ICA President's Winter Greeting 2024

Dear Colleagues,

Year 2024. A new year and a first for me as the new president of ICA. We are living in times of rapid change and there are many challenges, both current and future, to address.

The good news is that life science universities and faculties are needed more than ever. Being in the locus of it all, we can, should and will be key actors in providing new knowledge and innovations that will contribute to a future sustainable society and bioeconomy. Together, in continued partnership and cooperation, we will make a difference. I look forward to working together. I hope you will continue taking part in meetings, webinars and sharing knowledge as well as discussing how ICA can continue to be of use and relevant for all of us.

On Friday 2 February, I welcomed the ICA board at my university, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, for our first board meeting. I would like to share with you some of the things we had on the table.

New ICA Board members

Firstly, we welcomed our new members elected at the ICA General Assembly 2023 José Luís Mourao, president of the School of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences, University of Trás-os-Montes in Portugal, and Ritva Toivonen Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Helsinki University, Finland.

ICA as a more active partner in the EU

The new board will continue the work with the ambitious “ICA Strategy Towards 2030”. We reflected on the first year of the new ICA European Board Committee (hereinafter – Committee) headed by our Secretary General Rasa Pakeltiene and acknowledged the achievements so far. The Committee’s objectives to enhance the benefits of ICA membership have resulted in new European partnerships. ICA has joined the advisory board of the Horizon Europe program-funded project FootPathS, and also joined the EC European Economic and Social Committee Leadership Group on Bioeconomy and Leadership Group on Biodiversity and Climate.

Committee work has also resulted in the European project “Education and Nature-Based Solutions: enable society to bend the curve for biodiversity” (ENABLS), which kicked off on 16 and 17 January in Stuttgart, Germany. with the 11 partners.  The ENABLS ICA team consists of experts from different ICA member institutions and we look forward to more members becoming active during the coming years. Moreover, during the first month of ENABLS implementation, on behalf of the whole consortium, ICA became a member of the newly established EU NBS Task Force. The Committee has also identified the possibilities for ICA to contribute to the EU Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture launched by the Commission 2024 and we decided therefore to align the theme for the “ICA Rectors and Deans Forum 2024” accordingly, as well as provide a process for input during 2024 for our members to contribute to the dialogue.

During 2024 it is also time to renew the “ICA Action Plan for 2022-2024” toward achieving our strategic goals. We are looking forward to discussing ICA priorities for the future with you in different fora.

ICA Rectors and Deans Forum and the follow-up Communique

We did a follow-up and review of the ICA Rectors and Deans Forum 2023 in Lille, France. The 2023 programme was from Thursday lunch to Friday lunch with an optional programme on the Friday afternoon organised by the host university. The Forum was preceded by pre-Forum webinars for a wider attendance. (In the past the programme stretched from the GA Wednesday afternoon until Friday lunch.) We decided to keep with this new format for the 2024 Forum and evaluate whether members find the concept working well. I hope to meet you at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb on 24-25 October for the 14th ICA Rectors and Deans Forum with the theme the Future of Agriculture: implications for Life Science Universities

The 2023 Forum resulted in an ICA Communique, “Life Sciences Universities connecting the One Health Challenge with Carbon Neutrality and Biodiversity”, with five pledges from ICA universities and faculties. The Communique will be sent to major EU bodies, as one of the strong messages for a Strategic Dialogue of the Future of Agriculture. Please download the Communique and share it with your networks.

A digital ICA General Assembly on 6 June 2024

The test to have the General Assembly (Hereinafter – GA) digital was perceived as positive, with the possibilities of attending without travel. By having the GA digital it is also possible to match the fiscal year. We received also additional remarks for improvement that a more interactive GA would be even better So we will meet in cyberspace on the 6 June for a digital GA with significant interactive parts.

Our very active ICA Board Committees and Standing Committees

The ICA Board Committees: ICA Network for Innovation in Life Sciences Higher Education (ICA-Edu) and Community of Practice for Bioeconomy Education in Europe (ICA-CoP Bio-Edu) organised workshops and a series of webinars in 2023 and similar events are planned in 2024.  These events are available to join not only for ICA members but also all others who are interested in the issues related to the Life Science Universities.  The ICA Board took note of all the good work that had been done by the ICA Board Committees and Standing Committees. Please look at the ICA homepage to see their achievements and upcoming events. Please join them!

Time to nominate to ICA Excellence Award 2024

Third year in a row, the ICA wishes to recognize individuals whose efforts and achievements have contributed to the ICA’s success, vision, and mission. It is time to nominate again, and we decided to keep the new model with three awards in the categories of Lifetime achievements, Early-Stage Academic, and Networking. We are looking forward to many good suggestions of people who would be honored by awards. Please download the call text and nomination forms.

Stay tuned!

You will find news about what is happening within ICA on our homepage, reading the Newsletter from Secretary General Rasa, following us on X as @IcaEurope, or on LinkedIn. Stay tuned to see when and where your university can be part of our activities as well as contribute and gain knowledge.

Towards 2024 and beyond

Through the ICA Board, our secretary general and secretariat, the ICA Board, and Standing Committees will jointly continue to strengthen and promote European life science universities and faculties. We will challenge ourselves and we will meet each other through our platforms, events, and seminars for joint learning and sharing of experiences.

We know that life sciences higher education is one of the most important keys to a future without exceeding the limits of our global ecosystems and the planetary boundaries. Together with the ICA Board and secretariat, I look forward to working with you and the ICA community in the coming year.  If we do not meet elsewhere, I am looking forward to meeting you all at the digital General Assembly 6 June.

Maria Knutson Wedel

President of ICA and Rector, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences