The Institute of Technology, Tralee are participants in Europe’s first Digital Innovation Hub for a circular bioeconomy. The ICT-BIOCHAIN initiative, which has been funded to the value of close to €1 million under the Horizon 2020 Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking, a public-private partnership focused on the development of Europe’s bioeconomy, kicked-off in Brussels on the 28th of June 2018 and will run until May 2020. The project focuses on the development of efficient biomass supply chains for sustainable chemical production in bioeconomy regions across Europe. The Biobased Industries Consortium has established a target of 30% of European chemicals coming from biobased sources by 2030, and an increase in available biomass supply chains of 20% by 2030 to help achieve this. ICT-BIOCHAIN will play a key role in helping to realise these targets by developing knowledge around bioresource availability and the integration of ICT tools to improve their availability for production of biobased chemicals and products.
In 2016, the European Commission designated six regions across Europe as Model Demonstrator Regions for Sustainable Chemical production, that is chemicals produced from locally available biomass, waste or CO2. Three of these regions are represented in the ICT-BIOCHAIN initiative. Irelands Lisheen Bioeconomy Campus (represented by the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation) and Andalucia (represented by Junta de Andalucia) are test bed regions within the ICT-BIOCHAIN project, where work will be undertaken to evaluate bioresource potential and feedstock-specific ICT solutions. The Scotland Model Demonstrator Region (represented by Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre at University of Strathclyde) will transfer learnings and technologies for assessing bioresource potential on a local authority level, which can be used as input for regional bioeconomy strategies.
Bioeconomy is already worth almost €2.4 Billion to the EU Economy, and accounts for some 22 million jobs. Of the additional 700,000 jobs to be created in the EU’s bioeconomy by 2030, 80% of these will be in rural regions, offering a unique opportunity for sustainable rural development. In Ireland, the recent publication of a National Policy Statement for the Bioeconomy by Department of Taoiseach, the development of the SFI-funded Beacon Bioeconomy Centre, the Glanbia-led AgriChemWhey Flagship biorefinery and the Enterprise Ireland-funded National Biorefinery Piloting facilities at the Lisheen Campus, show the importance of this sector in Ireland’s transition to a low carbon competitive economy.
At Institute of Technology, Tralee, ICT-BIOCHAIN represents a collaboration between the Shannon Applied Technology Gateway and the Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID Gateway, bringing together both centres expertise in circular bioeconomy and technology development. IT Tralee is Ireland’s first Institute of Technology to participate in a BBI JU initiative. Other partners in the project include VTT Research (Finland), Fraunhofer IML (Germany), Irish Bioeconomy Foundation (Ireland), Junta de Andalucia (Spain, Co-ordinator), Coporacion Technologica de Andalucia (Spain), Sustainable Innovations Europe (Spain) and Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (Scotland).