Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. has launched a number of initiatives as part of the inaugural Bioeconomy Ireland Day.
Speaking at Lisheen in Co. Tipperary, Minister Creed said: “The aim of the day is to engage industry, the farming community, Government and wider society in the growing bioeconomy. This involves strengthening existing sustainable agri-food production systems, but also adding value and environmental benefits by producing innovative new bio-based products - for example new types of food ingredients, fertilisers, packaging, energy, fuels and services. Bio-based industries could create up to 1 million green, innovative jobs across the EU by 2030, especially in rural and coastal areas.”
Minister Creed formally opened the new €22.2 million BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre at the National Bioeconomy Campus in Lisheen, Co. Tipperary. The event also saw the launch of the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation.
Minister Creed also announced the initiation of a Bioeconomy Public-Private Network of representatives from industry, society and relevant public bodies to inform the future development of the Irish bioeconomy. This network will be a key output of the cross-Departmental Bioeconomy Implementation Group, co-chaired by the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
The BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre includes partnerships with five research institutions and 10 industry partners. The Centre will connect Ireland’s key bioeconomy sectors with fundamental and applied research excellence and innovation infrastructure, using a multi-disciplinary perspective to solve two of the key challenges for a robust bioeconomy: technology and sustainability.
Biorefining technologies based on renewable biological resources are essential for a carbon-neutral future. The BEACON Centre, along with the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation and ongoing Government bioeconomy actions, will address significant challenges and opportunities for major sectors of the Irish and global bioeconomy, including dairy, horticulture, forestry, fisheries, marine biodiscovery, food waste and municipal solid biowaste.
Minister Creed said: “The bioeconomy will play a crucial role in supporting future economic development and employment, as well as providing a path towards reducing carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil resources. Making better use of our bio-based resources presents real opportunities. It means that our famers, fishers and foresters will in the future not only be partners with food companies, but also potentially with chemical, textile and construction industries. The agri-food sector has strong innovation potential to support Ireland’s transition to a more integrated sustainable, circular, low carbon economy, with economic, social and environmental benefits for rural Ireland.”
Prof. Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said: “The modern world is dependent upon finite fossil resources to produce everyday consumable items and the agri-food and marine sectors produce high volumes of residues and waste during food production. Research from the BEACON SFI Research Centre will convert these residues to higher value products such as food, feed, chemicals, construction materials, energy and fuels, addressing multiple scientific, technological and social challenges. Government investment through the SFI Research Centres continues to deliver significant economic and societal impact to Ireland with transformative innovation.”
Brian Kelly from the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation said: “The IBF provides an infrastructure to enable potential collaborators to interact in order to establish new value chains. Our Enterprise Ireland funded pilot-scale processing facility in Lisheen provides the national ecosystem with an opportunity to accelerate ideas (from academics and businesses) to the market, helping to de-risk new technologies, attract further investment and build international links.”