AgroTechnoPole: Creation of a new innovation structure for European agriculture

A European centre of ambition around mobility, robotics, security, inputs and digital technology is to be created in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region: the AgroTechnoPôle. Lhis project aims to create a cluster dedicated to innovation in agro-equipment and digital agriculture with European visibility. Structuring the links between all players at national and international levels, it aims to accelerate and succeed in innovations by promoting creativity and ensuring that they are in line with productivity objectives and comply with social and environmental requirements.
East December, COP21 enabled all the countries to agree on a clear and demanding environmental diagnosis and objectives to which agriculture must contribute, particularly on greenhouse gas emissions. The global outlook for water resources makes it necessary to change practices rapidly and to act for the agro-ecological transition. The area of agricultural land continues to decrease (1). And yet in this increasingly constraining context, agriculture must pursue its objective of feeding 9 billion people in 2050, which would lead to an increase in agricultural production of 40 to 70%.
To meet this challenge, agriculture must succeed in making the necessary changes, i.e. rethinking its practices by integrating innovative technological solutions, developing the corresponding skills and facilitating their dissemination. It is in this spirit of reform and conquest that players in research, innovation and agriculture in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region have come together around the European dimension project AgroTechnoPôle.

The AgroTechnoPole

The AgroTechnoPole, driven by research and teaching (Irstea, Blaise Pascal University, IMobS3 Laboratory of Excellence, Institut Pascal, LIMOS, VetAgroSup), the ViaMéca competitiveness cluster and encouraged by industrial partners (Michelin, Limagrain) wants to create an innovation ecosystem for agricultural equipment and digital agriculture. 
The AgroTechnoPôle responds to recently identified and highlighted needs: 
- Need for a structure that brings together testing, expertise and research for the agricultural equipment sector. (2),
- Need for a robotic and digital breakthrough in agroequipment for agro-ecological transition (3),
- The need for places where researchers, innovative companies and equipment manufacturers can come together to provide answers to the challenges posed by the implementation of new technologies in agriculture and thus enable innovation.
In concrete terms, the AgroTechnoPôle project is based on :
1 - A European centre for research, on a thematic package of excellence: mobility, robotics, security, inputs (fertilization/seeding) and digital agriculture.
Coordinated by Irstea, in collaboration with its close academic partners: Institut Pascal, LIMOS in the framework of the IMobS3 Laboratory of Excellence.

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2 - A PRINSYP innovation platform (PRoduction and Integration of Intelligent and High-Performance Systems) at the initiative of ViaMéca and supported by the Region.
By mobilising synergies between research laboratories and innovative companies, this innovation platform (test, prototype) will help to accelerate the development of new engineering solutions and products for the European industrial sector in demand. It will also make it possible to qualify the performance of robotised and computerised solutions in real and reproducible field conditions. It may be extended to vehicles used in other sectors of activity for travel in unstructured environments (forestry and industrial machinery, civil security vehicles, in particular). PRINSYP's active participation in European standardization work will complete its offer.
3 - An AgroTechnoCampus with the creation of an original bouquet of initial and continuing training modules responding to the new needs around technologies for agriculture.
Led by the Clermont-Ferrand Academy (secondary and higher education) and the players in agricultural education (agricultural colleges, engineering schools), it will include the setting up of international courses in conjunction with European partners (Germany, Italy, Spain).

At the heart of an innovation network

The AgroTechnoPôle aims to be the heart of an innovation network in the agricultural equipment sector on the strong points claimed. It will thus bring its knowledge and European reference equipment to the regional experimentation and demonstration platforms that will be set up on the national territory. It will also be able to contribute to living-labs (Laboratoires d'Innovation Territoriaux sur les systèmes agricoles) under construction, involving farmers and all interested parties.
The 5 M€ project will seek its resources from the contract to revitalize the Varennes-sur-Allier defense site, the Region's strategy of intelligent specialization, future investment programs, notably the I-Site CAP2025 project, which will be resubmitted next September by the University of Clermont Auvergne with its academic and economic partners, and the scientific projects carried out by the AgroTechnoPôle as such.
The AgroTechnoPôle is unique in Europe and relies on a team of 150 people, researchers, teachers/researchers, engineers and technicians from the various partner organisations, ready to develop projects as of today.

Development schedule

In 2016
- Creation of the new PRINSYP platform for innovation with the launch on the Montoldre (Allier) site of new infrastructures to test the performance of robotic systems.
- Implementation of the continuing education offer with the proposal of the first original modules.
In 2017
- Development of initial training with the creation of inter-institutional "multi-component" pathways. Innovative courses such as "Mechatronics & Agronomy" will be offered in partnership with Clermont's engineering schools. These training courses will be open to students coming from "engineering sciences" and agronomy courses.
- Inauguration of the AgroTechnoPole and the PRINSYP platform.

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In order to succeed in the project of a French agriculture that is three-fold efficient in the environmental, economic and social fields, the means of research, innovation and associated developments must be mobilized. Will the creation of this cluster with a European dimension provide structured and solid means for France's ambitions to become the European leader in tomorrow's agriculture?
(1) In France, the reduction in agricultural land is one département every ten years.
(2) Mission on agricultural equipment (Bournigal Report) submitted in 2014 to the Ministers of Agriculture, Industry and Research.
(3) Mission "Agriculture Innovation 2025" (Bournigal, Houllier, Lecouvey, Pringuet report) submitted in 2015 to the ministers in charge of agriculture, higher education and research, and digital technology.  

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