Ireland focuses on bioeconomy to maximise national income, exports and job creation

Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach)
Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach)

In Ireland a multi-disciplinary research team, led by Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), and including the Technology Centrefor Biorefining and Bioenergy (TCBB) at NUI Galway, Crop Science & Biosystems Engineering at UCD and the Environmental Sustainability & Health Institute at Dublin Institute of Technology, has been funded by a 2014 DAFM/Stimulus research grant to address how Ireland can maximise national income, exports and job creation thanks to the bioeconomy.

Over a 2-year period starting in December 2014, this team will undertake research to assess Ireland’s natural resources and core strengths, and match these to global market opportunities. It will then systematically identify up to 8 commercial opportunities that could be viably deployed by Irish-based producers and companies in the short-term, and make recommendations on the development frameworks that could be introduced to underpin commercial exploitation of these opportunities. Such frameworks will relate to R&D programmes, policies, regulatory measures, market supports, funding mechanisms and other initiatives.

Ireland – Teagasc writes in a note – “has many natural resources that can be leveraged to sustainably produce new forms of bio-products and engineer new process technologies; however, it is only beginning to use these resources to tap new bio-economic opportunities. The economic value of Ireland’s current bio-products are at the lower end of the value spectrum (e.g. commodity food products and bio-energy) and development of much more lucrative bio-chemicals or bio-materials outputs has not yet been prioritised. Other potential opportunities may be underexploited (e.g. the marine sector) or overlooked altogether (e.g. resource recovery and redeployment)”. The question of Teagasc is: “In this rapidly changing environment is Ireland in danger of losing out in the growing bio-economy?”

The research team comprises partners that have significant track records of conducting national-, EU- and industry-funded research in this area, and moving such research along the innovation pipeline to commercialisation. The project co-ordinator Maeve Henchion of Teagasc says “Teagasc is very pleased that DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, editor’s note) awarded €300,000 for this project, which will actively seek participation from the stakeholders that are needed to successfully develop Ireland’s bio-economy”.

Within Teagasc, the project will be supported by a 16-member working group with expertise, knowledge and professional networks from agriculture, bio-energy, forestry, food marine and waste streams, and from research, policy development and advisory/training perspectives.

TCBB’s Technology Leader, Bart Bonsall comments: “TCBB works with enterprises large and small to extract added value from Ireland’s existing agricultural and forestry outputs as well as agri-food and municipal waste resources. TCBB welcomes this opportunity to work with Teagasc on a project of such strategic national importance and we are of the view that the Bio-Éire collaboration will identify those areas that will enable Ireland to prosper in this new economy, quantifying, highlighting and developing the near-term market opportunities for Ireland.”


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