3 May 2017
By Bryan T. Smyth
Michael Creed TD (Fine Gael), Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine was at the Marine Institute’s Dublin office today to meet some of the researchers who were successful in winning research funding through the Marine Research Measure. Minister Creed also announced the launch of a €2m Marine Equipment and Small Infrastructure Call 2017 which will open for applications tomorrow (Thursday 4th May) with awards of between €20,000 and €200,000. The specialist marine equipment and small infrastructure call aims to raise the performance of the marine research and innovation community across all areas by enabling the acquisition of specialist equipment.
Minister Creed said, “The range of projects funded by the Marine Institute through the marine research measure shows that Ireland’s marine researchers are carrying out cutting edge research to tackle national and global societal challenges. This funding builds on the national research capacity established through previous initiatives such as the Sea Change Strategy. It is helping to deliver on ‘Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan – Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth’ by investing in researchers and organisations that are developing expertise and networks to address national policy objectives.”
The Minister continued ‘With our strategic location on the edge of the Atlantic, we are investing in key projects at the cutting edge of ocean research. During 2016, I am delighted that €10.7 million was awarded by the Marine Institute through the Marine Research Measure. This was a significant increase in the level of investment in marine research in recent years. The investment reflects both the opportunities the ocean presents as well as the huge responsibility we have to understand and protect the ocean, which we know is a key life support system for our planet. The funding supports a total of 32 research positions, including 20 marine research jobs announced in January by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’.
Also speaking at today’s event Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute stated, “These projects provide tangible benefits to Ireland’s marine economy and the sustainable development of our ocean wealth. They are examples of the appropriate targeting of resources designed to yield smarter and better utilisation of our valuable natural resource.”
Full details of the projects which have been successful in obtaining funding are given below
Among the projects awarded funding through the Marine Research Measure 2016 are the national Ship-time programme which gives access to the National Research Vessels, Celtic Explorer and Celtic Voyager; the establishment of a National Biodiscovery Laboratory; research on Ocean Acidification; and a project on the Valuation and Understanding of Ireland’s ocean economy.
The National Marine Biodiscovery Laboratory received €0.9m funding, awarded to a consortium led by National University of Ireland Galway, and including University of Limerick, and University College Cork, to expand and run the National Biodiscovery Lab at the Marine Institute, Oranmore. The consortium brings together six of the country’s leading researchers in this field across a range of disciplines to explore bioactivity from marine resources. The researchers will be looking to nature, exploring the depths of the ocean, to discover and identify useful bioactivity in marine organisms. The aim is to identify and isolate bioactive properties (for example, antibacterial or potentially anti-cancer agents), produced naturally in the most extreme deep sea environments, so that they can be manufactured to produce ingredients for functional foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The Marine Institute’s Ship time programme which provides access to the national research vessels, the RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager was allocated €3m in funding for a range of surveys, including research to develop evidence-based advice to inform Government policy, third-level institute’s research projects across a range of disciplines, as well as a unique training programme, Smart Sea School, which gives undergraduates access to scientific training at sea on Ireland’s national research vessels, and other research vessels. Smart Sea School is run in partnership with GMIT and leading researchers from a number of HEIs and supported by the HEA.
The Socioeconomic Research Unit (SEMRU) at NUI Galway was awarded €523,000 over three years to strengthen the valuation and understanding of Ireland’s ocean economy, ensuring the timely availability of marine economic statistics, which provides an evidence base for policy and decision-making, economic forecasting and scenario planning. SEMRU has developed capacity and expertise in this area, since it was established through a Beaufort award in 2007, and is now participating in EU wide research on Marine socio economics and establishing Ireland as having leading expertise in this area. SEMRU works closely with other agencies such as Teagasc developing models to analyse the potential of Ireland’s marine bioeconomy.
An Ocean Acidification project led by NUI Galway was awarded €650,000 over four years. Dr Triona McGrath is the main researcher on this project with contributions from six leading Irish marine scientists. The project ‘Ocean acidification and biogeochemistry: variability, trends and vulnerability’ will address gaps in our current knowledge of the vulnerability of selected marine ecosystems in Irish waters to ocean acidification. This research is essential to understand how carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, how this is changing the chemistry of the ocean, and the potential impact of that changing ocean chemistry on marine organisms. This knowledge will contribute to the development of tools and strategies to address impact of climate change in Irish waters.
The Marine Institute contributed €300,000 to the Irish partners in the ‘BlueShell’ project which is part of the Marine Biotechnology ERA-Net (ERA-MBT), an EU collaboration of national marine research funding organisations. Dublin Institute of Technology and the Irish Fish Canners (SME) will receive €300,000 over five years to work with their consortium partners to develop high value products from mussel shells, previously considered waste material from seafood processing.
A number of projects were also funded that will benefit from the unique facilities and location of the Marine Institute’s Newport catchment research centre. This ‘Newport Research Cluster’ was the subject of an announcement by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D., when he visited the site on the 28th of January. The projects funded under the marine measure that were included in the announcement in January are:
- Burrishoole Ecosystem Observatory Network 2020 (BEYOND 2020) with € 1,999,994 grant aid awarded to Dundalk Institute of Technology.
- Unlocking the archive: using scale and otolith chronologies to resolve climate impacts with €576,241 grant aid awarded to Galway Mayo Institute of Technology
The Marine Institute also co-funded, through the Marine Research Measure, two Science Foundation Ireland Investigators awards in the fields of salmon genetics research and marine biodiscovery, announced last August. This included an award of €855,000 to University College Cork to co-fund a Salmon Genetics Research Programme led by Dr. Philip McGinnitty as the Principal Investigator (total award €1.71m). An award of €970,00 was made to NUI Galway as part of the Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme for biodiscovery research led by Dr. Louise Allcock as Principal Investigator on exploiting and conserving deep sea genetic resources (total award €1.94m). The Marine Research Measure funded other project based awards supporting national policy as well as a number of Cullen Fellowship awards.
The Marine Institute is Ireland’s national agency for marine research and development, and works closely with other national and international research funders to promote the value of Ireland’s unique marine resource.