A MULTI-million-pound cross-border research centre for renewable energy projects launched in Belfast will see the recruitment of more than 30 students, some from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) in marine and bio-energy disciplines.

The €9.7 million (£8.2m) centre – named after the late Professor Ian Bryden, who spent more than 30 years working in energy and hydrodynamics before his death in 2016 – could see Scotland and Ireland blazing a trail in the field.

Professor Clive Mulholland, principal and vice-chancellor of UHI, said: “There is huge potential for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland to lead the way in marine and bio-energy.

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“We are proud to collaborate with our partners to develop cutting-edge research and we believe the centre is a fitting tribute to our much-missed colleague, Professor Ian Bryden.”

The Bryden Centre for Advanced Marine and Bio-Energy Research at Belfast’s Queen’s University has been funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Match funding has been provided by the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland.

The research includes the use of tidal power at ocean energy sites in the west of Scotland, Strangford Lough and the North Antrim Coast, as well as further potential for wave and tidal power generation in Donegal.

An abundance of natural energy resources, value in organic waste and the opportunities for the circular economy in the inter-regional area have all helped to drive the focus of the bio-energy research.

The European Union’s INTERREG VA is one of a number of programmes aimed at helping overcome issues that arise from the existence of a border.

Gina McIntyre, CEO of the SEUPB, said: “The project receives support from the EU INTERREG VA because it will positively address the low level of high-value sectors of research and innovation within this cross-border region, by creating invaluable industry-relevant research into bio-energy and marine-based renewable energy sources.

“Bringing together, for the first time, a number of partners on a cross-border basis across Northern Ireland, Ireland and Western Scotland, who have the capacity to deliver high-quality research and to create a strong economic impact in the future in this region.

“The project also aligns with the EU’s Energy 2020 agenda, specifically the renewable energy directive which requires that all 28 member states meet at least 20 per cent of their total energy needs with renewables by 2020.” Professor James McElnay, acting vice-chancellor of Queen’s, added: “Queen’s is already renowned for its research in this area through the Centre of Advanced Sustainable Energy.

“This partnership will continue to build and expand our expertise and help to develop the next generation of leaders in renewable energy research and education.”

Working through the Bryden Centre, Queen’s PhD student Nuala Carr is focusing on ensuring that marine renewable energy is accepted socially in communities across Ireland.

She said: “There are many challenges facing the marine renewable energy industry.

“Through the Bryden Centre I have been given the fantastic opportunity to work with both industry and government to enhance acceptability and boost renewable energy across Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“I will also have the chance to make a positive impact by assisting in the implementation of marine spatial planning – a process that brings together users of the ocean to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources sustainably.”