Lisheen, Tipperary, Friday 19th October – Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD today launched the new €22.2 million BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre at the €5.75 million National Bioeconomy Campus in Lisheen, Co. Tipperary. The event also saw the launch of the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation (IBF), as part of the inaugural Bioeconomy Ireland Day, which aims to engage industry, the farming community, Government and wider society in the bioeconomy. The bioeconomy brings together the development of new ideas, processes and technologies to sustainably use our natural resources, create jobs and stimulate rural development.   

Minister Creed also announced the initiation of a Bioeconomy Public-Private Network, as part of the national bioeconomy policy statement implementation, to establish a network of representatives from industry, research, society and relevant public bodies to inform the future development of the Irish bioeconomy. With the bioeconomy already accounting for 8% of the EU’s workforce, bio-based industries could create up to 1 million green jobs by 2030, especially in rural and coastal areas.

The BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and Industry, includes partnerships with five research institutions and an initial 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 the key challenges for a robust bioeconomy: technology and sustainability. 

Speaking about the inaugural Bioeconomy Ireland Day, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD said: “In March of this year, Government published the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy, setting out our ambition for Ireland to be a global leader in this sector. We want to integrate sustainable economic development into our economic model as we transition to a low carbon economy. A number of Irish based companies have already recognised the potential of the bioeconomy and are developing commercial opportunities in this area. The Government is committed to building on this and alongside the National Policy Statement, the last year has seen major investments in the sector including in the BEACON SFI Research Centre and the Lisheen campus. I look forward to the first progress report from the Bioeconomy Implementation Group early next year.”

Biorefining technologies based on renewable biological resources are essential for a carbon-neutral future. The BEACON SFI Research Centre, along with the IBF 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 for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD 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. The conversion of biological resources into sustainable and circular food, feed and bio-based products presents numerous benefits and opportunities to Ireland. It means that our farmers, 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.”

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, TD, said: “Climate change is a serious global and local issue, requiring unified and sustained action to ensure low carbon growth and resource efficiency. The bioeconomy reduces emissions and our dependence on fossil resources as well as contributing to the EU target of restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020. Ireland has remarkable potential as a location for a globally significant circular bioeconomy and will play a leading role in tackling one of the greatest global challenges we face.”

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.”

Dr 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.”

Prof Kevin O’Connor, Director of the BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre said: “BEACON, through research and innovation, is creating knowledge and high value products from Ireland’s natural resources. This will inform the evolution of the Irish bioeconomy and create new opportunities for Irish industry. Research excellence is critical to maximising the opportunity for Irish society and enabling Irish Industry to diversify and enter new growing global markets. Given that our natural resources are predominantly rurally based, BEACON can help to create vibrant sustainable rural communities. BEACON will provide the knowledge, technologies, and highly educated graduates to support the realisation of Ireland’s bioeconomy opportunity.”