Research and Innovation in Agri-food Systems

AGENDA: Research and Innovation in Agri-food Systems. ERA Agenda 2021-2027 and opportunities for Universities and Industries

Moderator: Declan Kirrane ISC Intelligence in Science, Belgium.

10h00 Formal Welcome

Karina Angelieva Deputy Minister of Education and Research Science, Bulgaria.

The future we want: Harvesting the power of satellites for Agri-food R&D
Simonetta Di Pippo Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Austria.

Hristina Yancheva, Rector, Agriculture University – Plovdiv.

R&D as a driver for Agrifood Innovation
Karina Angelieva Deputy Minister of Education and Research Science, Bulgaria.

An Irish perspective on the importance of Agri-food& bioeconomy research
Martin Heydon TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.


Food Systems, at the heart of the EU Green Deal
John Bell Director Healthy Planet, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission.

R&I as a key driver to sustainable agri-food systems transformation
Asim Ademov MEP, European Food Forum, European Parliament, Belgium.

Living Labs: Bulgaria as regional hub combining science, industry and education
Vladislav Popov Vice-rector Science and Projects, AU – Plovdiv


Role of food systems/TBD
Fionnuala Murphy BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Center & School of Biosystems & Food Engineering, University College Dublin.
Vanya Simeonova Wageningen University and research, Netherlands.


LifeWatch ERIC: e-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sustainable Management Research Infrastructure in support of AgroEcology
Juan Miguel Gonzalez Aranda CTO, LifeWatch ERIC and Member of the ERIC Forum Executive Board, Spain.


Space Applications for Agrifood Systems
Thorsten Rudolph AZO Space, Germany.

12h45 Lunch Break

Creating impact through a European Agri-Food Innovation Ecosystem
Andy Zynga, CEO EIT Food, Belgium.


Priorities for agricultural research and opportunities for synergies under Horizon Europe: the candidate partnership on agroecology living labs
Susana Gaona Saez DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission.


A Skills Agenda for Agri-Food
Ian Jones Innopharma Education, Ireland.


EU–Africa–UN Synergies and the SDGs
Leonard Mizzi DG International Partnerships, European Commission, Belgium.
Shadrack Moephuli President and CEO, Agricultural Research Council, South Africa.
Djimé Adoum Former Executive Secretary of CLISS and former Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation of Chad.


Industry-sector investment strategies
John Hartnett Founder & CEO SVG Ventures THRIVE, USA.

15h15 Open discussion
15h30 Conclusion
Research and Innovation in Agri-food Systems


Feb 09 2021


Central European Time
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM


  • Andy Zynga
    Andy Zynga
    CEO EIT Food

    Before joining EIT Food, Andy built and turned around several businesses in Europe and the USA, and most recently engineered a successful exit for Open Innovation Service Leader NineSigma, which he ran for 10 years and sold in 09/2017. The majority of NineSigma’s clients are from the Agri-Food Industry.
    Other stations in his career include 6 years at KPMG Consulting, where he built an international telecommunication strategy practice, and 5 years at Vanco plc, where as CEO North America and Central Europe he was part of the Executive team that took the business public on the London Stock Exchange. Andy joined EIT Food as CEO in November 2018.

    Andy holds a Master’s degree that combines Business Administration and Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin, and he earned a Doctorate’s Degree with a thesis on (Open) Innovation Management from RWTH Aachen.

  • Declan Kirrane
    Declan Kirrane
    Director ISC Intelligence in Science and Coordinator EU Africa Radio Astronomy Platform

    Declan Kirrane is Managing Director of ISC Intelligence in Science, a specialized science, technology and R&D public affairs firm based in Brussels, Belgium. ISC develops and implements Strategic Research Agendas for science and technology-based organisations in the EU and US.
    His practice areas cover IP, R&D consortia development, management and dissemination and is responsible for themes of ICT, health, security, defence, space and related policies, legislation, programmes and funding mechanisms. Declan Kirrane has a background in analysing the relationship between public and private R&D funding and the impact on R&D performance: he has worked extensively on science and technology policy evaluation methodologies and technology options for policy- and decision-makers. The EU’s Digital Agenda, emerging European space, security and defence policies are part of his remit.

