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UCC partnered in new €70 million research centres on climate and sustainable food

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD launches two new research co-centres. Image credit: SFI
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD launches two new research co-centres. Image credit: SFI

University College Cork (UCC) will play a leading role in two new €70 million research centres - the Climate+ Co-Centre, and the Co-Centre for Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems, to address global challenges in food systems and the environment.

The Co-Centres programme will bring together academics, industry and policymakers across the Irish Government, UK Government and Northern Ireland Government Departments. It is funded over six years, with up to €40 million from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) (supported by the Department of Further, Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science and the Irish Government’s Shared Island Fund), up to £17 million from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and up to £12 million through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and is co-funded by industry.  

The two new Co-Centres will formally commence activities on 1st January 2024, and will be funded to 2030.

The Co-Centre for Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems will develop environmentally and economically sustainable solutions to drive positive food systems transformation and achievement of climate-neutrality by 2050. The Co-Centre will unite world-leading researchers across Ireland and the UK to address specific challenges in sustainable food production, low carbon farming and achievement of healthy diets from sustainable sources for all. Built across 4 platforms – Food Safety, Nutrition and Health, Food Systems Data and Sustainable Food – the co-centre will bring together expertise from 16 institutions plus industry across diverse fields.

UCC female professor in Food Science

Professor Mairead Kiely (pictured), Nutrition Scientist leads the Nutrition and Health Platform and Professor Seamus O’Mahony, Food Scientist is leading in the area of Food Processing and Formulation. A team of scientists from the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences are working with colleagues in Microbiology and the Cork University Business School to conduct population focussed, as well as fundamental laboratory research, to identify and describe the multi-layered challenges and provide solutions to help everyone achieve a transition to healthy diets from sustainable sources.

Professor Mairead Kiely, School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, and Nutrition and Health Platform lead in the Co-Centre welcomes this unique opportunity to tackle the complex issues around food systems transformation. "By bringing together diverse expertise across the UK and Ireland, this co-centre will deliver real impact on the world stage. The research will inform public health policy and lead to product innovations that will help us lead healthier and more sustainable lives and protect the planet for future generations."

The Climate+ Co-Centre will be the home of research, innovation, and policy development across the interlinked challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and water degradation on the islands of Ireland and Britain. Dr Jean O’Dwyer, Environmental Scientist at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Environmental Research Institute will lead the Sustainable Communities and Livelihoods Research Challenge within the Climate+ Co-Centre.

Female researcher in a laboratoryDr Jean O'Dwyer, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Environmental Research Institute

"This is a pivotal and exciting time for climate change, biodiversity and water research in Ireland and Great Britain, bringing together some of our best and brightest to help tackle the grand challenges that face us all. The Climate+ Co-Centre represents a commitment to improving the state of our planet and striving towards a sustainable future. UCC has a strong background in environmental research which will be further highlighted and expanded through motivation, collaboration, and innovation over the duration of the centre and beyond," said Dr O’Dwyer.

Climate+ will bring together over 60 leading researchers from 14 academic partner institutions in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Their research expertise will facilitate fair transitions to Net Zero, reverse biodiversity loss, and restore water quality for a sustainable economy. Climate+ researchers will also provide urgently required solutions and pathways for sustainable and just transitions in land use for climate, biodiversity and water, seeking to deliver the solutions needed at individual and systemic levels, as well as providing the evidence-based tools to facilitate positive change. 

Professor John Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research & Innovation, said: "I would like to congratulate Dr Jean O’Dwyer and Professor Mairead Kiely, and collaborative partners in UCC and, across the UK and Ireland, on the establishment of the new research centres. Sustainability and Food Science research is embedded in our DNA at University College Cork, with a longstanding mission to deliver scientific excellence and maximum societal impact. Both research co-centres further demonstrate UCC’s global leadership in sustainability and food research."

The Climate+ academic partner institutions are Trinity College Dublin; Maynooth University; University of Galway; University College Cork; Dublin City University; University College Dublin; Atlantic Technological University; University of Limerick; Queen’s University Belfast; Ulster University; Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute; University of Reading; Newcastle University; UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Number of funded researchers: 64

The Co-Centre for Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems academic partner institutions are University College Dublin, University College Cork, University of Galway, Teagasc, Technological University of the Shannon, Technological University Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, University of Ulster, Sheffield, University of Leeds, John Innes Centre, University of Oxford, Chatham House, Queen's University Belfast, City University of London. Number of funded researchers: 68