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Minister opens £800,000 research fund

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has reopened the DARD Research Challenge Fund.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011

This is the second opportunity for small and medium sized businesses from the primary production sector to get help with research. This tranche of the Fund is worth £800,000 and is, managed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). It aims to encourage industry-led consortia to get involved in research projects, by providing grant of up to 50% assistance with research funding.

Launching the Fund, Minister O’Neill said: “The agri-food sector has showed remarkable buoyancy throughout the economic downturn and will be at the forefront of Executive initiatives to create economic growth in the next few years. But on the back of this economic resilience agri-food and rural small businesses cannot just sit back – they need to innovate to meet the fresh challenges both local and global that are arising every day.

“Investing in research is central to innovation but many, especially smaller businesses, find this very daunting. The Challenge Fund will help these businesses embrace R&D as a means of improving their competitiveness and sustainability. This second tranche of awards is worth £800,000 to the industry and offers a further opportunity for stakeholders to innovate and maximise growth potential of local businesses.”

She added: “In 2010 the Fund awarded approximately £500,000 to four projects drawn from across the dairy, beef and pig industries. We hope that once again rural businesses will rise to the challenge and take this opportunity to use and benefit from the knowledge and expertise of public research establishments.”

Application packs for the Research Challenge Fund are available from 27 October 2011 by telephoning the Research Challenge Fund Team on 028 9052 5036 or by emailing The deadline for receipt of completed applications is 5.00pm on 4 January 2012.

Note to editors:

1. The Research Challenge Fund (RCF) is a key element of the DARD Evidence and Innovation Strategy, launched in July 2009. Full details can be found on the DARD website.

2. The key objectives of the Fund are to:

improve the competitiveness of rural enterprises and create wealth from the research base;
increase the number of rural enterprises engaging in effective research and development (R&D) - including those participating for the first time – and the level of private sector expenditure on R&D;
increase the level of collaboration between rural enterprises and the local, national and international research base; and
Increase collaboration and effective cooperation between rural enterprises.

3. Industry partners must be from the agri-food and rural sector and have manufacturing or processing capability or other rural economic activity in the north of Ireland. Research partners must be public sector research establishments. It is not essential for the research partner to be located in the north, but there must be a clear benefit to the north from the proposed R&D.

4. Only projects classified as industrial research or experimental development will be eligible for funding.

5. The budget for the Fund in 2012 is £800,000 and maximum funding available for any individual project is £250, 000. All projects will be expected to start on 1 April 2012.

6. Full details of the Research Challenge Fund, including how to apply, are available on the DARD website etc. Alternatively, applicants may contact the Research Challenge Fund team by emailing or at the following address:

Research Policy Branch
Room 359 Dundonald House
Upper Newtownards Road
Tel - 028 9052 5036

7. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.