Prior to the undertaking of CERNAS, R&D performed in ESAC was based on individual research work or associated in departmental teams, and/or other institutions of R&D. As the critical mass of doctors and masters in ESAC grew over time, it was felt the need to step up the R&D developed. With the constitution of CERNAS, R&D processed at ESAC ESACB exceeded its borders, becoming associated in the work of researchers by multi-departmental teams, in association with various personalities and R&D institutions, national, EU and non EU.
CERNAS started its activities in 2002, aiming at the development of novel strategies to improve regional sustainability, and has developed ever since its activities in the pursue of sustainability in the Centre Region of Portugal, aiming to influence the political debate and develop innovative approaches and technical solutions to meet sustainability and improve the quality of life of local populations. This effort was encompassed by a participatory bottom-up strategy, rooted in the involvement of regional and local key actors and stakeholders to develop new governance strategies and the deepening of citizenship and commitment by the local populations in the process of sustainable development, shearing the assets but also the burdens related with the new approaches.
During the period 2004-2007, CERNAS developed 250 R&D projects at regional, national, Community and international levels, with a budget of 3.9 million euros.
The 2008-2012 was a period of consolidation for CERNAS, during which most of the developed research was based on competitive funding through national and international projects. Therefore, the foreseen research strategy had, at least in some cases, to be adapted to the success of applications for project funding.
For the period under scope, CERNAS participated in 23 research projects funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation, of which 4 were coordinated by CERNAS. These projects covered the scopes of all the research lines, and in some cases involved researchers from more than one research line. CERNAS also entailed research and development projects with national financial support other than FCT, in a total of 22 projects more directed to the resolution of specific problems in small and medium size companies in the agro-industrial sector (including fish processing industries)
During the 2008-2012 period CERNAS was involved in 5 European Union Projects (FP6, FP7 and INTERREG) in the areas of Food Science and Engineering, Environment and Plant and Animal Science. The participation in those projects, covering a wide range of themes was relevant to CERNAS strategy. Some of the projects developed during this period were implemented by more than one area of research, which demonstrates a spirit and truly multidisciplinary strategy.
2013-2014 was a period of transition to CERNAS, this having undergone a major renovation to meet the requirements of the FCT in terms of research excellence. Following this restructuring CERNAS saw the first decrease their integrated members, starting in 2015 a new period with a team of 22 integrated members, and an organization in three research groups.
For 2015-2024 period, CERNAS established three research groups to concentrate the expertise. Forest, agriculture and livestock breeding productivity, will be addressed in the Agriculture Science Research Group. The questions related with the valuation of food products, the development of novel products and processes, by-product valorization and waste minimization and the studies of human nutrition will be addressed by the Food Science and Engineering Research Group. The questions of rural development, ecosystem conservation, environmental services, eco-efficiency tools and solutions and the judicious use of natural resources, including land use planning and the measurement of the societal response, will be addressed by the Environment and Society Research Group.