The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Research and Development, Martin Heydon, T.D.  today launched a Call for Research Proposals under his Department’s updated competitive research funding programme. This is the first call under a restructured approach to research funding,  seeking projects across key thematic areas including climate and biodiversity; sustainable animal and plant health and production; agri-digitalisation and the bioeconomy; and safe, healthy food production and processing.

On launching this new Call the Minister commented “Research and innovation is absolutely critical if the agriculture sector is to prosper and respond effectively to the overarching challenges of our time.  This research programme will provide funding support to our top  researchers to develop solutions for our farmers, foresters  and food industry in areas such as competitiveness, sustainability and innovation.”

This new Call fully reflects the key strategic drivers both nationally (impending Agri-Food Strategy 2030) and internationally (EU Farm to Fork, Biodiversity & Circular Economy strategies of the EU Green Deal), and is designed to offer flexible and agile research opportunities to a wide variety of disciplines through a ‘systems-based’ approach.

The Minister added “This research call is also a significant commitment to  providing farmers and industry the tools and solutions they need to deliver on the ambitions of our new Ag-climatise Roadmap, published in recent days, and its goal of achieving a climate neutral food system by 2050. It is also the first call under the enhanced budgetary allocation I secured in Budget 2021 and which now stands at €18 million.’’

The Call will also create and disseminate knowledge to support resilience, not just in our agri-food system and the threats it faces, but the role it plays in enhancing biodiversity, providing ecosystem services, delivering wholesome nutritious food, and contributing to a sustainable circular bioeconomy. It will facilitate stakeholder engagement in the formulation and conduct of the research  promoting knowledge exchange that will generate benefit to industry, policy and citizen stakeholders.

Minister Heydon said, ‘‘that the thematic nature of this Call builds on the significant success of the Department’s recent research awards. In addition, by helping to build and maintain agri-food and related bio-based research capability and capacity in Irish research performing organisations, the Call will position Irish researchers to successfully compete for EU Research and Innovation funding opportunities under the new Horizon Europe programme.’’

Importantly, as part of the on-going North-South cooperation on agri-food research and innovation, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland, has teamed up with the Department to provide funding to enable three research performing organisations in Northern Ireland to participate in this Call.

Further Details

The deadline for proposal applications is at 28 February 2021 at 13:00.  All documentation in relation to this Call is available on: www.gov.ie/en/collection/9bd2a-research-and-codex/#news

Applicants are required to apply online through the Department’s Research Online Portal: dafm.flexigrant.com/

Up to now the Department has operated three separate ‘public good’ competitive research funding programmes covering agriculture, food and forestry. They are described briefly here:

  1. Food Institutional Research Measure (Food) aimed to develop technologies that will underpin a competitive, innovative and sustainable food manufacturing and marketing sector some of which can be exploited through more industry facing public support programmes.
  2. Research Stimulus Fund (Agriculture) aimed to support sustainable and competitive agricultural production practices and policies, and contribute to building and maintaining a knowledge economy and research capability in the primary agriculture sector.
  3. Programme of Competitive Forest Research for Development (Forestry) aimed to develop a scientific foundation and support for a sustainable, competitive, market orientated and innovative forest industry.

DAFM’s updated Competitive Research Funding Programme amalgamates the above three programmes into a single ‘public good’ programme with the same objectives. The update addresses recommendations made in the recently published D/PER-led Spending Review of DAFM’s competitive research funding programmes as well as the High Level Report on innovation for the food system undertaken as an action in Food Wise 2025. It will be rolled out through a suite of five strands – thematic, policy oriented, industry focused, international outreach and coordination support – each customised to the needs of those it is designed to serve. The five strands are:

Thematic Research Strand: Launched today and periodically in future, this strand will cover experimental research under five broad thematic, cross-cutting and mission-orientated approaches to key RDI challenges. The inclusion of ‘other eligible actors’ will be piloted with the aim to include the activities of ‘innovation intermediaries’ to support RPOs with the wider stakeholder knowledge transfer/dissemination activities of the project and encourage a multi-actor engagement in the projects. Co-funding with other agencies will continue as a feature of this programme.

International Outreach Strand: By facilitating participation in relevant competitive calls operated trans/inter-nationally, this strand will enable researchers in Irish RPOs to leverage expertise, data, and other infrastructure not readily available in Ireland and help embed them in multi country consortia that are better placed to compete under large non-Exchequer funded Calls.

Strategic Studies Strand: This strand is designed to provide a more flexible funding vehicle capable of addressing mainly policy issues more rapidly whilst still requiring scientific rigour.  It is proposed that the initial Call under this programme will be run on a pilot basis early next year and, if successful, will be rolled out through smaller, more frequently open Calls based on specific topics identified by DAFM to address immediate or short- to medium-term strategic/policy needs.

Industry Focused Strand: This will comprise two industry-oriented initiatives:

  • Research Plus, which aims to bring completed or near completed DAFM funded projects to a point where they are eligible for funding under programmes operated by other organisations in particular EI’s Commercialisation Programme.
  • Innovation Platform, will facilitate industry-led, higher TRL level, 5-year collaborative research with RPOs with mandatory industry co-funding of 30%.

Coordination and Support Activities: This strand will be used on an on-going basis to fund relevant miscellaneous ancillary coordination and support type activities relating to research undertaken by DAFM-funded RPO based researchers as deemed appropriate.