€2 million in research funding announced by EPA- Putting knowledge into action on Sustainability

Date released: Sep 01 2016, 10:23 AM

The EPA today announced that almost €2 million is to be made available to Irish researchers to conduct research in the area of sustainability.  This research will support evidence-based policy development, address key pressures on Ireland’s environment, deliver solutions for more efficient use of resources and help generate the knowledge and expertise needed to protect, manage and enhance Ireland's environment for the good of all its citizens.   

Highlights include:

  • 10 projects to be funded at a cost of approximately €2m
  • A project led by University of Limerick (UL) involving a number of industries which will look at the potential to recover valuable metals from industrial wastes. Another UL-led project will look at the role of Citizen-led communities in promoting sustainable urban development;
  • A project led by University College Dublin leading to better management and control of invasive species (plant invaders such as Japanese knotweed and Gunnera);
  • A project led by Trinity College Dublin assessing the values of pollination services to Ireland;
  • A project led by University College Cork, co-funded by Gas Networks Ireland, assessing the potential of incentives to promote the development of biomethane production using anaerobic digestion.

The EPA is the primary funder of Environmental research in Ireland. Ms Laura Burke, Director General EPA said,

“The EPA is pleased to announce these awards under our Sustainability Research Pillar and to continue to support research and innovation in key areas of environmental importance. The outputs from many of these projects will provide the foundation and evidence base for credible environmental decision-making.  In other cases, leading academics will work with communities and industry to develop solutions to key environmental problems such as invasive species, sustainable urban development and getting more value from waste.” 


Details on other recently funded projects are available on the EPA website.

EPA Research Programme 2014–2020

The EPA’s current Research Programme 2014–2020 is built around three pillars -Sustainability, Climate and Water.

Sustainability research is about achieving a high quality of life in a resource-efficient Ireland, and is organised under four areas: (i) Resource Efficiency; (ii) Health and Wellbeing; (iii) Socio-economics; and (iv) Natural Capital and Ecosystems.

Climate research is about informing actions on, and improving engagement with, the diverse challenges posed by climate change under four areas: (i) Management of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks; (ii) Ireland’s Future Climate, Its Impacts and Adaptation Options; (iii) Socio-economic and Technological Solutions; and (iv) Air Science. It also aims to identify and advance opportunities that arise from addressing these challenges.

Water research is about supporting relevant water policy and protecting our water environment, contributing to achieving excellent water quality in Ireland, and is organised under five areas: (i) Safe Water; (ii) Ecosystem Services and Sustainability; (iii) Innovative Water Technologies; (iv) Understanding, Managing and Conserving our Water Resources; and (v) Emerging and Cross-cutting Issues.

Accessibility and Open Data

There are currently over 200 active large scale research projects funded by the EPA.

Information about these projects can be accessed through the EPA Research project database.

Projects funded by the EPA Research 2014 – 2020 programme are required to comply with “Green” or “Gold” open access standards.

Research projects are required to upload all datasets and outputs onto the SAFER-Data Research Data Archive, where it is available for public viewing.

EPA Research also hosts a Database of Research Outputs: Projects, Literature and Environmental Technologies (DROPLET) for exploring information about projects which have been funded in Ireland on Water Research. DROPLET has been developed by the Environmental Protection Agency but includes projects from many other funders of environmental research in Ireland.

More information about the EPA Research Programme can be found by visiting the EPA Website where you can also sign up for the quarterly Research Newsletter. This provides news and updates about research calls, events and publications that are of relevance to researchers and other interested parties.

You can also follow EPA Research on Twitter @eparesearchnews for the very latest information and developments about the Research Programme and its projects.

Table 1. Successful projects to be funded by the EPA.

Principal Investigator(s) / OrganisationProject Title & SummaryBudget (€)

Lisa O'Donoghue University of Limerick

UL Press Office:
061 202219

Raw Materials Ireland (Circular Economy)

Ireland has primary industries in materials mining and processing and is a major exporter of zinc & alumina. Other key sectors that generate metal-bearing wastes include Irish pharmaceuticals, metal processing & incineration operations. Recovery of valuable metals from these metal bearing wastes is a significant opportunity that will turn a ‘waste’ into a ‘resource’ – a core objective of the new circular economy. This research, which links academia and industry, (Vedanta Resources, Rusal, Covanta and KMK Metals) will take a holistic approach to treating different types of metal-bearing wastes from different industrial sources by investigating hydrometallurgical processes that aim to cope with and manage variation in waste types from different industrial sources.


