Lero and Adapt researchers at the Innovation Value Institute (IVI) at Maynooth University will lead two sustainable digital and data research programmes launched by Minister Martin Heydon. The €7 million Digi+ and ENTRUST programmes, will focus on sustainable digital transformation and data and are funded by the European Commission under the Marie Sklowdowska-Curie programme. Digi+ is also co-funded by Lero and Adapt; both world leading Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres.

Lero’s Professor Marcus Helfert and Dr Zohreh Pourzolfaghar are to lead the almost €4 million Digi+ research fellowship programme, while Professor Helfert will also coordinate the ENTRUST doctoral network. Professor Helfert is a co-principal investigator with Lero and is Director of the Empower Data Governance Programme launched in 2021 and led by Lero in partnership with other SFI research centres Insight, Adapt and FutureNeuro.

Speaking on the announcement of the awards, Martin Heydon, Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development said: “I am delighted to announce Maynooth University has successfully been selected to lead the 7m €Digi+ and ENTRUST programmes in these two European research initiatives. I commend the Irish researchers involved for their success in these highly competitive research calls.  The research will contribute to Digital innovation which is fundamental to achieving sustainability in all its forms. Ireland’s agri-food sector has been making good progress in embracing technology and innovation in recent years. These awards highlight Ireland has an innovative, competitive, and resilient agri-food sector, driven by technology and talent.”

The Digi+ programme focuses on addressing the global challenges of sustainable digital and data ecosystems. Embedded within Ireland’s leading SFI-funded research centres, Lero and Adapt, and led by Maynooth University, it brings together a group of world-leading experts that will develop a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative research leaders, able to face current and future challenges aligned with EU’s Digital and Green Agenda. 

Ireland will benefit significantly from this cohort of 20 highly skilled Postdoctoral Researchers that the programme will fund. They will work towards advancing digital transformation practices, addressing vital areas such as new and innovative business models, accelerating digital and data skills, developing forward looking data governance and business models while ensuring alignment to the EU sustainable development goals.

Doctoral network, ENTRUST, brings together 16 leading European research institutions and will attract top-tier doctoral candidates who will emerge as leading experts in addressing current challenges around data governance in agriculture and farming. They will provide evidence-based research about the adoption of data technologies allowing farmers to securely unlock data potential. The Entrust programme will build towards a fair and trustworthy agri-data space that is aligned with the European Data Strategy and Green deal. This places Ireland at the forefront of agri data driven technology on an international stage.

Professor Markus Helfert, Director of the Innovation Value Institute, explains: “The cross-disciplinary focus on sustainable digital transformation and data will deliver significant positive impact on multiple sectors including agriculture, health, climate, fintech, construction and manufacturing. This investment will drive the co-creation of new ways of doing business, creating value and moving from ‘potential’ to ‘real’ benefits for companies and public sector organisations. At IVI, we are looking forward to working with our partners and prospective new partners to achieve these goals and advancing the digital and data research fields.”

Joe Gibbs, General Manager at Lero, congratulated the team involved in the two programmes, saying: “We are delighted to see Professor Helfert and Dr Pourzolfaghar continuing to lead in the area of digital and data research. The addition of 20 postdoctoral researchers under the Digi+ programme, in particular, will support Ireland’s growing reputation of excellence in this important area”.