  • Djimé Adoum
    Djimé Adoum
    Former Executive Secretary of CLISS and former Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation of Chad

    Djimé Adoum is Executive Secretary of the Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and former Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation of Chad. He has 25 years of professional experience in international development, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. As an agronomist, Mr. Adoum has occupied various positions in the field of research, agricultural extension, communication and strategy in the design of development programs in several countries, from South Africa to Egypt through Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon, USA and Chad. He worked for international organizations such as the World Bank, USAID, for research institutes and in the implementation of development strategies. Before his tenure as minister, he served as a technical advisor to President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad. After a graduate degree in Agronomy, specifically in crop production and statistics, Djimé Adoum obtained a PhD in agronomy and agricultural extension at the University of Maryland, US.

  • Fionnuala Murphy
    Fionnuala Murphy
    Assistant Professor in the School of Biosystems & Food Engineering at UCD

    Dr Fionnuala Murphy is an Assistant Professor in the School of Biosystems & Food Engineering at UCD and a Funded Investigator in BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre. Her research interest focuses on understanding, quantifying and analysing complex environmental exchanges across the life cycle of products, processes and systems and, reciprocally, using this knowledge to better design bio and circular economies. She is leading national and EU research on the development of sustainable bioeconomy approaches to generate additional value from wastes and co-products, and development of sustainable food production systems. She is Coordinating the AgRefine ITN, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie education, training and skills development programme rolling out the next generation of Agri Biorefinery and Valorisation Bioeconomy leaders. She is driving bioeconomy education nationally as UCD Director of the MSc Bioeconomy with Business. As a Fulbright TechImpact Scholar, Dr Murphy will join the Earth Research Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara in June 2021 where she will develop a real-time LCA system for the assessment of the environmental impacts of seaweed cultivation to enable its optimal use in the bioeconomy. A key element of Dr Murphy’s work is to carry out internationally relevant research, particularly collaborating transnationally to achieve progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Hristina Yancheva
    Hristina Yancheva
    Rector of Agricultural University of Plovdiv

    Prof. Dr. Hristina Yancheva is Rector of Agricultural University of Plovdiv (AUP) since January 2016. A PhD from 1987 in sustainable land management. Expert in crop production, sustainable land management, landscape design, grasslands, organic farming and innovations in agriculture. Author of over 100 scientific publications and books, with a vast academic and administrative experience. During the period 1999-2007 she was the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, in 2007-2011 – the Vice Rector of International Relations, and in 2011-2015 Vice-Rector of Education and International Relations. Prof. Yancheva participated in many international seminars, study visits, conferences and symposia and specialisations. She coordinated over 22 international projects at AUP and programmes e.g. Erasmus+, Horizon 2020, SCOPES, SDC – Switzerland, National Scientific Programmes (NNP) of the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), etc. She is a Chairman of the Executive Board of the NNP “Intelligent Crop Production” and a member of the Executive Board of NNP “Healthy Foods for Strong Bioeconomy and Quality of Life 2018-2022 (a co-author of the programme). A Member of the National Council of Research and Innovation at the MES. She is a visiting professor in Kazakhstan and a supervisor of 3 Bulgarian and 10 foreign PhD students. A member of the Editorial Boards and the Scientific Committees of Bulgarian and foreign journals.

  • Ian Jones
    Ian Jones
    Founder and CEO of The Innopharma Group and President of Innopharma Education

    Innopharma provide education and technology solutions to the high-tech manufacturing sectors of (bio)pharma, medtech, foodtech and ICT. Innopharma Education ( focuses on providing up/re-skilling for individuals looking to enter or progress their career within the high-tech manufacturing sectors of (bio)pharma, medtech, foodtech and ICT. They partner with governments, corporations and academic institutions to ensure a sufficient supply of appropriately skilled resources. Innopharma Education are the leaders in high-tech up-skilling in Europe and have gained tremendous accolades for their unique public-private partnership approach. They have engaged with EU Parliament, Commission and Cabinet with respect to Industry 4.0 and high-tech up-skilling.