Stuart Harrad / Harald Berresheim
University of Birmingham / NUI Galway

NUIG Press Office:
091 495695

Furthering understanding of emissions from landfilled waste containing POP-BFRs and PFOS (FUEL)

A team involving researchers from University of Birmingham and NUI Galway will undertake a study into potential sources and releases of newly listed Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) into the environment. The group will screen leachate from Irish Landfills for these pollutants and will carry out detailed assessments of air, soil and groundwater at 10 landfills.  Ultimately, the FUEL project will provide robust, scientifically-credible data and a knowledge base that will permit Irish policy-makers to comply with its obligations as a signatory to the UNEP Stockholm Convention.


Bruce Osborne University College Dublin

UCD Press Office:
01 716 1681

Managing invasive alien plants in Ireland

Invasive alien species are one of the more significant pressures driving the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Ireland. This project will (1) review existing knowledge of the ecological impacts of plant invasions; (2) assess and monitor the outcomes of ongoing control/eradication measures that have been implemented by County Councils, National Roads Authority, and other local/stakeholder groups; (3) examine the impact of a selected number of invasive plant species in Ireland at the community level (above- and below-ground vegetation) and ecosystem level (changes in nutrient cycling); (4) assess the susceptibility of native communities/ecosystems to plant invasions, by assessing the competitive ability, germination phenology and reproductive strategies  of invasive alien and native plant species and (5) develop species-specific and habitat-specific sustainable control and  restoration measures. The research will focus on major plant invaders in Ireland, including Japanese Knotweed and Gunnera.


Bernadette O'Regan University of Limerick

UL Press Office:
061 202219

Sustainable voluntary communities: supports for sustainable environmental, social and economic development

This multi-disciplinary project focuses on the role of Citizen-led (Voluntary) Communities in motivating sustainable urban development (SUD).This research builds on previous projects funded by EPA and utilises our existing databases and international contacts. Research shows that active participation in Sustainable Voluntary Communities (for example: Tidy Towns) raises awareness and understanding of environmental issues and motivates citizens to alter behaviour and adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Compared with other EU states, Irish communities have been slow to embrace SUD, often citing lack of information/support. This project aims to increase their number/ambition and success by providing comprehensive support based on achievements elsewhere.


Jane Stout
Trinity College Dublin

TCD Press Office:

01 896 4685




POLLIVAL: assessing market and non-market values of pollination services in Ireland

Assessing and evaluating natural capital, and ecosystem services which flow from it, are key national environmental research priorities for the EPA and others, enabling integration of natural capital into decision-making processes and the sustainable use of natural resources. This project will provide a comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the market value of pollination services in Ireland using best-practice methods. Data gaps in terms of pollination dependency of Irish crops will be identified and filled. In addition, the project will deliver a method for assessing non-market values of pollination services, including supporting, regulating and cultural services, which has not previously been attempted. Finally, by investigating future drivers of change, including climate, policy and consumer behaviour using horizon scanning and scenario modelling, we can predict how values may change. By understanding and communicating the total value of key ecosystem services, such as pollination, the research team will develop a better appreciation of natural capital for policy and planning decisions at many levels and in several sectors.


Maria Lichrou / Colin Fitzpatrick
University of Limerick

UL Press Office:
061 202219

A Community Based Social Marketing Plan for Increased Participation in WEEE Reuse and Recycling (CollectWEEE)

Under the recast of the WEEE Directive, national targets for collection of WEEE have been substantially increased. Ireland will effectively have to double its WEEE collection rate by 2019 and current methods of collection will not be sufficient to do this. Using contemporary research on influencing sustainable consumer behaviour, the project (CollectWEEE) will deliver a detailed plan to enable Ireland to achieve these ambitious new targets. It will combine an extensive review of state-of-the art literature, to identify best practices and key stakeholders with multisite ethnographic research. This will involve observation, formal interviewing with stakeholders and informal conversations with members of the community in specific (WEEE-significant) settings, examining barriers involved in WEEE reuse and recycling practices. Rather than focusing on overcoming the “attitude-behaviour gap” and the inclusion of environmental criteria in individual consumer decision-making, CollectWEEE will examine the role that consumption practices, social networks, material infrastructures, and different forms of organisations play in enabling or discouraging WEEE reuse and recycling.

