Exploring collaboration opportunities on food production, sustainability and rural development


J. Barreiro Hurle, F. Guzzo, C. Lavalle, R. M’Barek, F. Mérida Martín, C. Perpiñá Castillo, A. Rainoldi and T. Ronzon


The meeting between the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (Seville) and the Asociación para el Desarrollo Rural de Andalucía offered the opportunity to explore possible areas of future collaboration between the two organisations on food production, green transition and rural development.

In 2021, the European Commission set out a Long-Term Vision for the EU’s Rural Areas [1]. The vision considers rural areas as a central component of the European way of life. They are valued for food production, environmental goods and services, together with leisure, recreation and tourism activities. Yet, social, economic, and demographic transformations have challenged rural communities over the past decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has added uncertainty to existing vulnerabilities, while opening promising new perspectives as economies adapt and people look to a better quality of life.

These themes were the focus of a first meeting between the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Asociación para el Desarrollo Rural de Andalucía (ARA) held on 10 December 2021 at the JRC-Seville site. The objective of the event was to introduce the JRC to the members of the ARA and to begin exploring possible areas of collaboration between the two organisations on topics related to agriculture and food production, green transition, quality of life in rural areas and rural development strategies. This collaboration will be included in the wider strategic cooperation agreement between the JRC and the Junta de Andalucía in the context of a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding.

During the meeting, the results of JRC studies on the most relevant facts and trends regarding demographic change and depopulation were presented, together with some evidence on the availability and accessibility to essential services and digital connection in rural areas [2], among other topics [3, 4, 5]. Diagnostic snapshots on Spain and Andalusia were also provided to show the potential use of data and analytical capacity available at the JRC for supporting policy design. The upcoming set-up of the EU Rural Observatory will further strengthen this important source of scientific knowledge and evidence for better policy. Within the Rural Observatory initiative, the JRC will work with other European Commission services to develop a comprehensive modelling, interactive-web tool and data platform for analysis in rural contexts. An increasing body of research is also emerging in the area of territorial and rural dynamics and local development policies. One example is the launchof the EU Startup Village Forum, which aims to support the growth of start-upsin rural areas.

JRC staff also presented the analysis of the potential impacts of selected targets from the EU Farm to Fork and biodiversity strategies on the agricultural sector [6]. Achieving these targets will provide significant environmental benefits and the impacts on production could be mitigated with Common Agricultural Policy implementation accompanying the transition to more sustainable food systems.

In addition, the JRC is providing support and data evidence for the development of the Bioeconomy strategy of the European Union. Among other actions, it provides a mapping of bio-industries across the EU Member States [7]and monitors socio-economic statistics [8]on the EU Bioeconomy as well as biomass flows in EU Member States [9].

The opportunities for future collaborations between the JRC and ARA would lie mainly in the possibility for Andalusian (and Spanish) rural areas to benefit from the close presence of an EU science and knowledge service for the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development policies. These territories can also be involved in research activities and actas a “proximity lab” for testing methodologies and experiments carried out bythe JRC together with other relevant services of the European Commission.

This promising interaction, putting science and knowledge closer to policy action through the concept of “proximity lab”, could be a valuable source of inspiration for the development of similar settings in other contexts. For example, similar experimentations could take shape in the various regions taking part to the thematic smart specialisation partnership on traceability and big data.

[1] Communication on A long-term Vision for the EU´s Rural Areas – Towards stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas by 2040. COM (2021) 345 final, Brussels.  Accessible from:

https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/strategy/strategy_documents/documents/ltvra-c2021-345_en.pdf and https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/new-push-european-democracy/long-term-vision-rural-areas_en

[2] Perpiña Castillo, C., Kavalov, B., Ribeiro Barranco, R., Diogo, V., Jacobs, C., Batista E Silva, F., Baranzelli, C.,Lavalle, C. (2018). Territorial Facts and Trends in the EU Rural Areas within 2015-2030, EUR 29482 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, ISBN 978-92-79-98121-0, JRC114016.

[3] Kompil, M., Jacobs-Crisioni, C., Perpiña Castillo, C., Lavalle, C. (2021). Accessibility to Services of General Interest in Europe: an evaluation for degree of urbanisation and remoteness. Policy Brief. JRC124457.

[4] Perpiña Castillo, C., Sulis, P., Velasco Leon, J.M., Lavalle, C. (2021). Broadband accessibility and quality connection in Europe by urban-rural typology including remoteness. Policy Brief.  JRC124456.

[5] Barranco, R., Proietti, P., Batista e Silva, F., Perpiña Castillo C., Lavalle, C. (2021). Tourism capacity, expenditure and seasonality in Europe per urban-rural typology and remoteness. Policy Brief. JRC124459.

[6] Barreiro-Hurle; J.; Bogonos; M.; Himics; M.;Hristov; J.; Pérez-Domiguez; I.; Sahoo; A.; Salputra; G.; Weiss; F.; Baldoni;E.; Elleby; C. (2021). Modelling environmental andclimate ambition in the agricultural sector with the CAPRI model. Exploring thepotential effects of selected Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies targetsin the framework of the 2030 Climate targets and the post 2020 CommonAgricultural Policy. JRC Technical Report, Publications Office of the EuropeanUnion, Luxembourg.

[7] https://datam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/datam/mashup/BIOBASED_INDUSTRY/,Parisi, Claudia; Baldoni, Edoardo; M'barek, Robert; European Commission, JointResearch Centre (2020): Bio-based industry and biorefineries. EuropeanCommission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) [Dataset] PID: http://data.europa.eu/89h/ee438b10-7723-4435-9f5e-806ab63faf37

[8] https://datam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/datam/mashup/BIOECONOMICS/

Ronzon, Tévécia; Piotrowski, Stephan; M'barek, Robert; Carus, Michael;Tamošiūnas, Saulius (2022): Jobs and wealth in the EU bioeconomy / JRC -Bioeconomics. European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) [Dataset] PID: http://data.europa.eu/89h/7d7d5481-2d02-4b36-8e79-697b04fa4278

[9] https://datam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/datam/mashup/BIOMASS_FLOWS/

Gurria Albusac, P., Gonzalez Hermoso, H., Ronzon, T., Tamosiunas, S., LopezLozano, R., Garcia Condado, S., Ronchetti, G., Guillen Garcia, J., Banja, M.,Fiore, G. and M`barek, R., Biomass flows in the European Union, EUR 30454 EN,Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020, ISBN978-92-76-25378-5, doi:10.2760/14342, JRC122379.