  • John Bell
    John Bell
    Director Healthy Planet, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission, Brussels

    Dr. John Bell is the ”Healthy Planet” Director in DG Research & Innovation. He is responsible for
    leading the Research and Innovation transitions on Climate Change within planetary boundaries,
    Bioeconomy, Food Systems, Environment and Biodiversity, Oceans and Arctic, Circular Economy,
    Water and Bio-based innovations. This includes harnessing the investments of €10 billion Horizon
    Europe, Circular Bioeconomy, the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, and Governing Board of €3.7 billion in
    Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking, as well as delivering policy initiatives as FOOD2030, and the
    All Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.

  • John Hartnett
    John Hartnett
    Founder and CEO of SVG Ventures | THRIVE

    John Hartnett is currently Founder and CEO of SVG Ventures | THRIVE, an innovation and investment platform working with Fortune 500 corporations and global technology startups to advance the future of Food & Agriculture. SVG | THRIVE is the leading investor and Agrifood accelerator in the world with over 50 investments in the past decade. John is Founder of the leading global Forbes AgTech Summit, a joint venture he created with Forbes media, and has partnered with the USDA on the National Innovation Imperative working with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

    John has served on both private and public boards such as Aer Lingus (FTSE: AERL), Ireland’s national airline, as well as boards of various technology companies.

  • Juan Miguel González-Aranda
    Juan Miguel González-Aranda
    LifeWatch ERIC CTO & ERIC FORUM Executive Board Member

    PhD. Engineer on Telecommunications, and Industrial Organization-Enterprise Management European Master. LifeWatch ERIC CTO & Spain Director. ERIC FORUM Executive Board Member (ENVRI cluster), former Chair. July 2012-June 2018: HoU Nanomaterials & e-Science Spain Science & Innovation Ministry public officer. Ministry Delegate for: GBIF” (; European Commission: eIRG (; ESFRI ( & Open Science (Group European Data Experts GEDEResearch Data Alliance RDA; EOSC ( & EuroHPC (“Sherpa”, establishment; support Environmental ESFRI ( & related initiatives. European Structural and Investment Funds-RIS3 expert for ICT & ENV Research Infrastructures according to EU regions RIS3 & FP policies. EIT Climate Change KIC startup activities. November 2004-June 2012: Spanish Council for Scientific Research-CSIC: Technical Director at Doñana Natural Area Singular S&T Research Infrastructure; Contract Agent-Research Technologist EuroMediterranean & LAC projects. January 1998-October 2004: Researcher at University of Seville (biomechanics, digital image processing). Independent Consultant-ICT freelance Public & Private sector.

  • Karina Angelieva
    Karina Angelieva
    Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Bulgaria

    Karina Angelieva is a former Counselor, Head of Sector Education and Research at the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Bulgaria to the EU. She holds Master degrees in European integration and in Contemporary History from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. Previous positions held include Director-General of Structural Funds and International Educational Programs at the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science and Director of the Joint Innovation Centre at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (JIC – BAS). Ms. Angelieva is a founder of the Club of Young Scientists in Bulgaria and has been in charge of the coordination of National contact points’ network for the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation for 10 years. On 1 September 2018 she was appointed Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Bulgaria.
    As a longtime employee of the Ministry of Education and Science in the period 2002-2009, Ms. Angelieva was involved in the coordination of the 6th EU Framework Program for Research and Technological Development, overseeing the national contact network, organizing information days and training for representatives of academic and business sector to boost their participation in the program. Karina Angelieva was the head of projects under the PHARE program on the topic of overall modernization of the research system in Bulgaria. She provided analysis and recommendations for the introduction of modern European practices in program financing on a national level. Ms. Angelieva participated in various working groups, including the group tasked with the preparation of the National Charter for SMEs and of the methodology for the Technology Transfer centers and evaluation of innovations in Bulgaria as a preparation for the participation in the OP “Competitiveness”.
    Karina Angelieva has extensive expertise and practical experience in the field of research and innovation, including the coordination, preparation and management of projects related to the development and deployment of new applications and services in the field of technology transfer, inter-sectoral partnership “industry-academy” and others. As a former director of the JIC at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), she led the innovation policy of the Academy and contributed to the establishment of an effective cooperation between BAS and the industrial sector. She also guided the participation of JIC in the Bulgarian consortium of Enterprise Europe Network.
    Deputy Minister Angelieva is a member of the Commission Board of the Bulgarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange (Bulgarian Fulbright Commission). She is devoted to promoting science communication in Bulgaria and has been the driving force behind the success of the 31st EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) held Sofia in 2019. On her initiative the Bulgarian Science Portal was launched in 2019 as a step towards defragmenting the science information and communication landscape on a national level.

