i2connect has been working hard from home in the past months!
Stay tuned, we’ll share it all below!
i2connect 1st General Assembly
i2connect General Assembly took place online on the 5 & 6 November 2020. It brought together about 60 partners of the consortium as well as some external guests. This annual meeting provided an overview of the actions carried out in the project’s different work packages and the actions planned for the coming year. It also highlighted some practical cases in innovation support, which are currently being studied in depth. In addition, a report on the “skills and attributes of a successful innovation advisor” was presented and discussed; and a “reflective capitalisation” tool was introduced to support and strengthen individual and collective learning processes during the project.
Furthermore, i2connect Management board has recently selected the Members of the International Advisory Board (IAB). It is a panel of six stakeholders, who will support the i2connect consortium by providing advice and new perspectives on innovation support, and by ensuring that the views of various stakeholder groups are taken into account. Three IAB meetings will be held during the project. The panel names will be available shortly on the website.
That’s it, the i2connect AS Database is now available!
Help i2connect in its aim of setting up an EU wide network of innovation advisors – register in the Advisory Services Database! The Database is now publicly available on our project platform. The project partners are starting to register and prepare for a comprehensive communication campaign so that advisors and members of all advisory organizations across Europe will register and enter their organizational features, fields of expertise and interests for learning and exchange!
The i2connect Advisory Service (AS) database is an EU-wide directory of professional organisations and individual actors that provide knowledge services to actors in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and related fields of the green sector along the agro-food value chain, as well as to other related actors in rural areas. The database will have two main purposes: 1) to provide an overview of advisory enterprises and organisations in the EU and i2connect partner countries and 2) to make advisors visible and accessible as individual professionals.
Are you an advisor or advisory organisation in the EU? The i2connect AS database offers you the opportunity to register yourself or your organisation to be visible to the European Commission services and the EU-wide network of innovation advisors and also receive useful information on training and other related opportunities across Europe.
Are you simply looking for an advisor or advisory organisation? The directory will offer you several quick and easy search options to filter your results.
Don’t miss this opportunity. Subscribe to the i2connect newsletter to stay tuned!
Coming soon: Updated AKIS reports of 30 European countries
In the context of the upcoming CAP period (2021-2027), one cross-cutting and prominent dimension is the fostering of knowledge, innovation and digitalisation in agriculture and rural areas. Here, advisory services play an important role, and Member States are called to strategically address the functioning of Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) to provide the actors in the sector with the information and support services needed.
It is within this context that the i2connect project consortium conceived a revision and update of the AKIS inventory. This time, the inventory has not only been updated for the existing AKIS descriptions for the Member States but also includes four new countries, namely Croatia, Switzerland, Montenegro, and Serbia. In addition, forestry advisory service providers were addressed in some countries, although not as comprehensively as the agricultural advisory service.
Webinar: How to produce informative & low-cost farm videos
An interactive webinar on how to produce your own farm videos was organized by i2connect specialists – Thomas Alföldi from FiBL (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture) and Reinis Mellis and Līga Cimermane from EUFRAS to introduce all interested parties to the appropriate equipment, practical tools and guidelines that can be helpful to produce informative and low-costs farm videos and audio-visual materials. If you have missed the chance to participate in the webinar – don`t worry, the video recording and the presentations, are available on i2connect platform for your review.
Webinar: Climate Change and Agriculture – Challenges, Experiences and Solutions
LAAS organised an online conference entitled “Climate Change and Agriculture – Challenges, Experiences and Solutions” on February 4th. The conference was aimed at farmers and Agricultural Market representatives and was held in two languages: Lithuanian and English.
The event focused on the challenges farmers face to produce high quality and healthy products while saving the environment, on whether or not sustainable and effective farming is possible.
1st i2connect innovation method training took place in October in Bavaria
With a strict COVID-19 hygiene concept, the seminar “Innovation Management and Research” started October 21st, 2020 in Freising near Munich. Just a few days before the State Academy for Nutrition, Forestry and Agriculture cancelled all face-to-face seminars. The State Academy trainers Pablo Asensio and Thomas Mirsch, together with Dr. Andrea Spangenberg from the Innovation and Research Department of the Bavarian State Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry, and the 14 participants kept the two meters distance, wore mouth-nose protection and windows were open all the time.
The main target group of this course were researchers involved in applied agricultural research in different state institutes. The group of nutrition specialists, gardening and forestry experts, plant and animal scientists was completed by two farm advisors and one farmer. Highlighting this way, the participants experience and the interdisciplinary approach of the i2connect project. The innovation strategy of the Bavarian State Ministry aims at higher practical relevance and real societal benefits (ecological, economic or socio-cultural). To create a long-term value for their clientele (farmers, forest owners, etc.), research projects should be transformed into innovation-driven projects resulting in more sustainable and practicable solutions. The State Ministry adapted their application criteria for research funds respectively. This is where the three days of i2connect training “Innovation Management and Research” comes in, delivering know-how and methods for the multidisciplinary interactive customer co-creation approach.
