Strategic research and innovation agenda: the backbone of the JPI Water

Can European countries further synchronise their scientific programmes to focus on research needs that impact on societal challenges ? One answer is the concept of Joint programming initiative (JPI [1]), launched in 2008. There are now 10 JPIs, including the JPI Oceans, JPI Climate, and the JPI Water, in which Irstea is participating as part of AllEnvi.

Launched at the end of 2011 by the European Commission, the JPI Water initiative [2] brings together 19 partner countries and 5 observer countries, with Spain acting as president of the initiative until 2015. The main on-going task, and the backbone of the project, is the Strategic research and innovation agenda (SRIA). "Of the 6 Work Packages, Irstea is leading WP3, which focuses on the strategic agenda", highlights Esther Diez, manager of Irstea's WatEur project. "Once finalised, the European Commission will use the agenda to prepare calls for projects as part of the Horizon 2020 funding programme, and to allocate research funding."  This is an important role for Irstea.

WatEur, the JPI Water enforcer

Develop sustainable water management systems for a sustainable economy. This is the challenge for the JPI Water. To supervise its implementation, the WatEur project was launched in January 2013. "This is an operational project that will work towards implementing the JPI Water with the core aim of developing a strategic agenda."  In order to achieve this it has been necessary to describe and prioritise water research needs.

For this reason, scientists and experts have defined 5 priority research themes :

  • Balanced and sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems
  • Safe water, a vital issue for the general population
  • A competitive water industry
  • A bio-based economy that respects water resources
  • Sustainable management of water resources

5 themes, 11 sub-themes and associated research needs : from methodologies to modelling the impact of climate change on water resources and associated risks, via recent technological needs such as innovative membrane systems for waste water processing. Another example : emerging water contaminants and aquatic ecosystems, the subject of a pilot call in November 2013.

"With all research themes combined, we were looking at around 300 research needs... That's too many ! One question needed to be answered : what are the short, medium and long term research needs?"  Basically, what are the priorities ? Which research should we invest in ? This time-related dimension was not included in the preliminary version of the Strategic agenda (SRIA 0.5), delivered in May 2013 during the Horizon 2020 preparations, but it is now essential.

To deal with the issue, Irstea organised a workshop with other WP3 partners, held on 3 and 4 April in Lyon. 60 participants from across Europe attended the event. The workshop focused on finalising priorities and refining research needs. In addition to these discussions between experts and scientists, a public consultation on research needs was also set up across Europe to encourage wider participation among the general public. Results from this consultation will be included in the improved version of the agenda.

European and participative... Water research programming is coming together and opening up ! The next steps include issuing version 1.0 of the Strategic agenda in June 2014. This will be followed by a new update : SRIA 2.0, at the end of 2015.

For more information

[1] Intergovernmental initiative supported by the European Commission. Research funding instrument.

[2] European research programme initiated in December 2011 in order to better coordinate research programmes in partner states. For further information, consult the JPI Water website.