  • Leonard Mizzi
    Leonard Mizzi
    Head of Unit at the European Commission, Directorate-General (DG) for International Cooperation and Development - Rural development, food security and nutrition

    Dr. Leonard Mizzi is currently Head of Unit at the European Commission, Directorate-General (DG) for
    International Cooperation and Development – Rural development, food security and nutrition, since 1st of
    January 2017. Prior to this post he was Head of Unit for 10 years in DG Agriculture and Rural Development,
    first on agri trade and development issues (2007-2014) and then more recently on inter institutional
    matters (European Parliament, Council)- 2015-2016.
    He is a graduate in Public Administration from the University of Malta (BA Hons First Class); and has
    degrees from CIHEAM-Montpellier (Master of Science) and a Ph.D in Agricultural economics from the
    University of Reading (UK). He has been an author of a number of articles and publications on agri food
    issues and nutrition in the Mediterranean region.
    Dr. Mizzi has a broad working experience in the Maltese public administration and the Maltese private
    sector. He first worked in the Economic Planning Division of the Office of the Prime Minister (Malta) and
    from 1996-2006 was the Director of the Malta Business Bureau in Brussels- the office of the Malta
    Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. He was also
    visiting lecturer at the Boston University (Brussels campus), Open University and Malta University.
    His areas of specialisation are governance, agriculture and food and nutrition security, the Mediterranean
    area, Sub Saharan Africa

  • Martin Heydon
    Martin Heydon
    Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development

    Martin Heydon TD is Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. He was appointed to this role in July 2020.

    He is a TD for the Kildare South constituency.

    Martin is the Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party and is a member of a number of Oireachtas Committees, including: Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs; and Petitions.

    Martin is a native of South Kildare living near Kilcullen. He attended Crookstown N.S., Cross & Passion College Kilcullen and Kildalton Agricultural College.

  • Susana Gaona Sáez
    Susana Gaona Sáez
    Agricultural Engineer from the Universities of Córdoba

    Susana Gaona Sáez is an Agricultural Engineer from the Universities of Córdoba in Spain and Ghent in Belgium. She has extensive professional experience in agricultural matters developed in regional, national, European and international organisations. Having worked for many years for farmers’ organisations and for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), she currently serves as Research Programme Officer at the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural development of the European Commission, where she is responsible for the portfolios of agroecology, organic farming, agroforestry and protein crops.

  • Thorsten Rudolph
    Thorsten Rudolph
    Managing Director of Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), Gilching, Germany

    Managing Director of Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), Gilching, Germany.
    Education: Diplom-Ingenieur mechanical engineering at Technical University Munich, Germany (1993).
    Thorsten began his professional career at UMTEC GmbH (Bremen, Germany) in 1993 as a mechanical engineer for inspection and maintenance of industrial facilities in the process engineering.
    From 1995 to 2001 he was head of technology marketing at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen/ Germany. During that time he build up the first technology transfer program in Germany for the transfer of advanced space technology to non-space applications. He was responsible for sales & marketing of space technologies, acquisition & management of development projects, conclusion and management of contracts, assurance & control of financial funding and the coaching of entrepreneurs.
    In 2001 he assumed responsibility within DLR as project director “Application Center for Satellite Navigation”. During this time he developed and operated the first business innovation and incubation center in Europe for the future Galileo Satellite Navigation System.
    Thorsten Rudolph founded the Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) in 2004 and has been its managing director ever since. He built up the most successful innovation network for satellite navigation and earth observation in co-operation with international partner regions in Europe and all over the globe, leading space agencies (ESA, DLR, GSA) and industry partners (Airbus, OHB, CGI, T-Systems etc.) and his team supported more than 500 business start-ups in Europe. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) his team built up and operate the ESA Business Incubation Center (ESA BIC) in Bavaria and Northern Germany. Since 2009, 165 startup companies have been supported in this 2-year program in co-operation with ministries, banks, industrial and institutional partners. On behalf of the European Commission his company set up the “Galileo Accelerator Program” and the “Copernicus Startup Program” in 2016, which retains hackathon events, innovation competitions, acceleration and incubation programs for Earth observation businesses.
    Recently, AZO conducted a research project for German Space Administration (DLR RFM) on the European U-Space strategy for drones and flight taxis. He is responsible for the coordination of the project and the consortium (DLR GfR, Fraunhofer IIS, Quantum-Systems). As part of this he worked with relevant stakeholders on regulation, certification and standardization topics. He in contact with research institutes, equipment manufacturer, startup companies and community for satellite communication and satellite navigation.
    Thorsten Rudolph has profound business management an international project experiences and he worked for institutional, ministerial, industrial partners all over Europe and Asia as well for the European Commission and the European GNSS Agency. He helped his customers to build up innovation and startup ecosystems. Some of his comprehensive project references are:
    – Management of the Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO)
    – Management of acceleration and incubation programs (ESA BIC, Galileo and Copernicus Accelerator)
    – Establishing and management of space innovation networks (Galileo, Copernicus, Space Exploration)
    – Coaching of entrepreneurs and acquisition of industrial partners and venture capital (ESA BIC)
    – Evaluation of business plans and space-based applications and services (ESA BIC, Copernicus hackathons, innovations competitions, Galileo and Copernicus acceleration programs)
    – Market and system studies and management of public funded projects on national (German Space Administration, Bavarian Ministry) and European level (FP7, Horizon 2020, RHEA)
    Thorsten is proficient in German and English languages and he is an appreciated speaker at international conference and he moderated the annual award ceremony during the European space week over 10 years.

