Agri-food tie-up with scientific community to boost sector output

Scientists from agriculture, food, and other scientific and engineering disciplines are to share their expertise following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Science Foundation Ireland and Teagasc.

Signed at Teagasc Research Centre, Moorepark, Co Cork, the collaboration, called “The Future of Agri-Food”, will lead to knowledge-sharing between disciplines such as genomics, robotics, material science, nanotechnology, immunology, and ICT.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said: “Agri-food has delivered a record €9bn in exports in 2012, a terrific achievement considering the fiscal difficulties experienced globally. Continued innovation in the area of agri-food is essential to maintain Ireland’s status as a leader in primary production and secondary processing of agri-food worldwide. The commitment of Teagasc and SFI to support science-based innovation in this sector will prove invaluable to the future of the agri-food economy in Ireland.”

Irish agri-food employs up to 150,000 people. The convergence of this broad range of disciplines will help underpin the profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability targets set out in the Department of Agriculture’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

Teagasc director Gerry Boyle said: “Our aim is to support science-based innovation in the agri-food sector and the broader bioeconomy. These goals serve to underpin profitability, competitiveness and sustainability within the sector.”

Prof Boyle noted Ireland’s agri-food sector has unique and advantageous characteristics. He said Irish food’s international reputation, its continued export success, and its potential for expansion and development put agri-food at the forefront of achieving sustainable economic renewal.

SFI director general Mark Ferguson added: “SFI’s mission is to be the best science funding agency in the world at creating impact from excellent scientific research and to be the exemplar in building partnerships that fund excellent science.

“This agreement builds and strengthens scientific and engineering research in the area of agri-food an area of great strategic value to Ireland’s long-term competitiveness. This agreement will prepare the Irish scientific community to compete, lead, and win in relevant EU Horizon 2020 funding programmes and other relevant international funding.”

Research and Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock said the National Research Prioritisation Exercise identified a number of areas, including agri-food and health food, which can offer the greatest economic and enterprise potential.

Mr Sherlock said the memorandum between Teagasc and SFI reinforces the Government’s commitment to ensure top-class research is better targeted at turning the ideas of the scientific community into good products and good sustainable jobs.

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