Marine Biotechnology in Ireland

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UPDATED August 2016

Overarching science strategies, plans and policies

  • Ireland’s national research agenda is set-out in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, published in 2006.[1]
  • The major influence on Ireland’s marine biotechnology strategy is Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007- 2013. Originally published in 2007, Sea Change remains influential in defining the strategic direction of Irish marine research.[2]
  • Other related policy and national strategies include,
  • Food Harvest 2020 is a plan for Ireland’s food sector. This Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine strategy sets the vision for Ireland’s food sector, including marine foods and establishes performance targets.[3]
  • Food Research Ireland is the strategic research agenda which supports the goals of Food harvest 2020, including a dedicated strategic research agenda for marine origin food materials.[4]
  • The report from the Research Prioritisation Steering Group, defines national priority research areas. Marine biotechnology research is relevant to research themes in Food for Health, Sustainable Food Production and Processing, Therapeutics, Processing Technologies and Novel Materials.[5]

Research funding schemes and programmes

No dedicated funding stream to support marine biotechnology research exists in Ireland. Different agencies provide funds for varying levels of research activity from basic to applied, all of which are awarded on the basis of open competition.

  • Science Foundation Ireland implements a range of funding initiatives to support research at various levels. Possibilities exist for researchers in marine biotechnology related areas to apply for funds from SFI.[6]
  • Specifically oriented to food research, including marine foods related research is the Food Industry Research Measure (FIRM) implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.[7]
  • Enterprise Ireland provides in-company research and development support for firms in most industry sectors. Significant emphasis on encouraging collaboration between industry and the higher education institutes is a feature of EI funding programmes.[8]
  • The Marine Institute through its management of a national marine research funding programme established under a National Development Plan provided dedicated marine research support.[9]
  • The Irish Research Council operates research funding initiatives which support early stage researchers at Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral levels to engage in exploratory research.[10]
  • The Higher Education Authority manages an array of programmes designed to enhance the research capabilities, capacity and infrastructure of Ireland’s higher education institutions.[11]
  • A database of funded projects is available [12]

Research priorities for marine biotechnology research

Objectives set within Sea Change provide insights to marine biotechnology related research priorities.

  • Create a strong, interdisciplinary capability in the utilisation of marine biodiversity, using novel high-throughput techniques, for the development of drugs, therapies and biomaterials.
  • Develop core research capabilities and teams in taxonomy, natural products chemistry, chemogenomics and bioinformatics.
  • Develop capabilities for the isolation and identification of novel chemical compounds or proteins for use by the medical device industry (e.g. adhesives and biofilms).
  • Create science-based capability to support development of opportunities in functional foods based on marine raw materials, and develop strong synergies with research and development programmes in the seafood, food and health sectors.
  • Develop opportunities for participation in internationally funded programmes.
  • Create a strong, interdisciplinary research capability in the identification and utilisation of marine biodiversity as a source of materials for use in functional foods.
  • Develop capabilities to process marine based materials for use by the functional food sector.
  • Create a new research capability in marine functional foods linking indigenous and multi-national food and pharmaceutical industries with researchers at state and third level research institutions.
  • Develop a screening programme for potential seaweed products (including nutritional and biochemical analysis) across the range of candidate species.

Strategic documents

Links to the main strategic documents are given above.

Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities / initiatives

The Marine Institute is responsible for coordination and the provision of support, including policy advice, for marine biotechnology related research. In respect of research infrastructure, the Marine Institute manages a fleet of research vessels [13]. Additionally, Irish universities and institutes of technologies as well as public research institutes maintain an array of research equipment, some of which is relevant to marine biotechnology. Institutions with significant marine biotechnology related research capabilities include University College, Dublin; the National University of Ireland, Galway; University College, Cork; Limerick University; Tralee Institute of Technology; Waterford Institute of Technology; Cork Institute of Technology; Limerick Institute of Technology and Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Links to each of these institutions[14]. Teagasc Ireland’s agriculture and food development authority, leads the NutraMara functional foods programme and maintains an extensive research infrastructure. [15]

  • In 2012, Ireland operates 2 local/coastal vessels from 15m to 31.4m and 1 global vessel of 65.5m registered at the European Research Vessels Infobase [16]
  • In 2012, Ireland maintains about 3 large marine research equipments registered in the European large Exchangeable instruments database [16]
  • Key aquaculture experimental and research facilities in Ireland include
  • Freshwater hatchery (Marine Institute)
  • Martin Ryan Institute Carna (National university of Ireland)
  • Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station
  • Aquaculture and Fisheries Development centre (University College Cork, department zoology, ecology and plant science)

Major initiatives

Major initiatives which incorporate, or have links to marine biotechnology based research include

  • NutraMara – a marine functional foods research programme.[17]
  • The Beaufort Marine Biodiscovery Project.[18]
  • The Beaufort Fish Population Genetics project.[19]
  • Food for Health Ireland.[20]

Trends and observations

Strategy on Marine Biotechnology: Ireland has a national strategy on marine biotechnology, as an element of an overall marine research strategy (Sea Change), focusing on biodiscovery and functional foods/neutraceuticals. A recent broader national research prioritization exercise includes marine functional foods as part of a ‘Food for Health’ priority and opportunities marine biodiscovery research within the ‘Therapeutics’ priority. Links between marine biotechnology and other priority areas also exist.

Programs on Marine biotechnology

There is no distinct (i.e. ‘ring-fenced’) funding program for marine biotechnology, but marine biotechnology can be funded as part of the funding programmes of a number of funding agencies, ranging from the basic science (Science Foundation Ireland), to specific marine programmes (Marine Institute) and industry-focused programmes (Enterprise Ireland).


The Marine Institute operates a national marine research funding programme. From a total annual budget of €8-10M for this programme, spending on marine biotechnology research (Marine Biodiscovery and Marine Functional Foods) accounts for approximately €1.5M/annum. Additional investments from other national funding agencies (e.g. Department of Agriculture, Food and marine; Science Foundation Ireland) amount to approximately €0.5M/annum. Irish researchers are very active in FP7 funded marine biotechnology projects, including marine biofuels.



This country profile is based on available online information sources and contributions from various country experts and stakeholders. It does not claim to be complete or final, but should be considered as a dynamic and living information resource that will be elaborated, updated and improved as more information becomes available, including further inputs from experts and stakeholders. The information on this page is based on information initially compiled by the CSA MarineBiotech Project (2011-2013) and updated by the Marine Biotechnology ERA-NET (2013-2017).