The second and final call for proposals for innovative projects across the agri-food sector to utilise €24 million in funding has been made by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

The funding is available under the European Innovation Partnerships Initiative (EIP).

Projects developed under this open call will form part of the department’s new ‘Locally-Led’ initiative; this is a co-funded measure proposed by Ireland under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

EIPs represent a new source of EU funding, which will allow local groups and rural communities to access funding for innovative projects, according to the department. The range of projects supported will be flexible, it added.

It is hoped that successful projects will develop ideas, or take existing ideas or research and put them into practice.

The ultimate aim of the innovation partnerships is to road test new ideas and practices, which can then be used more widely by farmers and others to improve productivity, enhance resource efficiency and pursue sustainable farming practices, the department explained.

Minister Creed said: “This is a completely new way of responding to local challenges and we were delighted at the response to the first open call.

“The range and quality of proposals submitted were excellent and the projects shortlisted from that process are now being funded to develop their ideas further for the next stage of the process.

“This is an opportunity for farmers, researchers, advisors and scientists to work together to develop new and innovative solutions and test these on the ground.”

Two streams of funding

Support for these open call applications is structured around a competitive fund. In effect there are two streams of funding within this call which will be administered via the same process throughout, according to the department.

The first stream is set to focus on themes such as farm viability, economic performance, and innovative technologies.

Meanwhile, the second stream will be focused on challenges related to the environment, biodiversity and climate change.

A wide variety of ideas and proposals were submitted under the first open call and 23 projects have been selected for the second stage of this process.

Application process

As with the first open call, this will be a competitive process with the first round being an initial call for ideas using a simple application form.

All proposals will be evaluated by a committee for relevance to the EIP programme and compatibility with Rural Development Priorities, the department added.

Following this, a shortlist of applicants will be chosen and brought forward to the second round; these applicants will be funded to prepare detailed project plans.

These plans will then be assessed and a final shortlist will be drawn up for implementation on the ground – with up to 100% funding provided under the new initiative.

Expressions of interest are invited and applications should be submitted by 5:00pm on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 to: [email protected]. More information on how to apply is available on the department’s website.