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Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn opens Teagasc Nutraceutical Research Facility

To launch a high-tech, state-of-the-art research facility at this time demonstrates faith – faith in the future of the Irish agri-food sector and faith in Ireland’s talents in research and science as a springboard to growth and jobs.

Those were the words of the EU Commissioner, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn at the opening of the Teagasc Nutraceutical Research Facility, at Ashtown, in Dublin. "It demonstrates a keen understanding of the vital role that investment in research and innovation can play in tackling Europe’s economic problems," she said.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: "The agri-food industry was at the cutting - edge of innovation before the word 'innovation' became part of the language of economic recovery. This is the sector that brought us plant sterols several years ago. I think it is fantastic that if I need to, I can reduce my 'bad' cholesterol levels through diet rather than having to take medication."

"The future of functional foods will depend on continued advances in food science and developments of innovative technologies. In 2006, the European market for functional foods was worth around six billion euro, the third largest after Japan and the United States. Experts predict that the global market for functional foods will grow in value from $78 billion in 2007 to $128 billion in 2013. It will account for 10 per cent of the overall food and drink market. This represents enormous growth and huge potential for producers in this sector."

The Commissioner spelt out the importance of the agriculture and food industry to Europe. "The broader European bio-economy, encompassing agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, chemicals and biofuels, is worth nearly two trillion euro and provides around 22 million jobs in Europe, 12 million of these in agriculture alone. The Irish food and agricultural sector is very well placed to capitalise on the immense opportunities available in this massive sector of the European economy," she said.

"Under the 6th and 7th Framework Programmes, the European Union has invested 260 million euro in research on food and health issues alone, and I encourage Irish researchers and companies to explore the opportunities presented by the Research Framework Programme. Teagasc has proven to be a major player, participating in 51 projects with funding of around 10 million euro from the 6th and 7th Research Framework Programmes."

In her concluding remarks Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: "I am confident that this nutraceutical facility will make a substantial contribution to efforts to improve human health, the quality of life of our European citizens and the competitiveness of the European food industry."

At the opening the Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle said: "Teagasc has built the capacity for food innovation on a foundation of research excellence. Ireland’s ability to grow out of its current economic difficulties and build a successful future depends on increasing levels of innovation across all aspects of Irish enterprise. The convergence of the agri-food sector with key enabling technologies, such as nanotechnology, computer science, life sciences and robotics, presents tremendous potential for transforming food and non-food production during the next two decades."

Professor Boyle continued: "Science, technology and innovation (STI) will enable agriculture to expand beyond food and feed to include bio-materials, bio-energy and bio-pharmaceuticals, creating products that can compete on the basis of quality, safety and environmental attributes. The challenge is to drive the transformation of the agri-food sector into a knowledge-based bio-economy that fully embraces new technologies to create value-added outputs in an environmentally sustainable manner."

"The Teagasc Food Programme has pursued a particular policy of innovation and technology transfer with the aim of bridging the gap between public research and industry. The essence of this strategy is the recognition that primary research information is not the end, but the beginning of a process, which continues until the usefulness of that information is established," he said.