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University College Dublin and University of California, Davis sign MoU for new PhD Innovator Fellowship programme

Posted 8 December 2021

Róisín O’Sullivan, a PhD student in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, who has been awarded the International Innovator Fellowship at the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing a new International Innovator Fellowship programme between University College Dublin and University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has been signed.

The new Fellowship will grant UCD graduate students a six month residency at UC Davis' Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH) - a premier institute focused on working with academic and industry partners to incorporate metabolic design into the foods and beverages - as part of their PhD studies.

While there, students will experience the food and health innovation taking place at UC Davis, have the opportunity to carried out their own research, and complete a 3-month programme working at a venture capital firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“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,” said Professor Dolores O’Riordan, UCD Vice-President for Global Engagement.

“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 Fellow is Róisín O’Sullivan, who is pursuing her PhD in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science.

Originally from County Kilkenny, Róisín's research focuses on the authentication of milk and dairy ingredients using stable isotope ratio analysis.

The Fellowship programme will provide her with an opportunity for experiential learning in food-ag-health-tech and build competency in entrepreneurship through technical, business and investment exposure.

“[This] agreement represents a very exciting extension of the lasting partnership between UC Davis and UCD,” said Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation, and Impact.

“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.”

UC Davis is currently ranked first in the US for agriculture, veterinary medicine, sustainability, and diversity, and 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.

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.

Adding: “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.”

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’.”

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Micéal Whelan, UCD Research and Innovation)