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Science-policy interface: the European policy context

November 22, 2013

Among the goals of the strategic dialogue workshop in which BioFresh participated last week, one of the most fundamental was to find out how EU-funded research could maximise its contribution to policy. Such contributions come within the structure of current European policies, with three initiatives being particularly relevant: the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, the 7th Environment Action Programme, and Horizon 2020 (the funding arm of the Innovation Union). So how do these frameworks set up the European science-policy interface? A brief look at the context:

Cover_EUBiodiv2020StrategyThe EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, called “Our Life Insurance, Our Natural Capital,” followed from a recognition that the EU had missed its target to halt biodiversity decline by 2010. The strategy is the EU’s framework to fulfill its commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the new policy includes a headline target to stop biodiversity loss by 2020, as well as stopping the degradation of ecosystems. A vision for 2050 says that by that date, biodiversity and ecosystem services will be protected, valued and appropriately restored. The strategy has six targets, indicating the main causes of biodiversity loss that relate to EU policy:

-Improving the status of species and habitats covered by EU nature legislation

-Enhancing ecosystems and their services through restoration and green infrastructure

-Practising biodiversity-conscious agriculture and forestry

-Managing fisheries sustainably

-Controlling invasive species

-Addressing the EU’s role in the global biodiversity crisis

To tackle these targets, the Biodiversity Strategy calls for the EU to coordinate its efforts with those of member states. It should propose new initiatives to fulfill gaps in policy, as well as mobilising funding and fostering research and private-sector collaboration.

7EAP iconThe 7th Environmental Action Programme (7EAP) is the latest step in 40 years of European environmental policy. Proposed by the European Commission in November 2012 and adopted by the European Parliament last month, it is titled “Living Well, within the Planet’s Limits.” Th e framework draws on recent policy developments such as the Biodiversity Strategy above, as well as making use of lessons learned under its predecessor, the 6th EAP. Like the Biodiversity Strategy, it takes the form of strategic goals for the short- to medium-term coupled with a long-term vision, and  identifies a suite of objectives, with nine in this case. But while the Biodiversity Strategy sets out goals by environmental sectors such as fisheries management and invasive species, 7EAP is broader in defining its objectives:

– Protecting nature and environmental resilience

-Supporting sustainable, low-carbon development

-Tackling environmental health hazards

-Implementing EU environmental law more effectively

-Ensuring policy-making uses state-of-the-art science

-Obtaining the investment necessary to support policy on the environment and climate change

-Ensuring other EU policy takes environmental needs and issues into account

-Improving sustainability in European cities

-Improving the EU’s effectiveness in addressing regional and global challenges related to the environment and climate change

Horizon2020Horizon 2020, on the other hand, is a funding instrument, developed to implement the EU’s Innovation Union, which seeks to keep the EU competitive by fostering research and innovation. Starting early next year, Horizon 2020 will run until 2020 and will combine all of the research and innovation funding currently under the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). It will provide a dedicated budget to address shared European concerns such as climate change, sustainability and renewable energy. Horizon 2020 will take a market-driven approach, partnering with the private sector as well as member states to provide resources, and it will make international cooperation a priority. It will also be complemented by the development of the European Research Area by 2014, which aims to create  a “genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation.”

In this context, last week’s strategic dialogue is a step towards coordinating between these different policy objectives, pointing research funded by the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) towards areas where where policymakers have identified needs. It also aims to provide guidance on better communication between existing projects and related policy – an explicit goal under 7EAP, for example – as well as promoting collaboration among projects, particularly those on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

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