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FOREST4EU – Connecting forestry and agroforestry partnerships across Europe

NEWSLETTER – ISSUE #1 | February 2024

The FOREST4EU consortium is delighted to introduce its first newsletter edition.  

This newsletter reports the latest news and developments of the project that have occurred from January 2023 up to February 2024 – hence the main results achieved, and activities performed in the first year of the project.

FOREST4EU – European innovation partnership network promoting operational group dedicated to forestry and agroforestry is a Horizon Europe project aiming at connecting existing Operational Groups (OGs) from different countries around Europe, in order to favour the transfer of knowledge and best practices between experts in this field.

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  1. Introduction to the project
  2. Operational Groups in Europe: FOREST4EU Map
  3. Policy learning from innovation practices in EIP-AGRI Operational Groups
  4. IThubs establishment and collection of practical knowledge 
  5. Elaboration of capacity building material
  6. Dissemination and Communication activities

1. Introduction to the project

Around Europe, there are hundreds of Operational Groups (OG): small projects promoted by groups of farmers, forest managers and local communities. They all share the same goal: advancing innovation and good practices in the forestry and agroforestry sector.  

However, OG’s results struggle in crossing national borders: most of the OG’s results were only disseminated at the local and regional levels. Hence, innovations and best practices developed tend to remain in the local environment, and do not reach the European level.  

The overall objective of FOREST4EU is to develop a European multi-actor network by connecting Operational Groups around Europe and favouring the transfer of knowledge and best practices between forestry and agroforestry experts in 9 member states.  

In order to reach this goal, the project will establish 5 multi-actor EU cross-countries Innovation Topic Hubs (ITHubs) related to 5 identified topics in forestry and agroforestry sectors: 

  • Wood mobilisation 

  • Forest adaptation to climate change 

  • Improving approaches, models and tools of sustainable forest management 

  • Non-wood forest products 

  • Agroforestry    

FOREST4EU ITHubs will act as cooperation and innovation networks for an efficient knowledge transfer-exchange between different regions in Europe. 

The work of FOREST4EU will lead to the implementation of dissemination and capacity building materials – which will be developed according to the identified regional needs – and to the draft of recommendations on how to refine regional policies and funding opportunities. 

2. Operational Groups in Europe: FOREST4EU Map

One of the first steps for connecting existing Operational Groups around Europe was to select and map them.

This work - which was conducted during the first months of the project - has led to the implementation of the FOREST4EU interactive map, which is now available on the website. 

The map shows a detailed overview of national Operational Groups in 10 European countries, namely: Finland, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and Latvia. 

Check the FOREST4EU Map

3. Policy learning from innovation practices

Policy learning in FOREST4EU connects the practical knowledge coming from the forestry and agroforestry EIP-Agri OGs with the policy community at EU and Member State level, to ensure lesson learning about drivers and barriers for innovation in the forest sector.
To achieve this ambitious goal, document analysis and survey research is combined with outreach to and collaboration with decision-makers from government authorities, interest groups, practitioners, and researchers in Member States as well as with policy-makers in Brussels. 

One of the first steps in this regard has been the launch of a Call for Expression of Interest for three Policy Focus Groups - published in the summer of 2023 - to invite stakeholders as members of these groups. For that purpose, an online form was implemented on the website, together with a short video-clip presenting this opportunity to policy-makers.
The Groups cover three European regions with different experiences in the adoption of EIP-Agri funding for Operational Groups in forestry and agroforestry: 

  1. Policy Focus Group for Central Europe (Germany (South and Central), Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania) – Lead by the Bavarian State Institute of Forestry (LWF)  

  1. Policy Focus Group for South-East Europe (Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Greece) – Lead by the Centar Kompetencija d.o.o za istraživanje i razvoj (CEKOM)  

  1. Policy Focus Group for South-West Europe (Spain, Portugal, France, Netherlands, Italy) – Lead by the Universiry of Santiago de Compostela (USC)  


In total, 120 policy experts have registered for the three groups.
The policy focus groups will work in 2024 and start their activities in spring. Their main objective is to engage in lesson learning on how future EIP-Agri funding and other relevant policy-making processes at EU level should support innovations in forestry and agroforestry - with input from bottom-up, solid evidence, and knowledge of relevant EU level policy-making processes.  

In addition to policy focus groups, FOREST4EU has launched an EU-wide online Innovation survey that seeks to reveal how innovations in the forest sector can be improved.
If you are a practitioner, representative of an interest group or NGO, work for government or do research in the field of forest and forestry, we would be eager to learn about your views. Answering the survey takes 15-30 minutes. It is available in 11 languages. 

Fill in the Innovation Survey

4. ITHubs establishment and collection of practical knowlegde

In order to facilitate the collection, preparation, translation and dissemination of the existing practical knowledge in forestry and agroforestry Operational Groups, the FOREST4EU project will prepare factsheets, practice abstracts, videos and other capacity building material - to ensure the sharing of those innovations and best practices at the EU level.
In this regard, at the very beginning of the project, five multi-actor Innovation Topic Hubs (ITHubs) dealing with 5 innovation topics were established: (1) wood mobilisation, (2) adaptation to climate change, (3) sustainable forest management & ecosystem services, (4) non-wood forest products and (5) agroforestry.  After that, following the EIP AGRI definition, six types of innovations have considered for the project: technological, process, product, service, organisational and social. 

