Minister Heydon announces new research grant awards

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A further investment of almost €8 million in agri-food research and innovation for development of the Irish Bioeconomy

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon T.D., today announced research awards of almost €8 million for three new research projects arising from the Department’s Competitive Call for Research to establish new knowledge for development of the Irish Bioeconomy.

Announcing the awards the Minister stated, “This investment today is aimed at keeping Ireland to the forefront of delivering on innovative methods of ensuring environmentally sustainable farm, forestry and food processing, with each of these research projects having a unique focus on the sustainable, circular and innovative use of natural resources produced in Ireland.’’

One project in particular aims to identify the potential role of crops such as grass, cereals, legumes and oilseeds and marine resources as alternative sources of proteins which may have the long-term potential to diversify Ireland’s agro-ecological system and deliver high quality and valuable nutrition dense products.

Another funded project will explore the possibility of utilising algal and fungal derived bio-pesticides and bio-stimulants as alternatives to chemical fertilisers and pesticides products in crop production.

The Minister said, ‘‘R&D investment to support the development of new bio-based products is very timely and needed to help meet the targets set for reduced usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the recently published EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies.’’.

The third project to be funded will look at ways to enhance the economic return from wood processing by facilitating a switch to higher value wood products, reducing waste and creating a pipeline of advanced wood based chemicals and materials, thereby, enhancing sustainability and circularity within the sector and meet targets set in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.

The Minister added that ‘‘as in previous Research Calls a particularly positive aspect of these Research Awards is the All-Island dimension with Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Island (DAERA NI) contributing €328,000 in funding to QUB.’’

A total of seven Irish Research Performing Organisations will benefit from the awards announced to-day, including Teagasc and the Universities (UCC, NUIM, NUIG, UL, UCD, TCD). The funding will support a stream of new research talent in areas of strategic economic importance to Ireland by providing higher education opportunities for 26 postgraduate students in the form of PhD (24) and Masters degrees (2) as well as contract positions for postdoctoral and other researchers (16).

The Minister concluded. ‘‘In addition to creating new talent, the scientific knowledge and knowhow arising from the three programmes will play an important role in developing Ireland’s  bioeconomy and meeting climate change targets and sustainability goals.’’

Full details of Call 2019 are available at www.agriculture.gov.ie/research/competitivenationalprogrammes/closedcalls/nationalcall2019/

Notes for editor:

The awards arise from a Call for Proposals launched under the three competitive, research funding programmes operated by the Department, namely, the Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM), the Research Stimulus Fund (RSF), and the Programme of Competitive Forest Research for Development (CoFoRD).

Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM) is the main programme for funding food research in research performing organisations in Ireland including Teagasc and the Higher Education Institutes (HEI) thereby contributing to building and maintaining a research capability that helps underpin a vibrant, competitive and innovative food manufacturing industry.

Research Stimulus Fund (RSF) aims to facilitate research that fills gaps in the mainstream Teagasc programme, supports sustainable and competitive agricultural production practices and policies, and contributes to building and maintaining a knowledge economy and research capability in the agriculture sector.

Programme of Competitive Forestry Research for Development (CoFoRD) aims to develop a scientific foundation and support for a sustainable, competitive, market orientated and innovative forest industry.

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