Irish researchers lead €2m EU project to boost bioeconomy education

26 May 2022

Anna, Liam and Kate, the children of BioBeo lead and UCD associate professor Tom Curran, holding biodegradable cups in 2019. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

With funding from Horizon Europe, the BioBeo project aims to increase awareness of sustainability and the bioeconomy among young people in 10 countries.

The EU is funding a €2m international project to develop an education programme for young people focusing on sustainability and the bioeconomy.

BioBeo, funded through the Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation in the EU, is coordinated and led by associate professor Tom Curran of the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Biosystems and Food Engineering.

The project aims to develop and deploy an education programme that will enhance societal understanding and engagement on circularity and the bioeconomy, centring around five themes: interconnectedness, outdoor learning, forestry, life below water, and the food loop.

“It is timely that we are launching the BioBeo project on education for the bioeconomy during the European Year of Youth, as we can build on the award-winning learning materials from our previous AgroCycle project,” said Curran.

The AgroCycle project was an EU-China programme focused on recycling waste from the agri-food sector. It was co-funded by the European Commission and the Chinese government and led by UCD.

“From our experience, we know that engagement with students in a creative way has the potential to have a significant impact on embedding sustainability and bioeconomy concepts in young minds and inspiring STEM-related careers for the benefit of society,” Curran added.

‘Sustainable future for the next generation’

BioBeo will be delivered by 15 partners across 10 countries, including Maynooth University and An Taisce in Ireland.

Dr Máire Nic An Bhaird of the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at Maynooth University will lead the education development work involved in BioBeo.

“A key focus is on embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals into primary and secondary education programmes across Europe, leading to an enhanced society-wide understanding of a sustainable future for the next generation,” she explained.

While the primary focus of BioBeo will be on circular lifestyles and behaviours, as well as a framework on society-wide engagement in bioeconomy policy, it will also address social issues such as gender bias, disadvantaged youths, migrants and people with additional needs.

“Given the unique position of Ireland as a global leader in sustainable agri-food systems, it is highly opportune that UCD and Maynooth University have come together in the leadership of this pan-EU bioeconomy project,” said UCD’s Prof Shane Ward, project partner.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic