2021 ICA Rectors and Deans Forum

Association for European Life Science Universities (ICA)

The Role of Life Science Universities in Transitioning to
Climate Neutrality and Open Science

 Wednesday 20 October to Friday 22 October 2021
was held at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Belgium

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The goal of the ICA's Rectors and Deans Forums

This annual ICA Forum for Rectors, Deans and senior management of agricultural and life science universities in Europe aims to provide these university decision makers from ICA's member universities with the opportunity to meet, to discuss current issues in the agricultural and life sciences and to exchange views on issues with relevant stakeholders in industry, government and NGOs.

A  Forum Focus

Addressing the EU’s climate objectives, ensuring food security and the economic sustainability of the actors in the farm to fork food system.

The EU Commission’s proposal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by at least 55% compared to 1990 level by 2030 sets Europe on a responsible path to becoming climate neutral by 2050 - no net emissions of greenhouse gases.. Agriculture accounts for 12% of the GHG emissions in Europe, and of that 70% is related to the animal sector. The food system as whole divides emissions into those from food production, food processing and marketing, and food consumption almost equally.

The European Green Deal, launched in December 2019, is the prevailing growth strategy of the EU conceived to help cut emissions while creating jobs. Its application to farming and food systems is detailed in the Bioeocnomy strategy, Farm to Fork Strategy, and the Biodiversity Strategy. Ambitious sustainability goals for agriculture are proposed. The Farm to Fork Strategy, aims by 2030 at reducing the use of chemical pesticides and antimicrobials by 50%, nutrient losses by at least 50% with a 20% reduction in fertiliser use, restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, developing deforestation-free value chain, reaching 25% of land areas devoted to organic farming.

With the focus at the Forum on climate neutrality a number of issues addressed in the EU Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy– those relating to biodiversity, animal welfare, and some aspects of the protection of the environment – will not be addressed explicitly. In addition, the impact of rising temperatures and changing weather patterns on maintaining the water supply to crops and grassland is of concern in relation to the EU’s climate objectives whilst ensuring food security. Thus, agriculture and food systems are deeply involved in both adaptation to climate change and its mitigation.

Open Science

Open Science is the overarching theme which encompasses open access to scientific publications, open data, open education and sometimes citizen science. Open access to scientific publication and research data has been making progress over the past twenty years. The recent EUA report suggests that open access to scientific publications and research data has evolved from a “nice to have” to a “must have”. The EUA survey showed there is a gap between the recognition given to the strategic importance to open science and its implementation on the ground.

There is a need for senior managers at universities to improve the understanding of the benefits, challenges, costs and hurdles in implementing access to open science at all levels in their university. The widely implemented opportunity to the shared access of scientific publications and research data across the research community between and from life science universities will greatly contribute to the ambitions of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy by 2030 and the achievement of climate neutrality in Europe by 2050.

B  Aims of the Forum

The Forum will explore the challenge of developing food systems which will result in the reduction in GHG emissions from agriculture through delivering more food from crops, less food from animals with a consequent reduction in globally required land area for food production and an increase in land for re-afforestation for greater carbon sequestration.

The implementation of such food systems depends not only on the science and technology but also on maintaining the economic viability of the industries and promoting social change in the consumption of sustainable diets.

What are the opportunities and benefits for substituting spatially extended and linear food systems with local circular food systems, whilst at the same time ensuring food security in Europe? A circular food system produces healthy food using natural, regenerative, soil-supporting growing practices. Any by-products or waste can create additional new food, fabrics or bioenergy inputs

In support of the aim of developing innovative food systems through research and innovation the Forum will also explore strategies for the effective implementation of open access to scientific publications and data in our universities.

In all Sessions the keynotes will highlight the opportunities for life science universities to engage with the challenges and issues raised. The discussion will highlight the opportunity for ICA to engage in Brussels and with our stakeholders for the benefit of ICA’s members in contributing to the achievement of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy by 2030 and climate neutrality in Europe by 2050.

C Expected outcomes

The delegates will take back to their universities their reflections on

• their university’s policy on research addressing the multiple dimensions of the bioeconomy to deliver outcomes to support the achievement of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy by 2030 and the need to reach climate neutrality by 2050
• the scope of their current degree programmes to address the multiple challenges of a sustainable bioeconomy
• their current strategic approach and implementation of open science in their institution

D  Target Audience

The forum is primarily aimed at Rectors, Presidents, Deans and Senior Management in agricultural and life science Universities. In addition, academic/faculty staff and degree programme coordinators are encouraged to participate.

E Forum Organising Committee

Jos Van Orshoven, ICA Board Member & Dean Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Simon Heath, ICA Secretary General, and Arthur Mol, President of ICA & Rector Magnificus Wageningen University and Research (WUR)

See the outline programme

Download the flyer