The Nagoya Protocol and plant science

Categories: intellectual property
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 28, 2014

There is some legislation struggling through the EU at the moment that could have a big impact on UK plant science – not least, a potential mountain of paperwork for sharing certain genetic material. It is the EU Regulation to implement the Nagoya Protocol, a section of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). For those of you who (like me!) are new to regulations surrounding plant genetic material and breeders’ rights, I’ve given a simple background summary before explaining the new goings-on.

The Convention of Biological Diversity

The CBD is based on the principle that biodiversity is valuable – scientists and industrialists have been ‘bioprospecting’ for centuries, hoping to find something of scientific interest, and preferably also economic worth. The CBD reaffirmed the sovereign rights of a country over the genetic material found within its boarders, and aimed to ensure the states that signed up to it conserved their own biodiversity, used its components sustainability, and shared benefits arising from it responsibly and fairly. It came into force in 1993 after 168 parties had signed up, and now covers over 180 countries.

The Plant Treaty

A second significant agreement linked to the current Nagoya Protocol discussions is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (often referred to more easily as ‘The Plant Treaty’), which sets out special treatment for 64 important agricultural crops that between them provide 80% of human food globally. It was adopted in 2001 and recognizes the rights of all stakeholders in significant plant genetic material – the country of origin, scientists, breeders and farmers. Now, 13 years on from the adoption of the treaty, there is a well established Standard Material Transfer Agreement for access and benefit sharing of genetic materials, which is relatively simple to use, pragmatic and well understood by the plant breeding community. (more…)

Funding round-up: Winter

Categories: funding
Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 23, 2012

Research awards

Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Exploration: Deadline 7 November. £100 000 is available to fund development of an idea that can help solve one of the Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges. If you have an idea to do with agricultural development or medicinal plants, take a look at this. It is a short application, which requires no prior data – worth a try for a project too risky to pitch to a different funding body!

FP7 KBBE: Deadline 5 February. See previous blog posts (1, 2) on this call.

BBSRC Responsive Mode: Deadline 9 January. The bread and butter of plant science research. Remember to apply to Committee C if your work is to do with ‘genes or development,’ as its remit has changed. There will be a plant scientist sitting on it. Committee B remains the main route for plants and microbes.

BBSRC LINK and BBSRC Industrial Partnership Awards: Deadline 9 January. Funding available for collaboration between a research group and industrial partner, who must fund at least 50% of the total economic cost of the project for a LINK award, or 10% for an IPA.

ERC Synergy Grant: Deadline 10 January. Up to €15 000 000 is available for a project lasting up to six years. Groups of between 2 and 4 PIs and their groups can apply for this huge grant. This is part of the FP7 Ideas Work Programme and proposals must comply with their priorities. According to the Guide for Applicants, ‘The aim is to promote substantial advances in the frontiers of knowledge, and to encourage new productive lines of enquiry … methods and techniques, including unconventional approaches and investigations at the interface between established disciplines.’ (more…)

FP7 2013 for Plant Scientists

Categories: funding, Uncategorized
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: July 24, 2012
Credit: Page Schneider, Miroslav Sárička, Studio Tachtig via stock.xchng

At the Launch of the FP7 2013 Work Programmes for the KBBE and ENV themes, presentations were given by members of European Commission teams who developed the calls.

Timothy Hall presented an outline of the planned funding allocation of Theme 2: Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology. The overall scope is ‘Bio-resource efficiency’, with an emphasis on the integration of basic and applied research, and transfer of knowledge to impact and innovation. They aim to fund broader, interdisciplinary topics that cover topics from more than one activity.

There are three activities in this theme, and the topics most obviously relevant to GARNet community are highlighted below:

2.1 Sustainable production, management of biological resources from land, forest and aquatic environments.

  • Crop breeding and management: Legumes (€5Mx2) and small grain cereals (€5Mx2).
  • Plant health: IPM in fruit crops (€6Mx1) and biocontrol in agriculture and forestry (€9x1M)
  • Agro-meterological crop modelling (€2Mx1).
  • Outreach, translation, impact of results: €6x1M projects to get funding to get product market-ready.

2.2 ‘Fork to farm’: Food, health and well-being

  • This activity is worth checking if you work on improving water-efficiency in plants or increasing Vitamin D levels.

2.3 Biotechnology and biochemistry for sustainable non-food products and processes.

  • Plant high value products (€20M for several projects).
  • Emerging trends in biotechnology with the view to maintain biotechnology at the front line of innovation (€9Mx1).

Alison Imrie gave a presentation outlining Theme 6: Environment (Including Climate Change). In this theme, the emphasis is on the prediction of global changes, as well as tools and technologies for monitoring, prevention and mitigation of, and adaptation to environmental pressures and risks.

The activities are: (more…)

FP7 2013 Funding Programme Launched

Categories: funding
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: July 23, 2012
Credit: Miroslav Sárička

On Friday 7 July I went to the launch of the FP7 2013 Work Programmes for the Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology (KBBE) and Environment (including climate change) (ENV) themes call in London.

For those that don’t know, the objective of the Framework Programme (FP) EU research funding scheme is to enable Europe as a whole to compete with the huge research centers of the USA, Japan, China and India. The EU has funded research and technological development across Europe through framework programmes since 1984. The current FP7 call is the final annual call of FP7, which has been running since 2007.

FP7 2013 is broken into research ‘themes’. Each theme is sub-categorised into ‘activities,’ which include several ‘topics’. The two themes outlined at the launch day are the themes most likely to be relevant to the GARNet community.

From Timothy Hall’s presentation on the KBBE theme, I got the impression that as a general rule, most topics will fund a few projects of around €6-10 million each. Some topics will only fund one project. In both themes discussed, it was clear that proposals that fit the scope of multiple topics would be given preference.

The call was published on 10 July, and applicants have 6 months to submit a proposal. Proposed projects must involve at least three independent entities from three different member states, or if absolutely necessary, ‘associated’ states (nearly anywhere else in the world – see Who Can Apply). The EU wants to encourage partnerships between research groups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and some application for funding within certain activities sets out a minimum participation level for SMEs.

National contact points (NCPs) provide free help at all stages of the FP7 application, from assistance putting together a consortium of parties to providing feedback on the draft proposal. The NCPs are listed at the end of this post.

Every presentation emphasised that FP7 starts with an extremely competitive application process. All the speakers agreed that the best proposals have a good consortium of partners, made up of groups with complementary expertise and with no sleeping partners. The project must fit one, or preferably more than one, topic. It must have realistic impact goals – the FP7 funding is a contract and the expected end product, whatever it is, must be delivered. It is essential to read the call carefully and make sure your proposal ticks all the requirements. And they all almost pleaded with the audience not to wait until the last minute to submit.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a more detailed post about the calls. Finally if you weren’t at the ICAR conference, Ruth Bastow who was there for GARNet has collated her tweets so you can pretend you were there!

National Contact Points:

Catherine Holt and Jane Watkins (Beta Technology) KBBE and ENV NCP

Ewa Block (Technology Strategy Board) Eco-innovation and Industrial Biotechnology NCP

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