Heydon announces €8 million in research grants for bioeconomy

Almost €8 million worth of grants for research and innovation in the bioeconomy have been announced by the Minister of State with responsibility for research and development in agriculture Martin Heydon.

The grants will be spread across three new research projects, which were selected as a result of the department’s competitive call for research to establish “new knowledge” for the development of the Irish bioeconomy.

Speaking today (Tuesday, October 20), Minister Heydon said: “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.

Each of these research projects have a unique focus on the sustainable, circular and innovative use of natural resources produced in Ireland.

One of these projects aims to identify the potential role of crops such as grass, cereals, legumes and oilseeds and marine resources as alternative sources of proteins.

Another project is set to 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.

Minister Heydon noted: “Research and development 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 EU’s Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies.”

The third project that has been awarded funding will look at ways to improve 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.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has contributed €328,000 to the grant funding.

Teagasc will benefit from the funding, along with six higher education institutions: University College Cork; National University of Ireland Maynooth; National University of Ireland Galway; University of Limerick; University College Dublin; and Trinity College Dublin.

The funding will provide education opportunities for postgraduate students in the form of PhD and Masters degrees, as well as contract positions for postdoctoral and other researchers.

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