The goals of the training communicated to the participants were:
- Develop a common understanding on Innovation and Knowledge Transfer
- Get to understand the innovation process
- Interdisciplinary exchange
- Develop a more entrepreneurial attitude
- Create sustainable and societal benefit with practice-oriented research
- Use criteria for concrete and applicable innovations with societal benefit
- Develop concrete measures for further cooperation
- Get understanding of how a customer co-creation process is applied to research funding processes
A central element of the training was the analysis of four innovation cases brought in by the participants. The cases were tested against the discussed innovation models and approaches. The participants stressed the importance of networking and were thankful for the information on the EIP-Agri funding program (European Innovation Partnership). Farm advisor Hermann Bär says about the training:
“I particularly appreciate the valuable feedback from colleagues in the casework with different methods. Especially in advising pig farms we urgently need innovative ideas, as pig farming is currently in a price and acceptance crisis”.
The group will meet again – online – in three group coaching sessions in February and March 2021.
In summer 2021, the Bavarian State Academy plans a newly designed i2c Training for foresters and another innovation method training for agricultural advisors. The State Ministry starts an Innovation Tour, where innovative cases are analysed and highlighted.
Field Peer Review activities
As part of Work Package 2, activities took place between December 2020 and February 2021, through which the project partners, in combination with farmers and agricultural advisors, gained valuable experience and knowledge from representatives of the best practical cases that helped the interactive innovation projects to be successful. Certainly, the best teachers are those who have already gone through all the phases of the innovation process and been successful in doing so. The path from the very beginning of the innovation process, i.e. from initial idea to the realization, is often complex and depends on many actors from different fields. We are very pleased to have gained insight into the roles of these actors through the so-called Field Peer Review, where we are, of course, mainly interested in the contribution and effectiveness of agricultural advisers in supporting interactive innovation.
The Field Peer Review process was supposed to be implemented face-to-face, on the field, but unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, this was not possible. Therefore, we had to adapt to the situation and conduct online interviews with representatives of best practical cases.
The Review process consisted of a preliminary interview with a representative of a practical case of innovation and one or more peer review interviews. The panel coordinators had more or less free hands on the number of interviews and the method in which they were conducted, decision was made on the basis of a preliminary interview and on the basis of the number of people for whom the peer review panel considered their contribution was necessary. It is a great pity that we were not able to conduct the interviews face-to-face, as we probably lost quite a bit of important information or at least genuine contact with the people we were talking to. The methodology and guidelines developed within the i2connect project were of great help in the implementation of the Field Peer Review activities. It wasn’t just about gaining knowledge about the way how innovation has been realised by others, but also about a whole new method, which is usually not used in the field of agricultural advisory.
Luckily, computer technology nowadays enables many things, so in a field peer review team, coordinated by SEASN, we agreed on a “mini virtual tour” of one of the farms that participated in the innovative TRAS.IRRI.MA project in Italy. The farmer in the video provided quite a bit of interesting information from his point of view and information in connection with the agricultural advisor with whom he collaborated during the project. This was also a good way to “spice up” the online peer review interview.
Reflection meetings after the peer review interviews are a very good way to exchange opinions, better understand all the information given by different actors that were interviewed to give first assessment on the practical case being reviewed. The importance of the involvement of an advisor in a peer review panel is particularly shown here, as he/she can best assess the role of agricultural advisers within the practical case due to his/her personal experiences.
Ahead of us is probably the most difficult task and that is the report on Field Peer Review. We believe that only during the writing of the reports it will become clear whether we have really properly followed all the given methodology for the implementation of the interviews, i.e. the Question flow and thus obtained all necessary and relevant information. In any case, we are already looking forward to the key findings based on all the implemented Field Peer Reviews, which will certainly open up new aspects of understanding why it is important that agricultural advisors are innovative and in what forms this competence is being shown.
Update on project Deliverables
Two important deliverables were submitted at the end of January: On the one hand, the reports describing the AKIS in 27 European countries, which will soon be available on the i2connect project website. On the other hand, the Advisory Services Database (AS Database): it will allow farmers, foresters and public authorities to identify advisors who have a specific expertise; in addition, it will help European advisors to get in touch with each other, exchange on their practices and thus foster peer-to-peer learning. Farm and forestry advisory organisations, as well as individual advisors are invited to register online.
Moreover, training activities are continuing despite the strong constraints linked to the COVID-19 epidemic: training courses for advisors are planned in several European countries in the first half of the year and two training courses for trainers are already planned in September 2021, in France and Ireland.
What questions and lessons do we share in H2020?
The i2connect project is not the only major EU project focussing on innovation processes in agriculture. Others are ahead of us, and some have finished. It will be interesting to explore what questions we share and what lessons we can learn from each other. And perhaps also: where we can join forces.
An effort to do so will take place during the ESEE conference, held in June, organised by our Irish partner Teagasc. The conference will be on-line, so, many will have the opportunity to join the session, or even the whole conference. SAVE THE DATE: 22 June 2021
ESEE (European Seminars on Extension and Education) is the scientific network of professionals involved in connecting science and practice in agriculture and food systems which exists since 1973. The organisers intend to make this joint session on H2020 projects lively and interactive. So, if you want to know what’s going on in our profession in Europe: Save the Date and check the website.
i2connect was presented in a Greek magazine last June
This article was published in the Greek magazine YPAITHROS CHORA (Ύπαιθρος Χώρα) on June 19th, 2020. In the interview Alexandros Koutsouris, of AUA, was asked to describe the process concerning the Training of Trainers, that took place last September, and the training of advisors scheduled for next spring.
Alex explained that interactive innovation is the aim of EIP-AGRI Operational Groups which are pretty new in Greece, thus the benefit of those advisors who will participate in i2connect trainings and networks.