there are many useful support tools and information sources available. Patrick Pasgang from Innovation Support Center of Boerenbond Belgium (Innovatiesteunpunt), one of the partners of COREnet shared his experience and a few useful tips.

The advisory networks call is part of Horizon Europe’s cluster 6 on “Food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment.” The overall objective of this call is to foster exchanges between advisors across all EU Member States in order to facilitate the synthesis and sharing of knowledge, capacity building, as well as identifying innovative solutions and bringing them into practice more quickly. The five calls for advisory networks for 2023-2024 focus on: organic agriculture, reducing the use of pesticides, optimal fertiliser use, forestry and sustainable livestock systems.

COREnet is a successful project from the 2021 edition of the call. It is the EU advisory network on ‘consumer-producer chains’ to facilitate, through advisory systems, the transition towards more inclusive, resilient and sustainable food systems. The project started in September 2022 and will run until 2027.

The calls for EU advisory networks state that the multi-actor approach is essential and the majority of project partners should be farm advisors with solid field experience. The COREnet project ensured that they could respond to this requirement by involving 14 different organisations, two thirds of which are relevant advisory and training services, and the others include a communication service, a consumer organisation and research centre. Patrick explains “It is also ideal to have all Member States represented in the project, even if they are not formal partners from the start, for example, in COREnet we have a dedicated budget for the involvement of other organisations during the project lifetime.”

The coordination of these partners is another crucial factor – from the application stage and also during the project itself. He continues: “It is very important that the project coordinator is motivated, pro-active, result-driven and people-driven, with experience of project management.”

The calls also state that the networks should build on existing knowledge developed by the EIP-AGRI and the SCAR-AKIS, and that they should also contribute to Member States’ Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) plans which are part of the CAP Strategic Plans, helping advisors to become better integrated in AKIS systems. COREnet was able to demonstrate significant experience in this field. Many of the organisations met as members of the EIP-AGRI Focus Group on Innovative Short Food Supply Chain Management as well as during other EIP-AGRI and ENRD events. As a result of this, they set up a first Horizon 2020 Thematic Network (SKIN) which has now ended. Patrick further explains “The partners are also connected to several European networks (Copa-Cogeca, Eufras, CEJA), Operational Groups and AKIS-related Horizon projects”.

When it comes to preparing the application form, starting in good time and organising online meetings with all the potential partners as soon as possible is extremely useful. Patrick says that at the early stages, after reading the call and the topics very carefully, the COREnet partners “Had an open discussion on, for example, the needs of end-users (farmers and consumers), observations by advisors and other stakeholders, what future challenges might be...” Based on such open discussion, a first summary of the project proposal can be written.

If a consortium needs to find other partners, organisations can reach out to their networks and to Horizon National Contact Points or attend events such as EU CAP Network brokerage events. Patrick adds “It is also a good idea to check the project idea in the market by asking relevant stakeholders to write a letter of support to confirm added value.”.

Next, the writing of the application form should be distributed according to the knowledge and experiences of the partners. Tasks such as calculating the budget, choosing a project name and proof-reading should not be neglected. Throughout the drafting stage, it is important to continue meeting all partners regularly. Cross-checks back to the call text must be made, as Patrick tells us “Attention must be paid to details such as the expected outcomes and impacts, the project results, the scope... look at it as if you were an evaluator. Ask yourself if all is clear and logical.”.

Patrick gave some final tips and tricks: “It is necessary to be critical, to identify risks and look for adequate mitigation measures. Also, keep in mind that an excellent communication and dissemination plan takes time and specific skills. Make sure that the cost/benefit ratio is in line with the expected outcomes. Develop Key Performance Indicators to measure impact.”.

The deadline for the Horizon Europe call for EU advisory networks on organic, pesticides, fertilisers is 23 March 2023, for the networks on forestry, livestock systems, the deadline is 28 Feb 2024.

Contact information

Patrick Pasgang

0049 16 28 61 38

Pictures from COREnet.

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