Many developing countries, where agriculture represents a significant portion of their Gross Domestic Product, stand to gain from investments in scientific research aimed at solving the technological and wider challenges of agricultural production and enhancing the competitiveness of agricultural industries.
The African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP), an organisation of 79 member states formed in 1975 with the aim of achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction, has been managing an ambitious and innovative programme for sugar research, funded by the European Union (EU), called the ACP-Sugar Research Programme (ACP-SRP) 1].
Contributing to ACP’s goals of integration into the world economy and poverty reduction, the ACP-SRP targets the main technological challenges of the sugar sector, of crucial importance for many ACP states, through collaborative scientific and technological research. The main objectives of the programme are to strengthen the competitiveness of the cane-sugar commodity chains, enhance research centre capacity, develop an exchange network, disseminate information, and prepare ACP sugar producing countries for the future.
The thirteen projects implemented through this research programme have three main avenues, the production of new cane varieties; the reduction of sugar cane cost of production and mitigation of negative impacts on the environment; and the reduction of sugar losses from processing and adding value to sugar cane by-products.
These projects will not only lead to sugar sector competitiveness but will strengthen capacity to advance scientific research and innovation, which will further boost economic development through knowledge creation and its application to broader economic activities. With a global need for sustainable increased food production to feed a growing population, research in sugar and technology can provide means to produce more using less resources and innovative environmentally-friendly production methods.
Moreover, many useful by-products can be developed from sugar to meet other global challenges such as the growing need for energy resources, climate change and environmental sustainability, as sugar can be used for its biomass to produce energy and has properties suitable for the development of a range of useful chemicals and products.
Recognising the vital role of research and innovation in fostering economic competitiveness as well as the imperative for international cooperation to respond to global challenges, the EU’s new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, is open to international participation to EU funded research projects, thereby providing a perfect opportunity for continued support to ACP-SRP through an extended partnership with European research centres and scientists. International collaboration in scientific research and innovation can provide the ACP with new channels to integrate the global science community, thus reducing the science and technology gap with industrialised economies and allowing the ACP to use the resulting knowledge to ensure sustainable socioeconomic development.
The chairman of the ACP Subcommittee on Sugar, Dr Patrick Gomes affirms that, “To improve the productivity and competitiveness of the sugar industries in the ACP Countries, a systematic and comprehensive research and innovation programme is essential. The present ACP-SRP has had considerable success because it has been designed in a multidimensional way. Most important also is the broad framework in which sugar, as one product from the cane industry, is a source of food, agro-industrial development and environmental conservation. This needs to be scaled up and deepened with the results that have been achieved so far.”
Horizon 2020 is the European Union’s financial instrument for promoting research and innovation under the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. Running from 2014 to 2020, the EU’s new programme for research and innovation aims to create new growth and jobs in Europe.
For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/index_en.cfm?pg=h2020
The Commission finances most of its development programmes for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partner countries through the European Development Fund (EDF). The Commission also funds some programmes from the EU’s general budget. Member States contribute to both the EDF and the general budget, through budgetary instruments - the Development Cooperation Instrument, the Instrument for Stability, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the European Humanitarian Aid Instrument.
For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/where/acp/overview/index_en.htm
The ACP Sugar Research Programme, funded by the European Union through DEVCO/Europe Aid, is part of the drive to reduce poverty and increase growth and living standards in ACP countries. The ACP-SRP aims to provide solutions to the main challenges faced by the sugar industry in ACP countries by implementing research and innovation projects, covering three main areas of research.
For further information: http://www.acp-srp.eu/en
 ACP-SRP : Budget, 13 million Euros ; implementation, December 2010-Dec 2014