Following the formation of the new Irish Grown Wool Council announced on April 5th, the stakeholders in the Irish Grown Wool sector are now pleased to announce the establishment of a Wool Research & Innovation Hub (“Wool Hub”) intended to provide research, development, and innovation support to farmers, sole traders, SME’s, enterprises, and all those operating in the wool sector who wish to make the best use of this natural Irish grown indigenous resource. The Circular Bioeconomy Cluster South West at Munster Technological University will host and coordinate the Wool Hub activities (www.cbcsw.ie/the-wool-hub)
The cluster works with companies to create collaborative opportunities for business to engage in the growth and development of Irelands bioeconomy across agriculture, waste-to-value and the marine sectors. Companies and primary producers are supported in the development of circular and sustainable business models and management systems. This accelerates R&D opportunities through partnering services, accelerator programmes, investor funding and new market connections.
The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine; Review of Market Opportunities for Irish Grown Wool Based Products 2022 report states that across the world, natural fibres are receiving attention for their sustainability and unique natural properties. Sheep’s wool is no exception and is one of the natural and renewable resources widely used in a range of applications due to its unique composition that makes it applicable to many markets including horticulture, packaging, insulation, textiles, cosmetics, filled products and composites.
Wool is currently seen as an undervalued by-product of lamb meat production in Ireland, and currently costs more to shear a sheep than would be received in revenue for the fleece. When additional costs, such as scouring (cleaning) the fleece are factored in, it makes for an uneconomic business model. Opportunities exist to develop a variety of products from sheep’s wool; however, research and technical expertise are required to fully support these development pathways. A dedicated panel of experts have merged to create the ‘Wool R&I Hub’ that will signpost:
- Collaborative RDI partnerships
- Access to mentoring services
- Knowledge transfer activities
- Funding opportunities
The purpose of the Wool Hub is to bridge the gap between idea and execution, through new product research and innovation, enhancing the perceived value of Irish wool and ensuring a fairer return to primary producers and added value across the entire value chain. The sector has been recognised by government as a growth area and strengthened further with the establishment of an all-island Irish Grown Wool Council (IGWC) to champion the Irish grown wool brand domestically and internationally.
Minister Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for Land Use & Biodiversity said:
“I am pleased to see the establishment of the Wool Hub for Research & Innovation. This Wool Hub will support the recently formed Irish Grown Wool Council and bring a focus on Wool Innovation, further examining the opportunities for value-added products made from wool ultimately adding value right across the supply chain from farm to end product.”
Minister of State Martin Heydon with special responsibility for research and development said:
“Wool has significant potential as a natural material in Ireland’s growing bioeconomy. The Programme for Government commits to investing in research in the agri-food sector, including the bioeconomy, and the funding my Department provides through its competitive, public-good funding streams is an important component in delivering on this.”
Eve Savage, manager at the cluster states
“There is now a unique opportunity for Ireland to accelerate research & innovation to develop this undervalued indigenous material. The Wool Hub is an essential parallel initiative to support the IGWC. Our members are already identifying collaborative opportunities to address a range of sectoral challenges. Expertise areas that the Wool Hub panel bring to the table include; design, innovation, processing technologies, biotechnology and textile innovation. We are keen to add to this skill set and as such invite additional collaborators to join us.”
Dr. Helena McMahon, Director of the Circbio Research Group at MTU states:
“The Wool Hub is a hugely positive development and clearly demonstrates the transformative impact that sustainable, green and circular technologies and business models can deliver into traditional heritage sectors. With the increasing demand for climate smart products this initiative has enormous potential to create highly innovative products setting Ireland apart as a leader in wool biobased product innovation.”
The Circular Bioeconomy Cluster at MTU is delighted to host this All-Island initiative, the involvement of 5 Universities and enterprise support agencies showcases the strong ethos of collaboration across the Higher Education in Ireland and look forward to the success ahead.
Wool Hub panel members include:
Munster Technological University
Technological University of the Shannon
Atlantic Technological University
University of Ulster
University of Galway
National College of Art & Design UCD
The Agile Executive
Wool In School
Irish Green Building Council