€32m funding for researchers in food, agri-food and forestry
Fifty-five research teams have been awarded funds of up to €1.5 million in the latest round
A total of €32 million in research funding is to be distributed to researchers across the country working in the field of food, agri-food and forestry.
Some 55 research teams, working across a number of third-level and publicly funded research institutions, have been awarded funding under the latest funding round, which arises from a Call for Proposals launched late last year.
There were more than 130 applications for the awards, which range in size from just under €80,000 to €1.5 million; researchers have up to four years to draw down the money.
The country’s top third-level institutions, including UCD, Trinity, UCC, as well as institutions such as the Irish Cattle Breeding Association and Teagasc are among the recipients of the awards.
The highest research amount was awarded to a research project being led by Prof Stephen Gordon as part of a joint project between UCD, Teagasc, CIT (Cork Institute of Technology), AFBI (Agri Food and Biosciences Institute) and QUB (Queen’s University Belfast), which will look into the control of the common bacteria Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis on Irish farms.
Other successful projects include research on smart packaging systems for food, development of low salt and low fat Irish traditional processed meats, and innovation in Irish timber usage, while a joint project between UCC and UCD being led by Prof Kevin Cashman is looking at the enhancement of Vitamin D in meat and eggs.
Speaking ahead of the announcement of the funding awards today, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the Government’s commitment to public funding of agricultural and food-based research, despite the pressure on public funds, is testament to Government prioritisation of the area.
“Publicly funded research will continue to play a key role in driving innovation within the bio-economy thus contributing to the growth targets outlined in the Food Harvest 2020,” he said. “Ultimately this will make a positive contribution to the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs.”
Research project: Antioxidant and anti- inflammatory ingredients for health enhancement in the older population
Identifying and exploring the value-added potential of food and food ingredients can play an important role in developing Ireland’s indigenous food industry.
A collaborative research project between the University of Limerick and UCC is looking at the potential of one important ingredient in dairy products – casein.
The project is being led by Prof Dick Fitzgerald from the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Limerick, along with Prof Phil Jakeman of UL’s Department of Physical Education Sport Sciences, and Prof Nora O’Brien of UCC’s Department of Food Nutritional Sciences.
The team is receiving a grant of €500,000 for the project which will run for up to four years.
As Prof Fitzgerald explains, the research builds on a previous project which identified the potential of casein.
“Previously, we showed in a lab-based environment the important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential of casein. This project will explore how that can enhance the health of the older population, by unlocking the potential of peptides which derive from casein.”
Casein is one of the most abundant proteins present in milk. With Ireland a major dairy producer the potential for added-value applications is enormous, according to Prof Fitzgerald.
“Ireland has a large global market for this product, so there is significant commercial potential.”
Research project: Valuing the ecosystem services of forests in Ireland
Ireland’s forest lands are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource, both in terms of their role in the ecosystem and as a potential economic resource.
Dr Áine Ní Dhubháin from University College Dublin is leading a research team working across four institutions – UCD, UCC, Teagasc and the University of Limerick – who have been awarded a research grant of just over €200,000. Their two-year project seeks to identify the different benefits offered by Ireland’s forests and analyse the potential value of these benefits.
“Decisions regarding future environmental land use and forest policy need to be based on robust scientific evidence,” explains Dr Ní Dhubháin.
“Traditionally there has been an emphasis on the potential of timber production, however, there is an increasing awareness of other benefits provided by forests, including their role in combating climate change, how they influence water provision, and their services in terms of public amenities.”
The project will identify the primary ecosystem services provided by forests, exploring issues such as climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, forest recreation and human health and water quality and quantity.
It will then seek to establish the economic value of these services, using environmental economic analysis techniques.