CRPs and TCs: IAEA’s Delivery Mechanisms for Nuclear Applications

In order to assist Member States in planning for and using nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plans, implements and manages Coordinated Research Projects (CRPs) and Technical Cooperation Projects, both of which are essential for the IAEA to foster collaboration between Member States and improve nuclear techniques worldwide. Such projects could not exist, however, without the steady commitment of a number of ‘technical officers’ within the IAEA. Britt Maestroni, technical officer in the food and environmental protection laboratory within the Joint FAO/IAEA Programme, splits her time overseeing more than a dozen different projects that span across the globe. “The tasks are really very varied,” she says. “We are working towards answering questions that are being proposed by Member States.”

One of the CRP’s that Britt is currently overseeing is titled “Integrated analytical approaches to assess indicators of the effectiveness of pesticide management practices at a catchment scale,” and seeks to develop principles, indicators and guidelines for agricultural practices that promote food safety and quality and environmental stability. Because Britt oversees numerous projects, she was able to identify a related Technical Cooperation project that could be linked to this particular CRP, thereby ensuring the active transfer of knowledge and information generated under the CRP to the field. To understand how this process unravels, it is important to understand the basic structure of the IAEA’s two delivery mechanisms for nuclear applications:

What is a CRP?

A coordinated research project (CRP) is designed to encourage the acquisition and dissemination of new knowledge from the use of nuclear technologies and isotopic techniques. A CRP begins when a scientific panel of experts proposes a research theme that stimulates and coordinates the undertaking of research by both scientists in the IAEA and different research institutions in Member States. There is then a call for project proposals and when the selection is completed, this “Project Officer” will then liaise with Chief Scientific Investigators from the different research institutions involved in order to develop and manage the research programme, which normally has duration of between 3 and 5 years. The IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications is responsible for coordinating and administering the CRP financial and contractual arrangements.

CRPs and TCs: IAEA’s Delivery Mechanisms for Nuclear Applications By bringing together research institutions in both developing and developed countries and sharing resources and expertise, CRPs help foster the exchange of scientific and technical information while achieving a particular research agenda. This also helps improve capacity building in Member States, which is especially important for developing countries that would otherwise be unable to undergo such extensive research projects. Often, the results quickly become of direct benefit to groups outside of the scientific community, for example to farmers or hospital patients.

What is a Technical Cooperation Project?

A technical cooperation project, through training courses, expert missions, fellowships, scientific visits, and equipment disbursement, provides the necessary skills and equipment to establish sustainable technology in a country or region. A Technical Cooperation project is proposed by a Member State institution through its “National Liaison Officer” and seeks to address a national priority for one or several countries. These proposals are often drafted one or two years in advance of the project’s starting date and, when submitted to the IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation, must demonstrate that it either:

- relates clearly to an area that is a prerequisite for use of nuclear technologies and that has a good chance of achieving the expected outcomes, or
- addresses an area where there is a national programme enjoying strong government commitment with evidence of significant financial support, and where nuclear techniques can play a fundamental role for the success of the project.

If the final project design is approved by the IAEA Board of Governors, Member States receive a 2-year contract and financial support through the Technical Cooperation programme. Whether national, regional, or interregional in scope, the TC programme seeks to contribute directly to the achievement of the major sustainable development priorities of each country.

Combining Research and Action

CRPs and TCs: IAEA’s Delivery Mechanisms for Nuclear Applications While technical cooperation projects and CRPs differ in many fundamental ways, it is precisely these differences that allow them to complement each other if the two are combined in an effective manner. CRPs offer Member States the ability to develop cutting edge technologies and research in nuclear techniques through the collaboration of their respective research institutions and IAEA experts.

By advancing their knowledge and expertise in a particular field, Member States are better equipped to undergo technical cooperation projects, allowing newly discovered methodologies to be applied practically and preventing what is often an unfortunate lag between research and implementation. Such a marriage not only allows the IAEA to help Member States implement new methodologies expediently, but brings together scientists and experts from around the world and encourages them to collaborate and innovate.

For Britt, connecting the prepared protocols and basic research of a CRP with various regional training courses quickly led to the establishment of multidisciplinary teams working in the field and the production of new and valuable data. Based on this research, a book will be developed containing a set of guidelines that instructs others how to implement the new methodologies developed and adapted during the CRP. After it is distributed to Member States laboratories and land managers around the world, these guidelines will hopefully contribute to improved agricultural practices and sustainable environment.

For more information on CRPs, please visit

For more information on the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme, please visit