Marine Institute and Science Foundation Ireland to co-fund €1.5 million research project on the Blue Bioeconomy

Dr Peter Heffernan Chief Executive of the Marine Institute and Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland at the launch of the Blue Bioeconomy Cofund (BlueBio). Joined up thinking was a key factor when the Marine Institute and Science Foundation Ireland decided to invest €1m and €500k respectively in the Blue Bioeconomy ERA-Net Cofund.

The Blue Bioeconomy Cofund (BlueBio) contributes to the overall EU objective of building the European Research Area (ERA) through enhanced cooperation and coordination of national research programmes. Increasing collaboration through co-funding arrangements across a range of national and international research and science partnerships is one of the key actions outlined in the National Marine Research & Innovation Strategy 2017-2021 and also an important aspect of Ireland's Integrated Marine Plan – Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth.

Dr Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute said, "We're delighted to partner with Science Foundation Ireland to co-fund this important research in the key area of the blue bioeconomy. We live in a global, interconnected world with finite resources and our ocean resources have a fundamental role to play in improving food security and the wellbeing of humanity. Ireland can play a leadership role given the scale of our marine resource."

The Cofund is being coordinated by Norway and consists of 28 partners from 16 countries with an estimated fund of €30m. The main objective of the Cofund is to establish a coordinated Research and Development funding scheme that will strengthen Europe's position in the blue bioeconomy. The Cofund partners have committed EUR 25.5 million, which will make up a maximum total budget of EUR 32 million including EUR 6.5 million co-funding from the European Commission.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, "Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to work with the Marine Institute in this national approach to co-funding. We expect several high-quality proposals that will showcase Ireland's world-class researchers in the marine biotechnology and aqua/agri-food research base. With cross-agency investment of up to €1.5 million, the Blue Bioeconomy ERANet call will focus on developing value chains in order to achieve a sustainable and competitive blue bioeconomy in Europe. Additionally, this significant national investment will give researchers the opportunity to forge new collaborations across Europe."

The BlueBio Cofund prioritises projects that consider the use and value-added of aquatic biomass in integrated value chains from primary production to processing, generating innovative products and services within the marine bioeconomy

The Cofund has three main aims which include using biotechnology and ICT to develop smart, efficient, traceable food systems and create synergies between aquaculture and fisheries (genetic assessment and digitalisation); unlocking the potential of microbiomes to support growth in aquaculture, fisheries, and food processing and biotechnology; apply the latest developments in ICT (IoT, machine learning, big data) to the Blue Bioeconomy; and Developing innovative uses of underutilized and waste material from fisheries and aquaculture to achieve zero waste.

Details of the first call are being finalised with a launch anticipated in December 2018. The linking of two research agencies Marine Institute and SFI will incentivise national consortia to lead and coordinate bigger projects and to incorporate strong industry partnerships in the area of the blue bioeconomy.