Going through eight months of piloting, it is time for giving a brief update on the progress and implementation of the pilot activity in FSOLab 2.
As a reminder, FSOLab 2 targeted to foster better exchange between different funding entities within Europe and to raise awareness on the relevance of food safety issues as well as the need for more efficient research funding in this area. With a view to better orchestrating and directing the practical implementation of the pilot action within the FSOLab 2, a Steering Committee as a managerial unit was established within the team. Members of the Steering Committee met on a regular basis to discuss individual working steps during the piloting phase, to express needs for directional change, and to oversee and drive progress throughout the process.
At this point, a few more details about the main activities conducted during the FSOLab 2 piloting: In order to gain a better understanding of (research) activities supported by funding agencies in general and in the food safety area in particular, and to explore major challenges and problems viewed from the perspective of funders, a customized questionnaire was developed as part of the pilot action.
This questionnaire formed the basis for a series of deep interviews, conducted with selected representatives of leading research funding agencies across six European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Romania, Italy, Portugal and Finland). The results from the interviews were analyzed, summarized and discussed. To disseminate the interview results and to establish closer communication and exchange with the funders previously approached, a special workshop entitled “Funding for Food Safety – Workshop to Share Experiences” was organized.
The primary objective of this workshop was to jointly identify existing barriers and constraints relating to (Food Safety) research funding, drawing on collated interview results, and to elaborate approaches and recommendations for strategic solutions together with funders.
In a comprehensive report, the FSOLab 2 Steering Committee synthesized the outcomes of the workshop and formulated concrete recommendations for taking action directed largely at actors from politics, economy, public authorities & administration, which will shortly be published to read for everyone as an Opinion Paper in a scientific journal. The FSOLab2 pilot approach provides a practical proof of concept of how dialogue and liaison of various research funders from across Europe can be facilitated and encouraged, which may serve as a model for follow-up activities in additional Member States.
On 27 October 2022, the third and final FSOLab 2 workshop took place, in which the FSOLab 2 team collectively assessed the outcomes of its pilot action. It also focused on reviewing the overall piloting process and the range of impacts generated by the action, approaches to expand impact and exploitation of the innovation potential, in addition to ideation for a possible downstream pilot action.
The FSOLab 2 pilot action is gradually nearing its end, and the experience of working in a very diverse team on the highly complex topic of Food Safety research funding and research programmes has taught us a lot.
Although our Social Lab was of an experimental nature with uncertain outcomes, where the path from project design to pilot implementation was a learning process with many small steps for all of us, we have learned that we can achieve a lot if everyone pulls together and takes up the challenges arising on the horizon.
The results of our FSOLab 2 pilot action constitute an important milestone in drawing attention on existing shortcomings in the Food Safety research funding landscape, and therewith provide an important contribution to evoke and provoke valuable changes to established funding systems, with the transversal objective to achieve a sustained strengthening of the European Research and Innovation Area.
Last of all, we would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has helped us to get this pilot project off the ground!