The primary objective of the NKJ is to help to promote a more knowledge-based agricultural and food sector in the Nordic countries. To this end the NKJ initiates and provides support to joint Nordic research cooperation that will generate added value for research and innovation at the national and European levels. The NKJ also works to strengthen the Nordic position in agricultural and food research in the European research arena as well as to further enhance European cooperation in this area.
The NKJ was established in 1965 by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The committee’s main stakeholders are the Nordic Council of Ministers, the national ministries responsible for agricultural and food research in the Nordic countries, the national research councils, as well as Nordic researchers in the NKJ’s area of responsibility within agriculture and food, and also within other sectors, such as forestry and fisheries where relevant.
Members of the NKJ committee are appointed by the Nordic national research councils and relevant ministries in the five Nordic countries. The NKJ also cooperates with a wide array of Nordic institutes and bodies under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The NKJ chairmanship rotates between the Nordic countries and has a term of four years. Sweden holds the presidency from 1 January 2014 until the end of 2017. For more information, please visit the NKJ website at http://nordicagriresearch.org/
Knowledge is becoming an increasingly important part of the basis for ensuring competitiveness and sustainable value creation in the agricultural and food sector. This sector is essential to the ongoing development towards the bioeconomy in the Nordic countries. Thus, research and research-based innovation are critical for industrial development within the sector. The NKJ is a tool for strengthening the knowledge system in the agricultural, food and reindeer husbandry sector (referred to hereafter as the NKJ’s sectors), which consists of many players, including political decision-makers, the Nordic Council of Ministers, national research councils, universities and research institutes (in the fields of science and technology, the social sciences and the humanities) and industry actors.
The NKJ works to provide Nordic added value through cooperation on common Nordic issues and challenges that are not addressed under international cooperation, and within European research cooperation. The committee’s contributions to furthering the Nordic Bioeconomy Initiative played a central role in the previous strategy period 2011–2014 and illustrate how the NKJ’s activities provide Nordic benefits as a platform for Nordic policy development.
1.2 Future developmental trends and challenges
Nordic agriculture is facing challenges at both the regional and the global level, which intensifies the need for new knowledge and the translation of knowledge into fresh, innovative solutions and adaptations.
Three trends and challenges are of particular importance: climate change, globalisation and the transition to the bioeconomy. All three are likely to bring about far-reaching economic, social and sectoral changes.
Climate change: Production systems in the agricultural, food and reindeer husbandry sector must be adapted to the changing overall temperature and precipitation conditions and increased frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, major temperature fluctuations within a short time span, and periods of drought, as well as mild winters and a longer growing season.
Globalisation: Trends affecting the agricultural and food sector include new international framework conditions, increased competition, rising imports, greater global demand for food, unequal distribution of the world’s resources for food production, and unstable markets.
Both climate change and globalisation raise the risk of spread of disease and pest species, lending added urgency to the need to prioritise safe food production and good animal welfare. The One Health initiative emphasises that human and animal health and disease must be considered in the same context.
The transition to the bioeconomy is part of a broader strategy for promoting sustainable green growth. Emerging trends that are opening up new opportunities as well as creating challenges for the Nordic agricultural and food sector include use of food waste, products and waste from agriculture as raw materials for bioenergy, biofuels and biorefinery products; integrated agriculture; sustainable production of food and feed; and ecosystem services. The transition to the bioeconomy must be implemented without compromising animal health and food safety, and must incorporate quality control throughout the production chain of all new products and services.
Alongside the general global trends, some challenges are more specific to Nordic agricultural and food production than to many other parts of the world, such as: centralisation vs. development of rural communities; utilisation of agricultural areas vs. national food security; and, a decreasing degree of common knowledge about the sector and declining interest in education and jobs within the sector.
The reindeer husbandry industry goes far back in Norway, Sweden and Finland, and is facing major challenges ahead. These include anticipated climate change, competition for land use, the significance of reindeer husbandry in the Sami culture, and issues involving predators. At the same time, the industry has good potential to develop reindeer-based products and services in the way of food items, hides and bone products, and tourism. Reindeer husbandry has a natural role in the Nordic bioeconomy.
The various trends make it critical to develop a Nordic agricultural, food and reindeer husbandry sector based on the principle of sustainability, and which is capable both of restructuring where necessary and of seizing new opportunities.
This will require a greater emphasis on research and innovation in each of the Nordic countries as well as expanded cooperation between them to make the best use of their joint resources and findings. Moreover, the European research arena is steadily gaining in scientific and economic significance vis-à-vis the agricultural and food sector. In many instances the Nordic countries can speak with one voice in this arena, and the NKJ seeks to contribute in this regard.
