The MicrobiomeSupport consortium met for the first time during the project’s kick-off meeting in Ottawa, Canada, on 28th November 2018. With partners from all over the globe and the close link of the project with the International Bio-Economy Forum‘s Working Group ‘Food Microbiomes’ this was a first opportunity to get to know each other for many, ensure a common understanding of the project aims and align on first ideas on how to implement the work over the next 4 years.

The kick-off meeting started with a short introduction and welcome address by the Coordinator, Prof. Angela Sessitsch, from AIT Austria. It was followed by a presentation by Dr Barend Verachtert from the European Commission who provided the broader context in which the project was funded, particularly its relations with the International Bioeconomy Form. From a European perspective, a main driver for making changes to the food system is the systems thinking approach with the food system being at the heart of societal challenges as outlined in the current FOOD2030 initiative of the EU. It is now the time to bring the ideas behind FOOD2030 into practice and into concrete projects. A first step has been done by funding the Coordination and Support Action (CSA) ‘MicrobiomeSupport’ and four further innovation actions in the field of microbiome. The CSA will pave the way in terms of research and innovation and its application.

The consortium partners during their first meeting.

After further presentations by Dr Camilla La Peccerella, the Project Officer at the EU Commission for MicrobiomeSupport,  on the administrative management issues for the project and Prof. Angela Sessitsch who provided an overview on goals and objectives of ‘MicrobiomeSupport’, all CSA participants were encouraged to consider themselves a MicrobiomeSupport ambassador from hereon to ensure the impact the consortium hopes to achieve with this project.

Prof. Angela Sessitsch keeping the speakers on time with a traditional cow bell from Austria setting the scene for some fun, as well as hard work ahead for the consortium.

Ahead of formal work package discussions, the partners then had an opportunity to introduce themselves to each other, share their expertise and understand their role in the project in more detail.

The kick-off meeting was closed with an interesting plenary discussion by experts from all over the world within the topic of microbiome. Participants of the plenary discussions have been:

  • Angela Sessitsch, Austrian Institute of Technology, AIT, Austria
  • Barend Verachtert, European Commission, EC, Belgium
  • Roman Brenne, European Commission, EC, Belgium
  • Francois Eudes, Agriculture and Agri-Food, AAFC, Canada
  • Richard McDowell, Lincoln University, New Zealand
  • Anne W Sylvester, National Science Foundation, NSF, USA
  • Sara Sarkar, Agriculture and Agri-Food, AAFC, Canada
  • Emmanuelle Maguin, Institut national de la recherche agronomique, INRA, France
  • Yolanda Sanz, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, CSIC, Spain
  • Devaki Bhaya, National Science Foundation, NSF, USA

The plenary panel discussion discussing needs from and hopes for the project, considering regional, national and global challenges in microbiome research as well as looking at the microbiome in a systemic view.