Brendan Flynn
NUI Galway

NUIG Press Office:
091 495695

EPIIC: Environmental Policy Integration - Innovation and Change

EPIIC (Environmental Policy Integration – Innovation and Change) is a one-year desk-study which will identify urgent pressures on integrated environmental policy across Ireland’s public administration system in key cross-sectoral areas (e.g. energy, emissions and climate change, waste, transport, agriculture, marine resources, public expenditure etc.) and examine the possibilities for environmental policy integration (EPI) to assist in addressing these challenges. EPIIC will examine the application of EPI in an Irish context, seeking - through specific case studies - to identify examples of good practice in the public administration system. EPIIC will use case studies focused on relevant government departments (two), state agencies (two), local authorities (two) and more general regional agencies (two). This study employs a comparative approach drawing insights from relevant EPI experiences in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This project will identify and assess the strengths and weaknesses of EPI considering the current state of the art in this area. A key focus will be upon EPI related to policy learning and innovation. EPIIC will take a focused look at reviewing the possibilities and opportunities for EPI to provide mechanisms and solutions for low-cost practical application to overcome challenges and barriers.


Jerry Murphy
University College Cork

UCC Press Office:
021 490 3000

The role of incentivisation in the development of biomethane production, using anaerobic digestion

Typically, final energy consumption in Ireland is comprised of approximately 40% transport fuel, 40% thermal energy and 20% electricity. Ireland has a viable plan to produce of the order of 40% renewable electricity by 2020 through wind power. However, the strategy to satisfy 12% renewable heat and 10% renewable transport is not as certain. Biomethane (or green gas) offers a solution to both of these sectors and delivers non-ETS emissions reductions. This desktop project will draw on the extensive expertise of two UCC research groups (the Bioenergy and Biofuels Research Group and The Energy Policy and Modelling Group) and Gas Networks Ireland to assess the potential of incentives to promote the development of biomethane production using anaerobic digestion. This proposal will assess three substrate types and three technologies (9 scenarios) to assess levels of incentivisation to allow commerciality. This project will be co-funded by Gas Networks Ireland.


Vivienne Byers/ Alan Gilmer
Dublin Institute of Technology

DIT Press Office:
01-402 7130

Beyond Neoliberalism; Values and Sustainable Consumption Behaviour
Recent moves by national and local policy makers have sought to encourage individuals to engage in a wide range of pro-environmental practices to address both discrete environmental problems and major, global challenges such as climate change. Theoretically, the field of behavioural management in environmental consumption is much contested. An approach that addresses the systematic, structural, and institutional perspectives on how institutions, through public policy initiatives, can develop and sustain change in behaviour towards sustainability in the future is sought. This review will consider the extrinsic values and more particularly the intrinsic values, of an individual’s motivation to act within the constraints and norms of institutions and wider society. Considerable debate continues regarding behavioural change and policy learning. The proposed research aims to explore ways to gain process understanding of the values and motivations that influence sustainable consumption behaviour in society. It also seeks to define the interplay of these societal paradigms with regard to their influence on an individual’s intrinsic and extrinsic values and motivations. This in turn will inform the development of a knowledge based framework for governance and ensure resilient sustainable policy development.
Ronan Foley, NUI Maynooth / Michael Brennan, Eastern & Midlands Regional Assembly

NUIM Press Office:
01 708 6160

Green and blue spaces and health: a health-led approach

There are multiple lines of evidence showing that individuals and communities near, and with access to, good quality environments have detectable health benefits. These benefits include stress reduction, higher levels of physical activity and better health perception. However, while the presence of green and blue infrastructure (GBI) has been shown to improve health outcomes, the literature lacks consensus as to the magnitude of effect of these elements, such as parks, water bodies, etc.,  on health.  Additionally, most research in this area appears to be “GBI led”, that is studies are performed where GBI data is available. This proposal is constructed from a "health-led" perspective, i.e. it seeks to examine the GBI/health interaction using sites of interest chosen based on existing health data, with subsequent characterisation of the GBI elements in these sites of interest. Drawing on international research and best practice, as well as the most up to date Irish health data, this research seeks to inform the discussion around environment and health by identifying areas of high and low reported health and then characterising configurations of elements contributing to these health outcomes.



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