The 'European Research Area plant genomics' (ERA-PG) project began on 1 January, and brings together funding organisations, ministries and scientific academies from ten EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK) and Norway.
Core elements of the work programme include developing common management procedures for national research programmes, exchanging best practice, and promoting joint activities, such as the pooling of resources and issuing joint calls for proposals.
Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin, said: 'Plant genomics was pioneered and developed in Europe. It is an area that holds much potential for addressing important societal issues, ranging from sustainable agriculture and the clean up of polluted sites to food quality and human health.
'I welcome the commitment of national plant genomics programmes to pool efforts in an ERA-NETcooperation scheme. It should help to keep our world class researchers in Europe,' he added.
The €80 million invested in plant genomics research in Europe every year is roughly the same amount as in the US. However, this funding is split between numerous national organisations, which, the Commission argues, reduces its overall impact. It believes that coordinating the activities of these national organisations will ensure Europe deploys its resources more coherently, optimises its infrastructure investments, and delivers leading edge research results.
International coordination is not a new concept within plant genomics research in Europe. ERA-PG builds on existing collaboration between France and Germany, which, together with Spain, have established a jointly funded plant genomics programme. And the project organisers do not expect the cooperation to be limited to the current ERA-PG members, stating their commitment to expand the project to those other Member States and candidate countries that are launching their own research programmes in the field.
Having held the project launch meeting on 29 and 30 January, the international partners have already begun an exchange of information designed to determine the current state of research in each of the participating countries, which will then help to guide the future strategic activities of ERA-PG.