Encouraging European collaboration on research and innovation

Horizons vision 20-30This summer saw the fruition of Forest Research’s (FR's) work to create a UK National Support Group to strengthen interactions with the European Forest-based Technology Platform (FTP).

Established in 2005, the FTP is an industry-driven initiative of the European forestry, woodworking, pulp, paper and processing industries. Its purpose is to drive innovation and European competitiveness by encouraging industry participation in research and ensuring forestry sector interests are properly reflected in EU research programmes. Its National Support Groups (NSGs) provide links to national research and innovation activities, and encourage the participation of national stakeholders in research.

With the addition of FR, the FTP network now has NSGs in 24 European countries. Formalising the UK’s full participation in the network, FTP Managing Director Johan Elvnert emphasised the similarities between the UK and other European countries in terms of innovation interests:

“Analysis carried out by the FTP in May 2016 confirmed that 80% of the innovation concerns of the UK forest-based sector are shared by other European partners.”

Alison Melvin, Business Development Manager at Forest Research, who has led development of the UK NSG, explains that the focus is now to help UK stakeholders to foster and maintain longer-term research collaboration with their European counterparts.

“UK researchers have strong collaborations with European partners through participation in research programmes such as Horizon 2020, which we hope will continue, but participation in the FTP means we can also link directly with countries sharing similar innovation interests. For example, English regions with a predominance of hard woods can benefit from connecting with French and German research and innovation initiatives in this field; and Scotland’s softwood collaborations with the Nordic countries also provide good springboards for further development.”

Stakeholder support

The UK National Support Group has been warmly welcomed by industry stakeholders. 

Andrew Heald, Technical Director of the Confederation of Forest Industries (ConFor), believes the FTP will be a good catalyst to develop collaboration between businesses and researchers:

“The FTP is acknowledged as one of the most successful of the EU’s 26 Technology Platforms, not just because it has helped to double the funding for forest-based topics in Horizon 2020 work programmes, but also because it has brought businesses and researchers from different sectors together to understand new opportunities.”

David Hopkins, Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), added:

“The UK is already greatly expanding its use of wood in construction, so there are great opportunities to develop European links in this part of the sector as well.”