Dr Helena McMahon
Academic Collaborator, BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre,
CIRBIO Research Group Munster Technological University
Prof Nick Holden
Deputy Director of BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre,
School of Biosystems and Food Engineering, University College Dublin
Getting Ireland’s population and workforce up to scratch on sustainability practices and technology eases the transition into a bioeconomy and a carbon-neutral future.
Developing a robust bioeconomy that supports circularity requires preparing society and the workforce for sustainable changes. “It’s a very broad, combination of actions,” says Professor Nick Holden. “It’s not only the technology but also the cultural and social issues that go around it.”
Growth potential of the bioeconomy in Ireland
The bioeconomy brings ‘exciting’ new employment opportunities to Ireland, says Dr Helena McMahon. “The bioeconomy employs, on average, 8% of the workforce across Europe,” she adds.
“In Ireland, it’s much higher than that given that we have a nature-based economy as well as strong agricultural, marine and forestry sectors. There should be more than 1 million green jobs in Europe by 2030, and we have huge potential to capitalise on that kind of growth.”
There is an extensive amount happening to develop the bioeconomy in Ireland already. BiOrbic, Ireland’s national bioeconomy research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland is leading the way in this regard. Their mission is to enable a vibrant, sustainable, circular bioeconomy in Ireland through research excellence, innovation and the development of future bioeconomy leaders. The Centre unites leading bioeconomy researchers and innovators from across Ireland’s universities, with experts from industry and wider society in order to work together, to address key sustainability challenges.
A core priority of the Centre is to engage, involve and empower the public and societal actors as part of a co-creation process. Embracing the bioeconomy requires a widespread understanding of its concepts and a willingness to integrate them into daily life. “Transitioning isn’t something you impose on people, it’s something you do with them,” insists Professor Holden.
There should be more than 1 million green jobs in Europe by 2030, and we have huge potential to capitalise on that kind of growth.Dr Helena McMahon
Skills to keep up with innovation
Preparing the workforce is also an important step for widespread bioeconomy development. BiOrbic is working in partnership with mostly indigenous companies to develop new cutting edge technologies and processes, and make sure they have the skills, talent and knowledge to implement these innovations.
“That talent pool that we’re creating is an important part of what we’re doing for the transition,” says McMahon. “What’s happening is innovation is moving quickly, and some companies don’t have the teams that can deliver on these innovations and new ways of working. We’re working to upskill and create new sustainability professionals that can help them transition to more sustainable ways of working.”