From Project Centres to Regional Offices

The first years of EFI focused on the development of research programmes and gaining external funding. But by the late 1990s, a new direction emerged, following an external evaluation of EFI’s work. This stressed the need for EFI’s coordination role, and the development of its network across Europe. 

Project Centre representatives, 2002

During 1998–99, the idea of establishing nodes of EFI across Europe was discussed, and approved by EFI members at the 1998 Annual Conference in Zvolen, Slovakia. The first three Project Centres were soon operational as independent units under the EFI umbrella, with their own budgets.

Project Centre and EFI representatives, 2002

MEDFOREX in Solsona (Spain), PROCES in St Petersburg (Russia) and IEFC in Bordeaux (France), were joined by three more a year later: INNOFORCE in Vienna (Austria), EUFORIC in Copenhagen (Denmark), and CONFOREST (Freiburg). PHOENIX in Lisbon (Portugal) followed in 2005.

Each Project Centre gathered a wide range of regional partners together, focusing on a particular research priority relevant to the geographical area. So, for example, MEDFOREX focused on the study of forest externalities in the Mediterranean region, while IEFC was focused on the sustainable management of plantation forests in South West Atlantic Europe. Some Project Centres were highly research-oriented, some were more network driven, while some were more of a blend of all of EFI’s core activities.

The road to Regional Offices

The first EFI Regional Office, EFIMED, was established in June 2007. The creation of EFIMED was a natural evolution of the active research network developed by the MEDFOREX Project Centre, and was financially supported by the government, of Spain and Catalonia.

Members voting at the Annual Conference in 2008
Members voting on the establishment of Regional Offices in 2008
(photo: P Sconocchia)

Following the success of EFIMED, it became clear that many other Project Centres considered the potential transition towards becoming a regional office. EFI’s 15th Annual Conference in 2008 in Orvieto, Italy was the arena for one of the most significant decisions in the history of EFI, when after much debate EFI member organisations voted to accept more Regional Offices. There were active EFI member organisations or Project Centres involved in all the proposals.

2009 saw the launch of EFIATLANTIC in Bordeaux (France) and EFICENT-OEF in Freiburg (Germany), Nancy (France) and Zurich (Switzerland). Launch events were held for EFICEEC in Vienna (Austria) in April 2010, and for EFINORD in Copenhagen (Denmark) in November 2010. The final piece of the jigsaw, EFISEE in Zagreb (Croatia), joined EFICEEC-EFISEE in 2012.

Project Centres – not the end of the road But that’s not the end of the story. EFI is determined to continue developing its network of research nodes. The 19th Annual Conference in Istanbul approved a Project Centre on mountain forests ( MOUNTFOR), and further proposals are pending.

“What am I most proud of achieving as Chair of the Board? The establishment of Regional Offices at various locations in Europe – it strengthens EFI as an organisation. It brings EFI closer to its members, both countries and scientific institutions and it is an important element for a stabilisation of its funding structures. Regional Offices prove to be a core element of EFI organisation.”
Konstantin von Teuffel, Chair of the Board 2006–2010