Innovation for a Green Economy

Date released: Jun 29 2009

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is laying the foundations for a greener economy through active support for environmental research and innovation”,
said Dr Mary Kelly, EPA Director General, at the launch of an EPA report entitled Innovation for a Green Economy - Environment and Technology: A win-win story. 

The report outlines some practical outcomes in the areas of environmental technologies and innovation from the investment made to date by the EPA through its Science, Technology, Research and Innovation (STRIVE) programme. It also provides a roadmap showing where further progress is required nationally to meet the environmental and economic challenges ahead. The EPA sees a strong need to continue to prioritise environmental research and innovation investment with the aim of:

  • Supporting the continued development of the environmental goods and services sector;
  • Contributing to environmental protection by delivering applicable and relevant solutions, information and knowledge;
  • Supporting research and the integration of eco-innovation into all relevant sectors.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Kelly said,

“While Ireland is facing unprecedented economic challenges, it is also the case that significant environmental challenges remain.  The EPA STRIVE programme addresses both sets of challenges by improving the delivery of positive environmental outcomes while fostering a strong innovation culture, particularly in the environmental technologies area.  Researchers and businesses are developing technologies that will deliver environmental benefits while improving competitiveness. We are confident that progress in this area can position Ireland at the forefront in one of the most rapidly growing international markets.”

The EPA STRIVE programme provides two types of support: firstly, support for researchers and innovators in the environmental technologies sector, and secondly, support for businesses participating in its Cleaner, Greener Production Programme. 

The environmental technologies’ sector is one of the fastest growing markets internationally.   Since 2005, the EPA programme has funded in the region of 200 new researchers and innovators based in universities and industry.  The report profiles several successes and impacts of research and innovation undertaken to date.  These include high-value products from waste, energy from sewage treatment, smart filters that can remove metal ions from water, pollution sensors and a sustainable, ecological high-performance computer.

A survey of 18 large-scale projects funded by the EPA in 2005-2006 found that the research investment had led to wider benefits including:

  • the filing of five patents with seven additional patents in preparation,
  • nine non-disclosure agreements,
  • one licence agreement,
  • one new spin-off company.

This return on investment compares very favourably to similar investments elsewhere in the EU and in the USA.

Dr Kelly said,

“A key role for the EPA has been to identify environmental issues by way of our monitoring programmes.  Through STRIVE we can use our scientific expertise to target research at specific issues and resolve the root causes of our environmental challenges.  Continuing to fund and strengthen Ireland’s research and innovation capacity can enable Ireland to compete in international markets without compromising the quality of our environment.”

The Cleaner Greener Production Programme supports a wide variety of existing businesses – ranging from hotels to the pharmaceutical industry – so that they undertake their activities in a more environmentally friendly way, by reducing pollution and their use of energy and other resources.  This provides win-win outcomes for business and the environment, and, in present circumstances, can form the basis for improved competitiveness. 

Mr Larry Stapleton, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Assessment, explained,

“The Cleaner, Greener Production Programme has yielded a wealth of practical experience having first been developed on a pilot basis in the mid-1990s. Our aim is to ensure that cleaner, greener production and eco-efficiency become the established norm in Ireland.  This programme is competitive and successful and was highlighted as an Exemplar Programme in a recent European Commission review of Eco-Innovation.”

Download the report Innovation for a Green Economy - Environment and Technology: A win-win story from the EPA website

Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)

Note to Editors:
EPA STRIVE programme:
The EPA Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment Programme (STRIVE) employs a strategic and targeted approach to protecting and improving the natural environment through the provision and accumulation of scientific research and knowledge. The programme is funded through the National Development Plan and the EPA administers this funding on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The programme has placed a particular emphasis in environmental technologies and to position Ireland as a leader in this field by building capacity, while simultaneously contributing to environmental protection.

Environmental technologies market:
Environmental technologies are cleaner and resource-efficient technologies that can decrease material inputs, reduce energy consumption, recover valuable by-products, minimise waste disposal problems, or some combination of these. 

Such eco-innovation is regarded as a major opportunity for the EU economy.  In the EU the sector currently employs 3.4 million people and turns over €227 billion annually.  On a global scale, it is anticipated that the environmental technologies market will double from its present level to reach €2.3 trillion by 2020.

Cleaner Greener Production Programme:
In addition, since 1997, the EPA has through its Cleaner Greener Production Programme committed over €7 million to 89 organisations. Results from most recent CGGP investment between 2005 and 2008 clearly demonstrate that Cleaner Greener Production brings both environmental and economic benefits to businesses. From an initial once-off investment by the EPA of €1 million, participant organisations have leveraged more than  €1.6 million cost savings per annum, along with more than 250,000 tonnes per annum reduction in water usage and wastewater arisings and 660 MWh per annum energy reduction.