Circular Economy European Cluster Exchange  

On the 18th May, the Circular Bioeconomy Cluster South-West at Munster Technological University partnered with the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation and the Italian based SPRING Cluster, to host a Knowledge Exchange networking event with a group of 35 Irish and Italian companies, researchers, and students at the Tom Crean Business Innovation Centre in Tralee.  

The main objective of the Spring Cluster is to develop the biobased industries in Italy, through a holistic approach to innovation, aimed at revitalising Italian chemistry in the name of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The purpose of this visit was to connect European clusters and discover common activities to enable European collaborative projects in the future to benefit both clusters’ members.  

The Spring Cluster delegation included businesses,  researchers and students. The Italian cluster members visiting were Roelmi, Fondazione CRF, sea Marconi, Biosphere and 2i3t. There were also researchers from Università di Napoli Federico II and Università di Torino and Master BioCirce students. Also, in attendance were members from the Circular Bioeconomy Cluster South-West: WAZP, Niskus Biotech, BHSL, Gas Networks Ireland, Eur Digital Village, SAMCO, Bord Iascaigh Mhaira, and FRS Network.  

On the day, to encourage knowledge sharing we heard from speakers sharing circular bioeconomy and climate related projects and initiatives.  

  • Dr. Helena McMahon, Head of Dept STEM, Director of Ireland’s Knowledge Centre on Carbon, Climate and Communities and Co-director of CircBio Research Group shared the story of MTU and the range of courses, facilities, and research centres at the institution.  
  • James Gaffey, Co-Director CircBio Research Group talked about the nationally significant projects he is leading to transform the Irish economy to a low carbon biobased economy, Biorefinery Glas, The Informbio project to name a few.  
  • Following this, Eve Savage, Programme manager – Knowledge Exchange and Communications: EU Projects, shared the story of the BIOBEC Project, developing a Digital Hub for Circular Bioeconomy and INGREEN, valorising food waste side streams into ingredients for the pharmaceutical industry.  
  • Catriona Power from Circular Bioeconomy Cluster South – West spoke about the cluster, its members, and the programmes set-up to benefit business members.  
  • Dr. Tim Yeomans, Manager of from Shannon ABC, then told us about cutting edge research, such as BioICEP, which they are working on to break down plastics and the partnerships Shannon ABC enable between businesses. The overall objective of the BioICEP project is to demonstrate a seamless sustainable route to a circular economy for plastics by developing an advanced energy, carbon, and cost-efficient waste plastic biotransformation into high market demand bioproducts and bioplastics. 

We than had the pleasure of hearing from Mario Bonaccorso, Manager of the Spring Cluster and all the work they do over in Italy with their 120 members. The cluster shared their vision for Italy’s bioeconomy be a significant contributor to the nation’s economy by 2030 and beyond. The cluster was established in 2014 and by 2017 the cluster had obtained legal recognition from the Prefecture of Milan. They talked about the Industrial Revolution – The Third Millennium, the shift from mechanical and analogue electronic technology to the digital electronic we use today. They shared how they aim to solve the major resource challenges we face such as global warming and rise in waste production, through the transition to circular bioeconomy from a linear economy. There is common understanding between the Irish and Italian clusters that potential of the bioeconomy will make economies more competitive internationally, create value-added jobs and enhance food security to name a few potential benefits of a bioeconomy.   

The Italian Cluster delegation also took part in site visits to two innovative companies from the region, BHSL and BioAtlantis. BHSL is part of the BHSL Holdings Group, an International Environmental Engineering Company focussed on Water Treatment Solutions and End to End ‘Wet Waste’ Treatment Systems recovering bio gasses, residual energy, and high value bio-actives and bio-fertiliser. BioAtlantis, produces sustainable technologies to enhance plant, animal and human health helping to reduce dependence on agrochemicals in crops and avoid the overuse of antibiotics in animals.