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Europe to Pump $26M into Plant Molecular Science Consortia

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Europe has launched a new funding call that will fuel new plant genomics and molecular biology research with an expected €20 million ($25.7 million), with the aim of backing international research consortia to address major agricultural and climate-related problems.

The new effort, the European Research Area Network for Coordinating Action in Plant Sciences (ERA-CAPS), will expand on the earlier ERA-PG (Plant Genomics) program, which has awarded €55 million to fund 41 projects since it began in 2006, according to the European Commission.

ERA-CAPS was established to help build up national efforts and capabilities for molecular research on plants in a broad range of areas in its 15 member countries and to spur collaborative research consortia, according to the EC.

As with the earlier ERA-PG program, the EC expects to fund a total of two calls under ERA-CAPS.

Although four themes have been marked as areas of particular interest for the first funding call, including food security, non-food crops, adaptation to a changing climate, and biotic/abiotic stress, ERA-CAPS will welcome proposals for research projects in any area of molecular plant science.

The ERA-CAPS initiative can be seen as a response to a 2011 report from the UK's Government Office for Science, which highlighted five major challenge areas that must be addressed to secure future food supplies and a bio-economy in Europe, including the need for healthy, safe, and sufficient food; plant-based products for use in chemicals and energy production; sustainable agriculture, forestry, and landscape; competitive basic research; and consumer choice and governance.

The EC believes that ERA-CAPS and plant biology research in general are important steps in addressing these challenge areas.

US-based researchers also will be able to apply in tandem to participate in the consortia through a joint call that is to be issued by the National Science Foundation's Plant Genomics Program.

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