Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) is to play a central role in the digital transformation of the agri-food sector in Europe.
EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan today (Monday 9 July) launched (subject to grant agreement) the first of nine regional clusters which will act as a one-stop-shop for two million farmers across the EU and the agri-food industry to access agri tech research and supports.
The €20m SmartAgriHubs project aims to build a pan-European network of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) and Centres of Competence in all 28 European Member States co-ordinated through nine regional clusters. The SmartAgriHubs project is a new way for farmers, advisors and agtech SMES to engage with research centres and research-active higher education institutions. As part of the project 80 new solutions will be introduced into the market. €6m has been set aside for open calls during the lifetime of the project.
As the co-ordinator for the UK and Ireland regional cluster WIT, which has developed smart agri expertise through its Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) research centre, will be the central point of contact for farmers, advisors, ag tech and agri-food companies who want to avail of technology solutions from across Europe to farming and business problems.
Speaking at a launch event were: EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan, Dr George Beers, Project Coordinator, Wagingen University & Research; President of WIT, Prof Willie Donnelly; Director of Research, Teagasc, Prof Frank O’Mara and Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Dr Ciarán Seoighe.
WIT President, Prof Willie Donnelly, founder of TSSG and a long time champion of smart agriculture welcomed the announcement. “The designation of WIT as a regional cluster lead is significant for Ireland. It puts us at the centre of agtech in Europe. WIT has been at the forefront of smart agri through our research centre TSSG. We are honoured to bring our twenty years expertise into becoming a one stop shop which will put agricultural technology into the hands of farmers, SMEs and agri-food organisations. We look forward to working in consultation with them on tech solutions available both locally and across the EU.”
EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan said: “The European Commission has recognised that we need to ramp up our efforts in relation to agri-innovation if we want to maintain our competitive advantage in this century. Agriculture needs to become smarter, leaner and cleaner, while maintaining our trademark EU commitment to high quality and safety standards. Projects such as SmartAgriHubs will lead the way, and I commend WIT for its central involvement.
“The Commission recently published its proposal for the next European budget 2021-2027, and it includes the most ambitious research and innovation programme ever. The Commission is proposing €100 billion for Horizon Europe – of which €10 billion is dedicated to the Food and Agriculture space: a breakthrough. I encourage Irish operators to keep a close eye on the calls for projects as they open. There will be enormous potential to do even more in the coming years.”
Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Dr Ciarán Seoighe said: “I am delighted to welcome this important EU-supported SmartAgriHubs project. Science Foundation Ireland has to-date invested over €57 million across 200 research projects in areas of significance to the Agriculture sector. With several SFI-funded research projects and SFI Research Centres working in the likes of precision dairy, bio-economy, data analytics and bioengineering, Ireland is establishing itself as a knowledge leader in the global SmartAgri sector. Innovation and collaborative partnerships are central to this, and clearly underpin this initiative being led by WIT. Science Foundation Ireland looks forward to working with all of the partners involved, as we move into an exciting new era of cutting-edge innovation, creativity and sustainability in agriculture.”
As the lead institute for research and innovation in agri-food in Ireland, Teagasc will play a central role in SmartAgriHubs. Teagasc, working with WIT, will lead two flagship innovation experiments in the project that demonstrate how technology can be used effectively in farming.
According to Frank O’Mara, Director of Research at Teagasc, “this is an exciting opportunity for Ireland, Teagasc and the other partners to step up our role in the application of digital technologies in Irish and European agriculture. The sector has great opportunity with the rising global demand for high quality food and nutrition, but also faces many challenges such as profitability, climate change, water quality, and must also compete with other sectors for the people talent needed for the sector. Agri-tech has an important role to play in realising the opportunities while overcoming the challenges. We have put agri-tech at the heart of our strategy and are delighted to be leading two of the 28 Flagship Innovation Experiments that will take place across Europe. We are looking forward to bringing our expertise and connections in this area to SmartAgriHub”
George Beers, Project Manager at the Wageningen University & Research and SmartAgriHubs Project Coordinator commented: “SmartAgriHubs will not only increase the competitiveness and sustainability of Europe’s agri-food sector. It will become the 4th industrial revolution that will strategically re-orient the digital European agricultural innovation ecosystem towards excellence and success. Together with our 108 partners we believe SmartAgriHubs will unlock the potential of digitization by creating a pan-European network of Digital Innovation Hubs, organize an inclusive ecosystem around them and foster them to achieve their full innovation acceleration capacity.”
DIHs in each region will have an adequate portfolio of mature innovation services through which farmers, advisors, agtech SMEs, can get access to the latest, knowledge, technology and expertise in a one-stop-shop.
To arrange an interview directly with Brian Foley, Industry Services Manager, WIT, phone: 087-2403694
Deirdre Mackey, Marketing Assistant, TSSG, 085-7846990
Photography areavailable from Maxwell Photography +353 1 830-8072, +353 1 830-7473, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
Please note this is subject to grant agreement.
Overview of Digital Innovation Hubs
The Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) project SmartAgriHubs aims to build a pan-European network of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) in all 28 European Member States. This network will comprise 140 existing DIHs and a further 260 new DIHs. SmartAgriHubs will leverage, strengthen and connect local DIHs and Competence Centres (CCs) to unleash the potential of digital solutions and realise the digital transformation of the agricultural sector in Europe. It will operate through a series of 28 Flagship Innovation Experiments (use cases) and it is expected that the open call will fund a further 70 Innovation Experiments during the lifetime of the project.
WIT (TSSG) will act as regional coordinator for the project in the Ireland / UK region. This will involve promoting and representing SmartAgriHubs in the region, identifying relevant events within and outside the region, identifying successful DIH’s and Innovation Experiments and promoting them in the project, promoting the open calls in the region, collecting information on the progress of Innovation Experiments in the region, acting as the first contact point for IE’s in the region, collecting information on the development of the DIH’s in the region and acting as first contact point for DIH’s in the region.
€6m has been set aside for open calls during the lifetime of the project. It is envisaged that there will be 3 open calls. 75% of the open call budget will go to SMEs and a further 10% to partners to support open call projects. It is planned to fund 70 new innovation experiments through the open calls
Waterford Institute of Technology
Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) WIT has more than 8,000 students, with education delivered from higher certificate to doctoral level. The Institute is ambitious for its students, for the city of Waterford and the surrounding region, and for Ireland and intends to be amongst the top 100 young universities in the world by 2030. As a step towards this goal the Institute expects to be designated as technological university (in partnership with Institute of Technology Carlow).
WIT has been hugely successful since its foundation in 1970 as a Regional Technical College, and acts as a catalyst for positive change in the south east and further afield. The Institute is known for its innovative practice and its close collaboration with innovative industry and commercial partners.
Since the 1990s the Institute has been engaged systematically in building its research capability and now is amongst the top-performing higher education institutions in Ireland in research. It attracts significant research funding in particular from the European Union and has internationally recognised research centres in a number of areas, including in Bio-Pharmaceuticals, ICT, and Advanced Manufacturing. The Institute’s researchers are widely cited and highly regarded internationally.
TSSG is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for ICT research and innovation. It carries out a wide spectrum of industry-informed research in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), particularly technologies enabling communications and information services.
Its four key prioritised technical Research areas include Mobile Platforms and Services, Data Analytics and Social computing, Adaptive Networks and services, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR). It creates economic impact by translating its knowledge base and innovation into leading edge products and services by continuing our engagement with Industry in collaborative R&D, knowledge generation and transfer.