Pooling of different funding streams is a powerful approach to boost interactive innovation in the agricultural sector, especially in those cases where there is poor structuration, fragmentation or limited capacity for innovation generation and diffusion. Given their knowledge of the sector’s needs and the capacity to act as Innovation Brokers, Innovation Support Services within the Regional Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems, such as the case of INTIA in Navarra, are key actors for achieving a strategic combination of EU funding streams with the overall goal of finding innovative solutions for an increased sustainability of the European agricultural sector.
ReMIX intercropping tests in Mendigorria, Navarra, Spain
INTIA, the Navarra institute for Agri-food Technologies and Infraestructures, is a public body attached to the Department of Rural Development of the Regional Government of Navarra. The company acts as the regional “Innovation Support Service”, carrying out applied R&D in farming, providing advisory services to farmers across the region and promoting regional agri-food products. Since the outset of the “organic farming support team” at INTIA in 2016, its staff has worked as “innovation brokers” following a three-fold approach: 1) detecting “bottom-up” needs and demands from the organic sector; 2) connecting actors within the region and beyond, both at Spanish level but also cross-border with France and 3) “channeling” the detected needs/demands to the right partner, i.e. the R&D team at INTIA, other partners in the organic sector or beyond, the Organic Support Unit at the Regional Government, etc. This strategy has facilitated the implementation of demand-driven initiatives in the regional organic sector, allowing finding innovative solutions to different shared problems, resulting in the structuring of the regional short value chain.
Acting as the regional Innovation Support Service, INTIA has managed to combine different funding streams, with the overall objective of supporting the structuring of the organic value chain. In the particular case of the organic cereal growers these funding streams have comprised: European Regional Development Funds, RDP Measure 16.2 and H2020 multi-actor projects.
ReMIX meeting to approach policies at the regional level, Pamplona, Spain
European Regional Development Funds - the SME Organics Interreg EU project
INTIA leads SME Organics (https://www.interregeurope.eu/smeorganics/), an Interreg EU project (www.interregeurope.eu) that aims at improving policies and programmes under the Investment for Growth and Jobs goal in order to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of SMEs in the organic sector of 7 EU regions plus Aargau Canton (Switzerland). SME Organics main objective has been to support SMEs in improving their performance in order to enforce the growth capacity of the entire organic regional sector in regional, national and international markets.
SME Organics, project website
The project started in 2016 with a comprehensive diagnosis of the organic sector in all participating regions, followed by interregional policy learning exchanges and the drafting of “Regional Organic Action Plans” tailored to the needs of the individual participating regions, which are currently under implementation.
In the case of Navarra, stakeholders across the whole value chain, such as producers (including the cereal producers), processors, retailers, consumers’ associations, the regional University and INTIA participated actively in the diagnosis phase and supported the drawing and implementation of the Organic Regional Action Plan. Thus, one of the actions of the Navarra Organic Action Plan directly targets priority Axis 3 of the ERDF Operational Programme of Navarra 2014-2020, "Improving the competitiveness of SMEs", through support to productive investments by SMEs in the regional organic value chain in order to improve their productivity and efficiency and adapt their production system to higher added-value activities. Thanks to SME Organics and since 2018, organic producers have easier access to this measure through the inclusion under the “Basic criteria used to prioritize the operations”, of new criteria that favor organic SMEs
Measure 16.2 of the Rural Development Programme – “EKOALDE” and “Joint infrastructures for the organic cereal farmers”
As acknowledged by Article 35 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), many of the rural areas of the EU suffer from disadvantages of fragmentation. Operators are often smaller on average than in urban areas, communication is often more difficult (especially between rural areas) and economies of scale are harder to achieve in activities aiming to deliver not only economic but also environmental and social benefits. Measure 16.-2 of the RDP funds pilot projects set up by “EIP-AGRI Operational Groups”, which, through the cooperation of farmers, advisors, researchers, NGOs and other actors, make the best use of different types of knowledge (practical, scientific, technical, organisational, etc) for tackling a certain problem or opportunity, thus leading to innovation generation and dissemination.
INTIA takes part in two RDP Measure 16.2 pilot projects that are playing a key role in the structuring of the organic sector:
- ”EKOALDE”, which brings together the Regional Organic Council in charge of certification and promotion of organic products (CPAEN; https://www.cpaen.org/), the regional Association of Organic Producers and INTIA. The project has set up a common commercialization structure for organic producers to bring their products to the local markets, facilitating retailers to access a broad offer of local organic products with reduced logistic burden to the producers themselves. 
- ”Joint infraestructures and activities for organic cereal farmers”, which brings together CPAEN, INTIA and a group of +20 organic cereal producers to jointly purchase portable equipment for grain separation, while also implemeting activities for structuring the regional organic cereal production sector for fostering the joint commercialization of the products.
Ekoalde Initiative, website
H2020 multi-actor projects – ReMIX and NEFERTITI
The H2020 multi-actor approach (MAA) requires that end-users and multipliers of research results (farmers and farmers’ groups, advisors, enterprises and others), are closely involved throughout the whole research project period, preferably also from the project conception phase. This should lead to innovative solutions that are more likely to be applied in the field, because those who need the solutions will be involved right from the start: from defining the questions, to planning, to implementing research work, to experiments and right up until possible demonstrations and dissemination. Openness to involve relevant groups operating in the EIP context (such as rural development operational groups) has been strongly recommended in the work programme of Horizon 2020.
INTIA has integrated the regional organic cereal producers in two MAA H2020 projects currently in implementation: ReMIX and NEFERTITI:
- ReMIX: the group of +20 organic cereal producers gathered in the measure 16.2 pilot project are also part of the ReMIX “Multi-Actor Platform (MAP)”. ReMIX partners have defined MAPs as “on-farm situated multi-actor co-design platforms” engaging relevant actors for co-designing and trialing under real field conditions (commercial farms) species mixtures solutions suitable to the local farming systems.
Intercropping trial field, Mendigorria, Navarra, Spain
- NEFERTITI: this very farmers group takes part in the Spanish Hub of Network 6 “Organic arable systems” with some farmers being active Hub Members carrying out demonstrations in their farms, such as the use of species mixtures for the production of bread-making wheat and legumes for human consumption (in close connection with ReMIX), on-farm composting methodologies and the use of “Keyline” design for optimizing water use in arable crops.
Through pooling different public funding streams INTIA is supporting the consolidation of a team of advisors, farmers and other AKIS actors that are implementing the sustainable innovation approach in a collaborative manner. Some key tools to leverage the process encompass training, on-farm demos and the participation in networks. Beyond the financial support, the different funding streams furthermore incentivise collaboration and the democratization of knowledge.