Beyond these societal trends, rapid developments taking place in the areas of ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology and environmental technology will also be of relevance to the Nordic agricultural, food and reindeer husbandry sector.
2. Mission statement and objectives
2.1. Mission statement
The NKJ’s mission is to be a driving force in strengthening cooperation on research and innovation within the NKJ’s sectors.
2.2. Primary objectives
The primary objectives of the NKJ are to work towards increased Nordic benefits within the NKJ’s sectors by:
- encouraging cooperation and networks;
- helping to develop national, Nordic and European policy;
- promoting Nordic interests in the European research arena.
2.3 Secondary objectives for 2015–2018
- Help to enhance the knowledge base underlying the development of research and innovation policy, with an emphasis on the bioeconomy and climate change.
- Create synergies through enhanced cross-sectoral cooperation with national/Nordic initiatives and research programmes.
- Strengthen the Nordic position in agricultural and food research in the European research arena as well as further enhance European cooperation on research and innovation.
- Strengthen the ability of the reindeer husbandry industry to achieve its potential by augmenting the knowledge base.
3. Strategic position
In order to support the above-mentioned objectives, the NKJ will employ three main types of activity: providing advice/analysis, serving as a meeting place and coordinator, and providing funding.
3.1 Providing advice/analysis
- serving as an advisory body for the Nordic Council of Ministers and the relevant ministries and national research councils in the Nordic countries;
- strengthening the knowledge base for the NKJ’s sectors by conducting analyses and foresight studies of relevant research-related and research-policy issues, when these will generate Nordic added value;
- on the basis of these analyses, assessing the need for initiatives and measures at the policy level, among research councils, ministries and Nordic researchers, preparing recommendations on such measures, and presenting proposals for measures to relevant players.
3.2. Serving as a meeting place and coordinator
The NKJ will serve as a central meeting place, primarily for Nordic research funders and policymakers, but also for researchers and industrial players in the area of agriculture and food. This will contribute to a broad debate and dialogue on research-relevant issues within the bioeconomy and climate, and will strengthen coordination in the NKJ’s sectors.
To achieve this, the NKJ will:
- Initiate and support seminars, conferences, workshops, etc. to generate broad debate on core research and innovation policy issues relating to the agricultural and food sector. Key stakeholders may include relevant ministries, research councils, closely affiliated Nordic bodies and European actors, researchers and industrial actors.
- Cooperate with the NKJ’s key stakeholders to identify strategically important areas of research and innovation where Nordic cooperation has the great potential to generate significant added value. Provide support for selected collaborative projects in keeping with the committee’s strategy.
- Initiate and support the coordination of relevant national research and innovation programmes in the NKJ’s sectors.
3.3 Providing funding
The NKJ will contribute funding to measures that support its roles as advisory body, initiator, meeting place and coordinator.
To achieve this objective, the NKJ will:
- play an active role in taking the initiative on selected joint Nordic research projects in the NKJ’s sectors;
- in special cases (alone or in cooperation with others), issue calls for proposals for activities of common Nordic benefit that look at specific Nordic issues or to support projects with potential for participation in the European research arena within the NKJ’s sectors;
- disseminate knowledge about its role and activities to important interested parties.
4. Strategic areas of focus
4.1 The bioeconomy in a Nordic perspective
The transition from a production economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable raw materials requires changing and innovating the ways to produce and utilise biomass in order to promote sustainable development. This in turn necessitates an expanded research effort within the NKJ’s sectors that maintains not only a cross-sectoral focus on agriculture, forestry and fisheries but that also views research on the bioeconomy in an integrated perspective that encompasses both the natural and social sciences.
The reindeer husbandry industry has a natural role to play in the future Nordic bioeconomy. The industry’s main challenges revolve around anticipated climate change and its effects on grazing and herd management, competition for land use, the continued significance of reindeer in the Sami culture, and issues relating to predators. Developing a solid knowledge base is vital if the industry is to fulfil its potential.
Nordic competitive advantages
The Nordic region has substantial biomass resources as a result of the agricultural and food sector, longstanding agricultural traditions, and a proficient agricultural research community. The Nordic countries each have individual strengths in research and innovation that complement the others and endow the Nordic region as a whole with competitive advantages.
At the national level, the Nordic countries have a political focus on the bioeconomy as a means of achieving green growth, and several of the countries have dedicated research and innovation strategies targeting the bioeconomy.
