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Ireland does not have a policy specifically focused on industrial biotechnology or the bioeconomy. However, a series of national policy statements and documents highlight Ireland’s commitment to developing a “green” economy, including:
- Building Ireland’s Smart Economy – A framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal – The document recognizes the inter-related challenges of sustainable means of industrial production and consumption, climate change and energy security. The paper has prompted the deployment of the industry-led Competence Centre Programme of which the Technology Centre for Biorefining and Bioenergy has the purpose of realizing the commercial potential of Irish biomass resources.
- Developing the Green Economy in Ireland – The report was drafted by the High-Level Group on green Enterprise and lays out actions to be taken for Ireland to become a hub for green enterprise.
- Delivering our Green Potential – This policy statement affirms the Irish government’s willingness to move to a green economy in the years ahead and identifies opportunities for sustainable economic growth and job creation. One of the key actions of this strategy includes the possibility of implementing green public procurement in Ireland.
In addition, Ireland’s vision for the renewables sector highlights the need for a sustainable bioenergy sector. There is a clear willingness to foster biomass-based energy but also to divert more waste away from landfill and use it as a resource for energy but also biobased materials and chemicals. Given the latest developments in the EU bioeconomy, the Irish government has recently awarded a two year research grant to a consortium appointed to explore how Ireland can capitalise on the broad scope of bioeconomy.
The National Research Prioritisation Exercise outlines Ireland’s Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy and includes references to industrial biotechnology subjects throughout its 14 action plans e.g. biomaterials, biocatalysis, functional foods and bioactive ingredients and bioenergy (including waste to energy).
Who is there?
Institutes and agencies
- Technology Centre for Biorefining and Bioenergy (TCBB) aims to provide cutting edge research and development outputs to support a sustainable and competitive Irish biomass industry in terms of bioenergy and bioproducts. The TCBBs research areas concentrate on developing efficient industrial processes in order to establish a complete end-to-end value chain for the Irish bioindustry. More specifically, there is a focus on:
- Next generation feedstock analysis (grass and algae)
- Conversion process technology (enzymatic but also thermochemical techniques)
- Commercialisation of platform chemicals and finished products
- TEAGASC is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities. TEAGASC issued in 2008 a foresight report entitled ‘Towards 2030-Teagasc’s Role in Transforming Ireland’s Agri-Food sector and the wider bioeconomy’ and envisages its role based on four pillars:
- Food production and processing
- Value-added food processing
- Agri-environmental products and service
- Energy and bioprocessing
- University of Galway – Research focuses include novel thermostable enzymes, enzyme-based technologies for key bioenergy and biorefinery applications from terrestrial and marine biomass and wastes, including 3rd generation feedstocks.
- Trinity College Dublin – Biobased plastics
Initiatives to watch
Cellulac is an Irish industrial biochemical company which has recently announced to have successfully transformed a byproduct from cheese production into lactic acid. It is said to be the world’s first ever industrial level continuous production of lactic acid from deproteinized lactose whey. The generated lactic acid is perfectly suitable for conversion to bioplastic.
There is a Cellulac production facility located in Dundalk. The company actually retrofitted the formerly 2nd largest brewery in Ireland for the production of lactic acid from second generation feedstocks, including lignocellulosic materials (such as wheat straw, distilled dried grains with solubles and spent brewers’ grains) and lactose whey.
- Enterprise Ireland can provide commercialization grants and actually includes a section dedicated to provide funds for the commercialization of biotechnology products. The agency also funds research and development and innovation projects in open calls.
- Science Foundation Ireland provides funding for academics and tertiary institutions in yearly calls.
- Both agencies sometimes fund industry – academia collaborations for example through the Innovation Partnerships for the development of new and improved products, processes or services and knowledge generation.
- TCBB is the Irish project partner of Bio Base NWE and awards so-called Innovation coupons to promising Irish SMEs to validate their biobased ideas in the Bio Base Europe pilot plant in Ghent. One voucher is worth €30 000.
- TCBB also awards RENEW vouchers which are industrial support vouchers for research and development needs. Expenses covered can reach up to €10 000 and must not exceed 50% of overall R&D costs.
The TCBB manages a comprehensive call list for funding in the bioeconomy field which can be found here.
Ireland has a longstanding interest and expertise in anaerobic digestion. Due to its highly developed grass and livestock sector, Ireland has a strong focus on 2nd and 3rd generation feedstocks.
Documents and links
- Report of the BIO-TIC workshop in the UK and Ireland – November 2013