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Call: Assessing the impacts of digital technologies in agriculture – cost, benefits and potential for sustainability gains

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Programme
Acronym HORIZON-CL6-GOVERNANCE
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 7: Innovative Governance, Environmental Oberservations and Digital Solutions in Support of the Green Deal"

Transformative changes such as the ones required within the Green Deal are dynamic processes that require appropriate governance. At the same time, to ensure coordination and for collaborative decision-making, governance requires multiple channels and networks that provide readily available data and information coming from different sources.

R&I activities under this destination aim at both: experimenting with new ways to govern the transition process and modernising the governance, in particular by making information and knowledge available and accessible. R&I for governance to support the Green Deal shall provide insights into institutional barriers such as lock-ins, path dependency, political and cultural inertia power imbalances and regulatory inconsistencies or weaknesses.

Innovative governance supporting the Green Deal objectives needs to recognise, cope with and promote resilience in the face of on-going shocks and disruptions both globally and across Europe, whether these be climatic, ecological, economic, social, geo-political or related to health. Critical risk assessment and reduction strategies need to be incorporated, including the diversification of infrastructures, resources and knowledge through more self-sufficiency and autonomy.

Taking advantage of the use, uptake, deployment and exploitation of environmental observations[[The capacity to observe the environment, including space-based, in-situ-based (air, sea, land) observation, and citizen observations]] as well as digital solutions, assessed through the “do not harm” principle of the Green Deal, is key for innovative governance models and a more science-based policy design, implementation and monitoring. To maximise impacts of R&I on the ground and spark behavioural and socio-economic change, the knowledge and innovation produced throughout the whole cluster should be widely disseminated to key stakeholders of the relevant sectors of the cluster. In particular, the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) needs to be reinforced to accelerate the required transformative changes.

Data and information obtained through Environmental Observation is of great value when assessing the state of the planet and is delivering crucial information to support the Green Deal and the climate and ecological transition. Integration of this information from different sources (space-based, airborne including drones, in-situ and citizens observations) with other relevant data and knowledge while ensuring (better) accessible, interoperable or deployable information, delivers information necessary for shaping the direction of the development of policies in the broad context of Cluster 6 of Horizon Europe. A strong link to the European Earth observations programme Copernicus (in Cluster 4) and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth observation programme, as well as support to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), its European regional initiative (EuroGEO) and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) is foreseen for topics on environmental observations under this destination. R&I activities relevant to ocean, seas and coastal waters will complement and support the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Restoration, the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative, the pan-Commission Destination Earth initiative, the European Global Ocean Observing System (EOOS) and the GOOS 2030 strategy.

Digital innovation, in complementarity with Cluster 4 and Digital Europe Programmes activities, should bring benefits for citizens, businesses, researchers, the environment, society at large and policy-makers. The potential of the ongoing digital transformation, and its wider impacts, positive and negative, need to be better understood and monitored in view of future policy design and implementation, governance, and solution development

This destination will develop innovative digital and data based solutions to support communities and society at large, and economic sectors relevant for this cluster to achieve sustainability objectives. R&I activities will add value to the knowledge and cost-effectiveness of innovative technologies in and across primary production sectors, food systems, bioeconomy, ocean and biodiversity.

Knowledge and advice to all actors relevant to this cluster are key to improve sustainability. For instance, primary producers have a particular need for impartial and tailored advice on sustainable management choices. Knowledge and Innovation Systems are key drivers to enhance co-creation and thus speed up innovation and the take-up of results needed to achieve the Green Deal objectives and targets. This will include promoting interactive innovation and co-ownership of results by users, as well as strengthening synergies with other EU Funds in particular the CAP, reinforcing the multi-actor approach and setting up structural networking within national/regional/local AKISs. AKIS goes beyond agriculture, farming and rural activities and covers environment, climate, biodiversity, landscape, bio-based economy, consumers and citizens, i.e., all food and bio-based systems including transformation and distribution chains up until the consumer.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to innovative governance and sound decision making in policy for the green transition, and more specifically to one or several of the following impacts:

  • Innovative governance models enabling sustainability and resilience notably to achieve better informed decision-making processes, societal engagement and innovation;
  • Green Deal related domains benefit from further deployment and exploitation of Environmental Observation data and products ;
  • A strengthened Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) [[The European Commission is a member and co-chair of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), as such the European Commission adopted the GEO Canberra Declaration (https://earthobservations.org/canberra_declaration.php and Commission Decision C(2019)7337/F1) and committed to contribute to the GEO objectives, including to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).]];
  • Sustainability performance and competitiveness in the domains covered by Cluster 6 are enhanced through further deployment of digital and data technologies as key enablers;
  • More informed and engaged stakeholders and end users including primary producers and consumers thanks to effective platforms such as Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS)
  • Strengthened EU and international science-policy interfaces to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle [[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following areas: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Clean and healthy air, water and soil”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork on land and sea”; “High quality digital services for all”; and “A Competitive and secure data-economy”.

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.

Link Link to Programme
Call
Assessing the impacts of digital technologies in agriculture – cost, benefits and potential for sustainability gains
Description of call
"Assessing the impacts of digital technologies in agriculture – cost, benefits and potential for sustainability gains"

Expected Outcome:

In line with the farm to fork strategy and the Headline ambitions of a Digital Age and an Economy that works for people, leaving no one behind, the biodiversity strategy, the successful proposals will support the development of capacities for assessing and demonstrating environmental and socio-economic effects of digital technologies in agriculture. They will therefore contribute to the enhancement of the sustainability performance and competitiveness in agriculture through further deployment of digital and data technologies as key enablers through research and innovation in the field of the assessment of impacts of digital technologies in agriculture.

Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Awareness and informed decisions based on the demonstration of the costs and benefits of the use of digital technologies for the agricultural sector.
  • Facilitated uptake of digital technologies by farmers, including through decision-making support and the analysis of farmers’ motivations.
  • Strengthen the capacities of farmers` advisors in the field of digital technologies.
  • Strengthening the capacities to design, implement, monitor and evaluate policy measures in the fields of agriculture, environment and climate, as basis for better tailored, more effective and efficient policy measures in the fields of digitalisation in agriculture, and sustainability.

Scope:

Digital technologies in agriculture and their potential to increase farms` economic and sustainability performance, facilitate work and enhance working conditions has received huge attention in the political sphere in recent years. Agriculture has to play a key role in achieving environmental and climate ambitions in the EU, and digital technologies offer opportunities to increase the sustainability performance of the agricultural sector. However, there is still a huge “gap” between the portfolio of digital technologies offered at the market and the actual uptake and use by farmers in the EU. Moreover, while the potential of digital technologies to better tailor agricultural production is widely acknowledged, there is little knowledge about the actual reduction of negative environmental and climate effects due to their application.

Studies show that among key uptake barriers hindering the farmers to make use of digital technologies are a) a lack of knowledge about those tools in general, as well as their costs and benefits, b) a lack of overview of the strengths and weaknesses of certain tools in the huge portfolio offered on markets and the suitability to address farm-specific needs, and c) a lack of believe in the added value of digital technologies for the management of a farm. An additional barrier to the uptake of digital technologies by farmers presents the effort needed to become familiar with new tools. For many farmers the real demonstration of effects as well as “hard figures” of production effects are important to be convinced to apply a certain method/ technology. Also cultural aspects play a role in the perception of digital technologies.

The effectiveness of digital technologies as it regards sustainability gains between laboratory conditions and the environmental and socio-economic reality vary.

Independent assessments of the effects of the use of the range of digital technologies tools under ideal and real-life conditions are essential for policy development, monitoring and evaluation. For many environmental parameters, the final impacts of farming can only be assessed with a huge time lag/ delay or are hardly measurable at all. The more important it is, to have figures, which impacts certain farming practices may have.

In addition, policy-makers and administrations are challenged by estimating rates for supporting the use of digital technologies in agriculture as well as the effects of employment structures in rural areas.

Against this background, independent quantitative and qualitative assessments of the multiple costs and benefits and potential sustainability gains of digital technologies are essential. It is also important to make those assessment results of possible effects of digital technologies feasible, assessable and usable, particularly for farmers, their advisors, and policy-makers, as it may form a stepping stone to facilitate the uptake of digital technologies in the sector and may facilitate the design of tailored policy measures.

Proposals should cover all of the following aspects:

  • Demonstration of the costs and benefits for farmers/farms of the use of digital technologies for individual production steps (e.g. in per ha calculations and livestock surveillance) as well as for following a “whole-farm approach” which is applied, e.g. in the use of some Farm Management Systems under real testing conditions and with quantitative and qualitative assessments.
  • Analyses and developed assessment approaches representative for the EU under consideration of the various biogeographical conditions, and several types of farms and farmers under consideration of different business models, e.g. cooperative purchase of equipment, use of contractor services etc.
  • Stock-taking of results of former or still ongoing Horizon 2020 projects falling directly or indirectly under the scope of this theme, e.g. Smart-AKIS, to capitalise those findings and draw lessons learnt.
  • Provision of innovative decision-making support on the selection and use of digital technologies.
  • Generation of information and knowledge for the design of policy measures.
  • Recommendations, under which conditions/ in which way digital technologies deliver best results for a farmer and on business models for financing/ for financing their use.
  • Generation of innovative tools making the results of the projects easily accessible and usable for the different target groups (at least farmers and advisors), e.g. cost calculators.
  • Facilitated qualitative and quantitative assessment of the (positive and negative) environmental effects (e.g. reduction of inputs/ emissions) of the use of digital technologies in agriculture.

Projects are expected to foster the development of capacities for assessing the contribution of agriculture to sustainability ambitions through the development of assessment approaches, analyses, and knowledge generation on the impacts, especially the costs, benefits and potential sustainability gains and losses, through the application of digital technologies. Projects are expected to make a significant contribution to establish a basis for the development, implementation and evaluation of sustainability- and data-related policies at regional, national and EU level and reaching related objectives, including Green Deal ambitions, CAP, the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, and Sustainable Finance.

Proposals should cover all of the following aspects:

  • Testing of digital technologies in agriculture under real production conditions.
  • Consideration of farmers´/ producers´/ contractors´ behaviour.
  • Representativeness of analyses and developed assessment approaches for the EU and associated countries for several types of farms and farmers.
  • Links to relevant EU policy monitoring and evaluations and statistical systems.
  • Exploration of the potential of digital technologies use in agriculture as means for independent monitoring.
  • Recommendations under which conditions/ in which way digital technologies deliver best sustainability performance.

Tools developed within the project(s) are to be linkable to Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems in Member States.

The multi-actor approach must be implemented, involving at least scientists and representatives of the agricultural sector. They are encouraged to envisage collaboration with Digital Innovation Hubs supported under the Digital Europe Programme is regarded as beneficial for the overall results of the projects.

If involving machinery companies, selected projects should build their work on digital technologies and machinery from at least three companies and brands. 

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Administration & Governance, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Rural & Peripheral Development, Regional Development & Regional Planning, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Competitiveness, SME
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Public Services, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, National Government
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Call opens 22.06.2021
Call closes 06.10.2021
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 7.50 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 15.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and Innovation Actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%

The proposals must use the multi-actor approach.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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