It aims to objectify evaluation of innovation cooperation projects submitted by Operational Groups by separation of technical criteria from scientific criteria.
Operational Groups are action and result oriented groups where all actors need to work together to promote innovation in the agri-food sector. The setting up of internal procedures helps the OGs to operate smoothly. Farms and processing industries participate in the OGs together with research organizations. The Operational Groups for Innovation are funded by the EARDF with projects up to a maximum amount of 300 k€ each. The projects need to deal with products that are listed in annex I referred to in Article 32 of the EU Treaty. Projects interesting innovation in the food industry that go beyond this threshold are funded by the ERDF. The Rural Development Program for 2014-2020, that introduces the Operational Groups requires transparency and objectivity of project evaluation, therefore the Emilia Romagna Region set up a procedure ensuring compliance with these criteria as well as efficiency and effectiveness of project implementation. The GP was set up with the purpose of objectifying the evaluation of innovation cooperation projects submitted by the Operational Groups through a separation of the evaluation of the technical criteria from the scientific criteria. All aspects of evaluation are public and they are listed in the calls. In order to be able to participate at the call, an Operational Group must be composed of at least 1 agricultural enterprise and 1 research organization (public or private): in addition, training organizations or consultants can be associated.
The technical criteria are checked in-house by a group of 6 regional officials from different departments. The scientific criteria are evaluated by the National Academy of Agriculture, an independent body that has previously rated the project for free using 2 referees per project.
Evidence of success
As a result of this GP, the ERR has activated the largest number of projects among the European Regions: 93 OGs have been financed by the 2014-2020 RDP through the 16.1.01. The consequent innovation plans have been aggregated and have so far involved approx. 250 different players. The use of this GP has also caused fewer recourses against the rankings since the evaluation is more objective and acceptable for all subjects. The GP procedure can also be used for other types of RDP operations.
At the beginning the novelty of the procedure may have created a barrier, in particular the documentation that is requested to the Operational Groups. For the regional administration the management needs specifically be involved and a specific team inside the administration needs to be set up.
Potential for learning or transfer
This procedure ensures both transparency and objectivity of the project evaluation process because it separates the technical and scientific criteria in the rating processes.
This GP can be transferred to other regions but it needs at least 4 keys elements:
-the existence of a consolidated tissue of research subjects in the agri-food sector;
- presence on the territory of a full chain of subjects, from research to farm production with historic propulsion to co-operation;
- the availability of an independent body with high expertise in agri-food research which can be charged with the evaluations;
- specific skills inside the public administration in charge of the procedure.
The success largely depends on the regional admin., as dedicated and specifically trained personnel is carrying out the entire procedure. The GP is linked to the specific territory, consolidated tissue of research subjects and the propensity of all subjects of the food chain to cooperate with each other.