The Nordic region has the opportunity to take a leading role in developing sustainable, efficient agricultural production that limits the required input factors and thereby promotes the development of a biobased society. Such production requires research, technology, the generation of new knowledge, and capable centres of expertise.
Common challenges provide an incentive to cooperate on finding solutions. In the context of the bioeconomy, Nordic test centres, pilot projects etc. may prove to be a useful approach to identifying research results that are beneficial to the wider Nordic region.
The NKJ document The Nordic Bioeconomy Initiative (NBI) pointed out relevant research topics for the Nordic countries as a basis for continued efforts to implement a biobased economy. NordForsk’s green growth research programme bases its thematic area on the bioeconomy on the recommendations of the NBI. The NKJ is helping to realise the full potential benefit to the Nordic region.
The global demand for food is expanding at a rapid pace and will continue to do so in the decades ahead. At the same time, in many parts of the world the natural environment is under pressure from a growing human population and unsustainable growth. It will become increasingly difficult to ensure security of food supply. Climate change makes it necessary to change the way food is produced and consumed, both in the Nordic region and globally, and there will be greater focus on producing safe food. Moreover, there is rising awareness of the close connection between human and animal health and disease as espoused by the One Health initiative.
Uncertainty surrounding the impacts of climate change on the Nordic agricultural, food and reindeer husbandry sector is magnified by trends such as changing framework conditions and reduced national allocations to the sector. These factors intensify the need for research and research-based innovation that can make the sector more adaptable and future-oriented, as well as a corresponding need for knowledge-based policy development for sustainable development of the sector.
Nordic competitive advantages
The Nordic countries have a competitive advantage in that substantial resources have in general been invested in climate research (changes, impacts and impact mitigation) over the national research budgets. Dynamic research groups specialising in climate issues have emerged, and cooperation among these may enable the sector to adapt optimally to future climate change.
The agricultural and food sector in the Nordic climate faces many climate-related challenges that extend beyond national borders, such as overall global warming. Research on how the Nordic agricultural, food and reindeer husbandry sector can adapt sustainably to climate change is a typical area of wide-ranging Nordic benefit. One of the key tasks of the NKJ is to help to define what comprises Nordic benefits and how these can be realised.
Specific areas in which there are Nordic benefits to be gained include researcher mobility and training programmes, research infrastructure, identifying and developing products and production systems with a potential for comparative advantages, and a focus on marketing and branding the Nordic region as a role model in the sector.
5. How will the NKJ objectives be achieved?
1. Help to enhance the knowledge base underlying the development of research policy with a focus on the bioeconomy and climate change.
- Initiate and support joint Nordic research efforts.
- Initiate and provide funding for thematic seminars, conferences and workshops.
- Identify research with Nordic added value for the NKJ’s sectors and contribute to the Nordic bioeconomy and addressing climate-related challenges.
2. Create synergies through enhanced cross-sectoral cooperation with national/Nordic initiatives and research programmes such as:
- Nordic Bioeconomy Initiative (NBI)
- Nordic Council of Ministers’ strategy for the Baltic Sea region
- Relevant priorities within the Programmes for the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers
- New relevant Nordic initiatives
- Take the initiative for and welcome external initiatives for cross-sectoral cooperation.
- Relevant Nordic cooperation organisations include: NordForsk, Nordic Innovation, Nordic Energy Research, Nordic Forest Research (SNS), the Working Group for Fisheries (AG-Fisk), the Nordic Association of Agricultural Scientists (NJF) and the Nordic Committee for Veterinary Scientific Cooperation (NKVet).
3. Strengthen the Nordic position in the NKJ’s sectors within the European research arena and work to enhance European research cooperation:
- Promote the Nordic region as a leading region in the area of agriculture and food research, supporting the achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy objectives;
- Call attention to Nordic activities in European research cooperation;
- Bring together Nordic agricultural and food researchers and encourage them to submit joint Nordic applications to the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020;
- Take advantage of participation in relevant EU forums and initiatives such as: the Joint Programming Initiative Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE-JPI), the EU Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR), the Horizon 2020 programme committees, the ERA-NET scheme, and various working groups. This can be achieved among other things, by exchanging information and coordination at the Nordic level.
- Make use of the special position afforded NKJ members in relation to the European Bioeconomy Panel;
- Promote and support Nordic participation in international agricultural research and policy networks.
4. Strengthen the ability of the reindeer husbandry industry to achieve its potential by augmenting the knowledge base:
- Promote more recruitment of younger researchers;
- Assist in maintaining researchers’ expertise in the reindeer husbandry industry.