  • Vanya Simeonova
    Vanya Simeonova
    Wageningen University and Research Corporate Strategy & Accounts

    Vanya Simeonova has 25 years’ experience in knowledge development in the field of sustainable regional development and environmental policies, from which 18 years at WUR. She is currently managing the WUR’s corporate account for international cooperation in research & innovations in Central & Eastern Europe and is advising in EU Research & Innovation Programmes at WUR.
    She holds MSc degrees in Agriculture & Soil Sciences and in Urban Environmental Management. Her PhD research contributed to collaborative environmental governance and sustainable land use planning. And in particular in development of policy approaches for integrating sustainability principles in land use planning in the European regions.
    She coordinated a number of European projects funded by the European Commission and contributed to several research and education initiatives in Central & Eastern Europe in the field of sustainable regional development and integration of concepts of bioeconomy, sustainable agriculture, food systems and sustainable land use. Currently, she represents WUR in cooperation initiatives with Universities and research institutions in Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Bulgaria.

  • Vladislav Popov
    Vladislav Popov
    Professor at the Dept. of Agroecology, Vice-rector of the AUP

    Prof. Vladislav Popov, PhD is an acting Professor at the Dept. of Agroecology, Vice-rector of the AUP. Internationally recognised researcher, expert and adviser, experienced in executing high-profile (inter)national R&D projects in agroecology, organic agriculture and plant protection in the EU-27, Balkans, Caucasus, Central Asia and East Africa. Member of the Standing Committee of Agricultural Research (SCAR) at the European Commission. Member of the Advisory Board of the 2nd FOOD 2030 High Level Event of the European Commission “Research and Innovation for Food and Nutrition Security: Transforming our food systems”, National Coordinator and Chairman of the Executive Board of the National Research Program of the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) “Healthy Foods for Strong Bioeconomy and Quality of Life” 2018-2022 (co-author of the Programme). Leader of the AUP expert group for execution of the Ministry of Agriculture Technical study “SWOT Analysys of the impact of agriculture on environment and climate”2019-2020 for the Strategic Plan for development of agriculture 2021-2027. Member of scientific teams in Horizon 2020 projects and evaluator of projects under FP7 and H2020 for the Research and Executive Agency of the European Commission (EC), expert of the European Training Foundation, the EIT-Food and the FAO and, Member of State Commission for monitoring and assessment of the National Science Fund at the MES of Bulgaria (2016-2019), a MES delegate in the EC ‘Shadow committee”for Cluster 6 of the Horizon Europe programme and the Expert group for preparation of National Bioeconomy strategy of Bulgaria. A member of the Editorial Boards and the Scientific Committees of Bulgarian and foreign journals, author of 100+ scientific publications, books, manuals, etc