Using the methodology developed by partner Steinbeis Europa Zentrum, the members of the five ITHubs, coordinated by the corresponding ITHub manager (ITHub 1 – Slovenian Forestry Institute, ITHub 2 – CNPF, ITHub 3 – University of Florence, ITHub 4 – CESEFOR and ITHub 5 – ANSUB), identified the main challenges and needs faced by the foresters and other practitioners regarding the five chosen topics. For this purpose, reports and deliverables from previous related H2020 projects, Thematic Networks and other sources of information were analysed by the FOREST4EU ITHubs.  

Based on these findings, the ITHubs have collected practical knowledge on the innovations generated by European EIP-AGRI OGs able to tackle the identified problems and needs. The collection of the innovations was carried out through the dedicated analysis of the outcomes (e.g., reports, deliverables, dissemination material, etc.) of the corresponding OGs belonging to each ITHub. Considering that most of the results are only available in the national language of the countries where the OGs were or are established, within each ITHub, members from the same countries or able to speak the specific language were responsible for the collection of the knowledge and the elaboration of extended summaries in English. These extended summaries will be key for the preparation of “practice abstracts” to be delivered to EIP-AGRI, factsheets for existing online thematic repositories, additional capacity building material, but also for other relevant tasks within the project (e.g. Policy learning from OGs, communication & dissemination). 

A total number of 175 extended summaries were elaborated by the five ITHubs based on collected innovations coming from 86 contacted European forest and agroforestry OGs.
Regarding the types of these 175 identified innovations, the figure below presents their distribution within the five ITHubs: technological (58), product (17), process (47), service (34), organisational (5) and social (14).

 A lot of times, different innovations go hand in hand.For example, technological innovations enable the introduction of novel processes and/or services. An overview of the results collected in the extended summaries is available in FOREST4EU extended summaries booklet.

Read the extended summaries booklet
5. Elaboration of capacity building material

One of FOREST4EU main activities aims at leveraging the practical knowledge and innovations developed by forestry and agroforestry EIP-AGRI Operational Groups (OGs) throughout Europe.
Here, the aim is to develop and disseminate capacity building materials for forestry and agroforestry practitioners, regardless of their affiliation with OGs, in multiple languages.
In this regard, FOREST4EU will tailor the content and formats to suit various target audiences, ensuring widespread adoption and contributing to a continuous growth and improvement of the forestry and agroforestry sectors.  

To achieve this goal, the project will undertake various activities to engage practitioners within the forestry and agroforestry community.
Among these activities, the FOREST4EU consortium has implemented an online form for stakeholders, available on the project's website, on which practitioners can register for receiving constant updates on FOREST4EU activities and having access to the capacity building material. 

Fill in the stakeholders database
In addition to the stakeholder database, FOREST4EU will carefully select the most pertinent innovations and best practices from the countries participating in the project through the organisation of national workshops that will be hosted in the different countries involved in the project, between February and April 2024.
In these workshops, stakeholders will be consulted about their opinion on the relevance and applicability of the innovations collected in FOREST4EU.

Register to national workshops
Finally, FOREST4EU will use the multi-actor approach to deliver high quality and tailored capacity building material on the practical knowledge developed by the OGs.
The goal is to ensure proper knowledge uptake by practitioners and store this digital capacity building material in an open access platform respecting the FAIR. 

6. Dissemination and communication activities

Since the very beginning of the project, Communication and Dissemination activities have been ongoing.

The table below offers an overview of the main D&C activities provided during the first year of lifetime of FOREST4EU: as proved by the numbers, the project reached important results in terms of view (both for the website and social media channels). 

FOREST4EU has also succeeded in reaching stakeholders and policy-makers, in particular thanks to the call for expression of interest in policy focus groups and for the stakeholder database form. 

During the first 6 months of the project, FOREST4EU was introduced and presented in several events by project partners: presentations were held in other EU-funded projects meetings, but also at the national level - in particular with events in national ministries. 
As for European and international conferences, FOREST4EU was introduced during the international Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO Conference) in Ljublijana, in September 2023. The presentation was held by Kathrin Bohling from the Bavarian State Insitute of Forestry (LWF). 

In October 2023, the project was also presented during 7th Operational Group workshop in Kassel - Germany by LWF, and also in Italy, during the Italian national Horizon Europe info days by our project coordinator, Francesca Giannetti from UNIFI. 


In December 2023, the project was presented by UNIFI in the first EU CAP Network Workshop in Tallinn, Estonia, and in Rome, Italy, during the first Italian Agroforestry forum. 


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FOREST4EU is a Horizon Europe Coordination and Support action started on the 1st of January 2023, that will continue through 31st December 2025. 
FOREST4EU project is coordinated by Università degli Studi di Firenze, UNIFI (Italy).
The project consortium has put together 16 partners from 9 countries with long-term expertise in forestry and agroforestry sectors. 
Find out more about the partners
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement N° 101086216.
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