Irish Bioeconomy Foundation Receives Enterprise Ireland Funding to Develop a New Bioeconomy Innovation and Piloting FacilityTuesday, 19 December, 2017
Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, has announced substantial funding of €4.6 million to support the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation CLG to develop a new Bioeconomy Innovation and Piloting Facility at Lisheen, Co. Tipperary.
The facility will enable industry, entrepreneurs and researchers to scale technologies that convert Ireland’s natural resources to products of high value for use in a wide variety of sectors including food ingredients, feed ingredients, pharmaceuticals, natural chemicals and biodegradable plastics. The facility is one of 21 regional projects to receive funding through the first round of Enterprise Ireland’s new €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund.
The 21 successful applicants, representing all regions of the country, have secured up to €30.5 million in the first competitive call. The Fund, which is an open national competitive call to support regional projects, is provided by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, as a key action to support the Regional Action Plan for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development.
The Bioeconomy Innovation and Piloting Facility is a Stream 1, or major change project, and will receive €4.6 million in funding towards capital and current costs. The Irish Bioeconomy Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2016 by Tipperary County Council, Commercial Mushroom Producers, Glanbia, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, and Limerick Institute of Technology to promote the conversion of Ireland’s natural land and sea resources to high value products for the development of a globally competitive sustainable bioeconomy.
In 2013 a taskforce, fully supported by Tipperary County Council, was established to seek alternative uses of the Lisheen mine site which finally closed in November 2015. One of the outputs of this taskforce, currently chaired by Alan Buckley, a former general manager at the mine, was the establishment of the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation.
The taskforce, together with Professor Kevin O’Connor, a leading green technologies research and innovator at UCD’s School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and the UCD Earth Institute and Director of BEACON, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Bioeconomy Research Centre, recommended redevelopment of the Lisheen site as a National Bioeconomy Campus with the aim of creating significant employment opportunities presented by the bioeconomy. Professor O’Connor is currently shaping the European Bioeconomy Strategy through his chairmanship of the Scientific Committee for the Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBIJU), a €4 billion European public-private partnership.
At today’s announcement Minister Humphreys said, “In this year’s Action Plan for Jobs, we made the decision to place a specific focus on strengthening the rural and regional economy. To stimulate regional growth as we move towards 2020, we announced a €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund over two calls.
“Our aim was to provide financial support for organisations set up specifically to bring together stakeholders on projects that will benefit the local community, the region or nationally. The successful applicants include an exciting range of projects which will develop strong entrepreneurial or innovation ecosystems, encourage clusters of similar businesses, or develop specific sectors where there is the potential for competitive advantage.
Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland said, “Supporting regional enterprise development and working with businesses to achieve their global ambition is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland. This competitive fund was launched at the end of May and attracted very strong interest. The winners were selected through a stringent evaluation process based on criteria which included impacts and value for money, collaboration and participation, viability and sustainability, building regional strengths and significance for innovation.
Speaking about the funding for the Bioeconomy Innovation and Piloting Facility, UCD’s Professor Kevin O Connor, said, “The announcement by Minister Humphreys of funding to establish the National Bioeconomy Innovation and Pilot facility is a huge step forward for Ireland’s ambitions to be a world leader in the sustainable use of our natural resources and rural redevelopment through innovation.”
“This investment complements that made by the Irish government through SFI in BEACON Bioeconomy research centre led by UCD. We are very excited and look forward to bringing projects from BEACON on to the next stage of development at Lisheen.”
Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “Ireland must find new ways to address challenges associated with food security, climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. The bioeconomy provides us with the opportunity to lead on these issues which are critical to the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in related areas.”
She added, “Today’s announcement by Minister Humphreys is another significant investment by the Irish government in stimulating the development of the bioeconomy and UCD’s strategy is to bring our world-class scientific excellence and knowledge in this area to address these global challenges which impact the economy, environment and society.
She concluded, “The Bioeconomy Pilot and Innovation Facility at Lisheen is a result of a concerted and collaborative effort by academia, including UCD as a founding member of the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation, industry and local government and I would like to congratulate everyone involved, including UCD’s Professor Kevin O’Connor who was a key driver for the development of the campus.”
The announcement will support the development of a bioeconomy facility within the existing administration building at Lisheen with a further addition of 8,000 sq.ft. of space for pilot processing facilities.
The facility aims to be the location of choice for companies to scale up their technologies and produce prototype products for market testing in a location with state of the art infrastructure which is home to one of the largest wind farms in the country operated by Brookfield Energy.
Alan Buckley, Chairperson of the Lisheen Task Force extended his “warmest congratulations to all the members of the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation who put the successful grant application together and acknowledged the vision and hard work of the Lisheen Task Force.”
Joe Gorman of Commercial Mushroom Producers and Chairperson, Irish Bioeconomy Foundation said his organisation was “delighted by the news and eager to progress the project in 2018 to address critical challenges for the scale up and commercialisation of new technologies and natural products which will support existing jobs, create new jobs, help the biobased industries to diversify and it will be a key facility nationally to drive innovation in rural Ireland.”