The ministers for agriculture in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have jointly launched a €9 million initiative to support the development of an all-island bioeconomy sector.

The Shared Island Bioeconomy Demonstration Initiative was announced today (Wednesday, March 6) by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and the north’s Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Andrew Muir.

The initiative will pilot and demonstrate the bioeconomy across the island of Ireland, as a key objective of the Bioeconomy Action Plan 2023-2025.

The bioeconomy encompasses sectors that conserve, use, process, distribute or consume biological resources from land and sea including agriculture, horticulture, forestry, food processing, construction, and several others.

The shared island initiative will look to advance sustainable opportunities on an all-island basis from biomass produced from both land and marine areas through the development of higher added-value bio-based products and solutions, with “clear climate and environmental benefits”.

The new funding call is enabled by an allocation of €7 million from the Irish government’s Shared Island Initiative, with co-funding of €1.5 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, and €500,000 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland.

Cross border collaboration is a key requirement for applicants under this funding opportunity, and InterTrade Ireland – which is a government-funded body that provides support to cross-border businesses – is supporting both departments to aid applicants in their search for bioeconomy partners.

Applications for funding must be submitted through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s online flexigrant research portal by June 7.

Information events on the funding will take place on March 22 at Dundalk Institute of Technology, and on April 19 at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) research farm in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the initiative, Minister McConalogue said: “This new shared island initiative provides significant funding for primary producers, businesses, and innovators to work together to demonstrate new scalable, commercial bioeconomy solutions for the agri-food and marine sectors across the island of Ireland.

“A key action in Ireland’s Bioeconomy Action Plan 2023-2025 is the development of pilot demonstration facilities so that we can move the wide range of opportunities developed through research and innovation into real world settings. This €9 million programme…will be a crucial element in delivering on this,” the minister added.

His northern counterpart, Minister Muir, said that the initiative will “provide a great opportunity for innovators to cooperate with the aim of providing concrete and demonstrated examples of bio-based innovation to help drive economic, environmental, and social benefits as well as support climate change mitigation and adaption”.