University College Dublin and University of California, Davis Announce New Innovator Fellowship Opportunity for PhD Students

Pictured at UCD is Róisín O’Sullivan, a PhD student in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, who has been awarded the International Innovator Fellowship. (Source: UCD).

University College Dublin and University of California, Davis Announce New Innovator Fellowship Opportunity for PhD Students

University College Dublin (UCD) and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing a new International Innovator Fellowship programme at the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH).

IIFH is a premier innovation institute focused on working with academic and industry partners to incorporate metabolic design into the foods and beverages that consumers enjoy every day allowing them to live happier, healthier, longer lives.

The International Innovator Fellowship will enable UCD graduate students to experience the food and health innovation taking place at UC Davis along with the entrepreneurship ecosystem in San Francisco through an immersive residency programme as part of their PhD studies.

Professor Dolores O’Riordan, Vice-President for Global Engagement, UCD, said, “The development of the International Innovator Fellowship demonstrates the value of our existing links to strengthen connections with California-based research and investors for future collaboration. This initiative is timely with the current heightened awareness of diet, health and pandemic recovery that has led to innovations to address today’s societal challenges.”

This year’s pilot International Innovator Fellowship will provide a part-funded opportunity for a UCD PhD student to travel to California, for a 6-month period, during which they will have the opportunity to carry out research in a UC Davis laboratory and complete a 3-month residency at a venture capital (VC) firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The successful student is Róisín O’Sullivan who is pursuing her PhD in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. Róisín is originally from County Kilkenny and her research focuses on the authentication of milk and dairy ingredients using stable isotope ratio analysis.

The Fellowship programme will provide Róisín with an opportunity for experiential learning in food-ag-health-tech and an immersive VC opportunity. This experience will develop the business potential of strong research programmes, in readiness for transitioning ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Watch a short video clip of Róisín O’Sullivan speaking about her International Innovator Fellowship

Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, Innovation, and Impact, UCD, said, “Today’s agreement represents a very exciting extension of the lasting partnership between UC Davis and UCD. We already have well-established connections and collaborations, particularly in the areas of agriculture, food, and health, which both universities spearhead globally. Innovation is a priority for UC Davis and UCD, as it is for Ireland and the US in general. Today’s agreement reflects this and will provide the fellow with an outstanding insight into the role of venture funding in one of the most innovative regions of the world.”

The long-standing partnership between the two global academic institutions provides industry exposure and expert insights to leading food and health graduate researchers. It also provides potential for Principal Investigators (PIs) to develop stronger links and collaborative relationships between labs at UC Davis and UCD, while investors gain deeper technical insights into new portfolio directions.

IIFH Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine at UC Davis Dr Justin Siegel said, “IIFH pairs academic experts with industry investors to identify and advance innovations across the global food system. This International Innovator Fellowship takes our existing collaborative framework to the next level by placing an international student with a local venture capital firm, bringing expertise from their home institution, and offering a unique global perspective. We see this as an incredible opportunity for global cross-cultural collaboration to tackle some of the most pressing food system challenges and deploy breakthrough innovations that will improve human and planetary health.”

This unique training opportunity allows students to explore and build competency in entrepreneurship through technical, business and investment exposure between established partners.

UC Davis is currently ranked first in the US for agriculture, veterinary medicine, sustainability, and diversity. UCD is the number one university globally on citations per paper in the areas of agricultural science and food science and technology, based on Thomas Reuters InCitesTM 2009-2013 data among institutions publishing at scale.

Dr Paul Dodd, Associate Vice Chancellor for Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives at UC Davis said, “Building from a well-established collaboration between two of the top ranked universities in the world in areas of agriculture, food and health, this agreement stands as a significant development in global advancement of research, investment and education and a great example of further partnership between California and Ireland through the interaction of ‘the two UCDs’. The International Innovator Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for accelerating food system innovations through the inclusion of international perspectives and interdisciplinary collaborations.”

Dr Joanna Regulska, Vice Provost and Dean, Global Affairs, UC Davis, said, “University College Dublin has long been an important partner for UC Davis. The International Innovator Fellowship deepens our collaboration and opens possibility for exciting future research, innovation in food and health, and exchange. It also deepens connections between academia and industry in important ways.”


8 December 2021

For further information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, NovaUCD, e: or Marissa Pickard e: or Andy Fell, e:

Editor’s Notes

The agri-food sector is Ireland’s oldest and largest indigenous industry. It contributes over €15 billion annually to the Irish economy, exports food and drink products to over 180 markets worldwide, provides just under 8% of national employment and accounts for almost 10% of Ireland’s yearly exports.

As Ireland’s largest most international university, University College Dublin plays a leading role in research which underpins this sector and has aligned its research strengths to national needs.  The University recognises in its 'Rising to the Future' strategy the importance of sustainable agriculture and food systems under the 'Creating a Sustainable Global Society' strategic theme.

University College Dublin’s agriculture and food research and education facilities are unique in Ireland, in that it includes a dedicated School of Agriculture and Food Science that is ranked 24th in the world, an Institute of Food and Health, and the only School of Veterinary Medicine on the island of Ireland, a veterinary hospital and a fully functional 580-acre UCD Lyons Research Farm.

California tops the US in agricultural production, with more than $50 billion in sales and $20 billion in exports last year. The University of California, Davis is one of 10 University of California campuses, an institution created by the State of California in 1868. UC Davis is ranked number one in the US for agriculture, veterinary medicine, sustainability, and diversity. Last year, the campus had an annual research budget of over $950 million. It is home to a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialised research centres. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 103 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

The Innovation Institute for Food and Health is a premier innovation institute at UC Davis focused on developing and deploying breakthrough solutions to global issues across the food system. It nurtures and accelerates innovation through industry-academic collaborations and experiential learning programs. By bridging the gap between sectors and disciplines, it advances new technologies, products and processes along the entire innovation continuum, from research to commercialization.