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Interview with Helena McMahon from Munster Technological University (MTU)

By July 4, 2023July 5th, 2023News

“BIObec Project It should create an EU-wide partnership to allow bio-economy stakeholders across the EU to access education, training, mentorship, and work opportunities”.

Dr Helena McMahon is Munster Technological University (MTU) principal investigator for BIObec. Helena is involved in a wide range of Circular Bioeconomy development activities in research & innovation, education, and enterprise at regional, national, and EU level. Helena is the director of Ireland’s Knowledge Centre for Carbon Climate and Community Action and co-director of the CIRCBIO research group at Munster Technological University (MTU). She is particularly interested in systems innovation, education in the bioeconomy sector, biobased product development and commercialization.

  • What are your expectations from the BIOBEC project?

BIOBEC is expected to create 6 Biobased education centers across the EU to meet industry needs and boost the contribution of the bioeconomy to society. The Irish BBEC will be fundamental in creating a common portal for accessing the stakeholders within the Irish bioeconomy sector including industry, research, and education. The Irish bioeconomy is in a period of high growth and BIOBEC should help to identify the gaps in education and skills required for the workforce as required to continue growing the sector.

  • What is the main role of MTU in BIOBEC?

Munster Technological University (MTU) is a multi-campus technological university with the overarching strategic plan of “OUR SHARED VISION”. Through this vision, MTU aims to build on past successes and to work together to become a truly great institution. There is a major emphasis on delivering outstanding learner education and experience to produce work-ready graduates. MTU is one of the partners in the BIObec project and will coordinate the “Irish BBEC” with the support of the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation (IBF). MTU has also been the lead partner in WP2 “Design through co-creation and operational specification of BBEC” and will be hosting the next partners meeting in Tralee on June 27th and 28th 2023.

  • Can you talk a bit more about the Irish BIOBEC?

The Irish BBEC will be Ireland’s flagship destination for bioeconomy skills & training, integrating all Irish bioeconomy stakeholders and providing a pathway to the programmes and resources of the European BBEC network. It will focus on several key areas: collaborating on European/National projects, developing industry partnerships, growing a sustainable Bioeconomy, skills, and talent pipeline, and community action initiatives.

The Irish BBEC will provide an online knowledge database for all Irish bioeconomy stakeholders to contribute to by identifying their needs, expertise, resources and areas of study. The Irish BBEC will coordinate and market the educational courses on offer at the various levels, acting as a coordination hub between existing educational institutions and their bioeconomy related offerings.

Key areas of the Irish bioeconomy that the Irish BBEC will focus on are Agriculture, Food and Marine.

  • What are the main benefits that BIOBEC could provide to society and what field do you think will be most impacted positively?

One of the key areas where the BIOBEC project could contribute to society is the development of a certification scheme for bioeconomy-based education programmes, to boost their profile with industry partners and ensure compatibility across EU programmes, allowing people to study and work in different EU countries depending on where the demand in the sector lies. This will also allow technical experts from one country to share their knowledge with other regions which may not have the same level of expertise in a particular field.

  • What do you think will be the main outcomes of the BIOBEC project?

The BIOBEC project will create the 6 regional BBECs and provide a common strategy across Europe for further replication and rollout of BBECs in other regions to further upscale access to bioeconomy knowledge and advance the development of the bioeconomy skills and talent base across Europe which will further boost the growth of the bioeconomy and drive innovation. It should create an EU-wide partnership to allow bio-economy stakeholders across the EU to access education, training, mentorship and work opportunities. The BBEC also aim to progress new ways of learning and accessing education and knowledge access and increasing the flow of expertise from leading Universities across Europe.

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