Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has highlighted that investment in research was a key component to enable the local agri food sector to continue to grow.
The Minister was speaking as she reopened the DARD Research Challenge Fund, which provides funding for Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the primary production sector to support research and development.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development manages the Fund and will award grants of up to 50% for assistance with research, with a total amount of £1million available in the Fund for those businesses that want to get involved in research in 2013.
Minister O’Neill said: “I want to see a vibrant, sustainable agri-food industry and rural economy and I am convinced we can do this together if we have the right environment for innovation and research. This Fund offers up to £1,000,000 for research starting in 2013 and this presents a real opportunity for small and medium local businesses to use research to maximise their growth.
“Investing in research is central to innovation but many, especially smaller businesses, find this very daunting. The Research Challenge Fund helps to assist these businesses as they attempt to improve their competitiveness and sustainability by embracing research and innovation.”
She added: “I am very pleased that to date the Fund has already awarded approximately £1.37million to 11 projects drawn from across agri-food and rural sectors. We all know that businesses in the agri-food sector have been remarkably resilient during the current downturn and I hope that once again the sector will rise to the challenge and grasp with both hands the opportunities this Fund offers.”