€1.1 Million Empower Eco Project to Mobilise Next Generation of Green Enterprise Innovators and Create Jobs.

Lough Boora, Co Offaly
Lough Boora, Co Offaly

A new economic and environment partnership led by AIT - LIT is expected to mobilise a new generation of green enterprise innovators and stimulate regional job creation.

The Empower Eco project, which recently received a €1.1 million investment from the EU Just Transition Fund and others, will create 100 jobs over the next two years.

The project will achieve this by creating new, sustainable opportunities that will positively impact those most affected by decarbonisation, their communities, and the local economy.

Following a “hub and spoke” model, Empower Eco will deliver green-enterprise opportunities through a central innovation hub in Lough Boora, Co Offaly.

The project will see the development of “living laboratories” and testing facilities in situ by 2022, with further test beds dotted across Ireland.

The goal is to create a “defined ecosystem” from concept right through to products and services, where “we can encourage and train eco innovators and environmentalists,” Professor Neil Rowan, one of Empower Eco’s chief architects, explained.

“Through Bord na Móna and other partners, we’ll develop more test beds to provide upskilling and training on low carbon transitioning right through to green deal innovations.”

Professor Neil Rowan

“Through Bord na Móna and other partners, we’ll develop more test beds to provide upskilling and training on low carbon transitioning right through to green deal innovations.”

The Lough Boora hub will act as a sustainability business accelerator for high potential scale-ups in bioplastics, nutraceuticals, high-added-value agri-food and other high potential natural resource areas.

One such innovation, due to be launched in 2021, is a “Food for Good” range. Derived from the Irish peatlands, the range will include a bell heather honey and the development of exotic gourmet mushrooms in agroforestry.

According to Professor Rowan, who is the director of the Bioscience Research Institute at AIT, the unique conditions of the Irish peatlands give rise to powerful medicinal qualities and make it an ideal “future factory for nutraceuticals.”

“Plants and herbs are one of the most climate adaptive types of vegetation, but the peat itself can be subjected to extremes of PH and drying and wetting. These stresses can produce extremely interesting bioactives,” he explained.

“Many of the products that could be produced from stressed peatland would have superior qualities due to the stress responses from plants and herbs and the nature of the pollen collected.”

“The projects’ early success could see it identified as a flagship project for the RUN-EU network - of which AIT and LIT are founding members – due to its ability to impact on and add value to citizen’s lives.”

Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, the president of Athlone Institue of Technology

Empower Eco is expected to benefit ex-Bord na Móna workers, the unemployed and underemployed who will be trained in biodiversity, design thinking, food production and employed through the social enterprise.

Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, the president of AIT, called the project a “sustainability imperative focused on using the natural world in clever ways to meet human needs” and said it would make the region a hotspot of eco innovation, collaboration and investment.

He added that Empower Eco is an “ambitious” and “transformative” project for AIT and LIT as they transition to becoming a new technological university.

The projects’ early success could see it identified as a flagship project for the RUN-EU network - of which AIT and LIT are founding members – due to its ability to impact on and add value to citizen’s lives.

If successful, Empower Eco will become the first regional hub for eco sustainability across the European network.

Dr Michael Brougham, Enterprise Ireland’s regional director for the Midlands, Mid-East and West, called Empower Eco an “exciting and far-reaching” project and said he expects it to have a significant impact on SMEs throughout Ireland and Europe.

Latest News & Events