BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — A new European Innovation Partnership (EIP) was launched on Feb. 29 to address issues of agricultural sustainability and productivity, the European Commission announced.

EIPs bring together public and private stakeholders across borders and sectors to accelerate the uptake of innovation. The EIP has a target to reach by 2020, and is expected to start delivering results within 1 to 3 years, the Commission said.

“We need to innovate to get Europe back on the path to growth and jobs, and to tackle major challenges such as access to raw materials, sustainable agriculture and our ageing society,” said President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. “European Innovation Partnerships will break down silos, remove bottlenecks and focus our efforts on results that matter to our citizens and our businesses."

Each Partnership is led by a Steering Group chaired by the European Commissioner or Commissioners with responsibility for the policy area or areas concerned. They are joined by representatives of member states (Ministers), Members of Parliament, industry leaders, researchers, civil society and other key stakeholders.

Food security is one of the major challenges worldwide in the years ahead, with the FAO forecasting that global food demand will rise by 70% by 2050, accompanied by a steep increase in the demand for feed, fiber, biomass, and biomaterial, the Commission said. However, this challenge is accompanied by a slow down in productivity growth — in good part because of a reduction in investment in agricultural research — and increased pressure on the environment and our natural resources. For example, 45% of European soils face problems of soil quality. Around 40% of agricultural land is vulnerable to nitrate pollution and, over the last 20 years, farmland birds have declined by 20-25%.

The EIP "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability" aims to provide a working interface between agriculture, bio-economy, science, and others at the E.U., national and regional level. It will also serve as a catalyst to enhance the effectiveness of innovation-related actions supported by Rural Development Policy as well as the Union Research and Innovation. Two headline targets have been identified for this EIP - promoting productivity and efficiency of the agricultural sector (reversing the recent trend of diminishing productivity gains by 2020); and the sustainability of agriculture (securing soil functionality* at a satisfactory level by 2020).

E.U. Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Dacian Ciolo? said, "The key challenge for agriculture in future is not only how to produce more, but also how to produce better. Embracing demand driven research and innovation, as well as improved dissemination of best practices will be essential to this end."