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16 Jan 2022

Kilkenny PhD student awarded UCD - UC Davis International Innovator Fellowship Programme in California

Róisín is from Kilmanagh

A Kilkenny PhD has been awarded a six-month International Innovator Fellowship at the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health in California. 

Róisín O’Sullivan, a student in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, is from Kilmanagh.

University College Dublin (UCD) and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing a new International Innovator Fellowship programme at the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH).


Roisin O'Sullivan

IIFH is a premier innovation institute focused on working with academic and industry partners to incorporate metabolic design into the foods and beverages that consumers enjoy every day allowing them to live happier, healthier, longer lives.

The International Innovator Fellowship will enable UCD graduate students to experience the food and health innovation taking place at UC Davis along with the entrepreneurship ecosystem in San Francisco through an immersive residency programme as part of their PhD studies. This year’s pilot International Innovator Fellowship will provide a part-funded opportunity for a UCD PhD student to travel to California, for a 6-month period, during which they will have the opportunity to carry out research in a UC Davis laboratory and complete a 3-month residency at a venture capital (VC) firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The successful student is Róisín O’Sullivan who is pursuing her PhD in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. Her research focuses on the authentication of milk and dairy ingredients using stable isotope ratio analysis.

The Fellowship programme will provide Róisín with an opportunity for experiential learning in food-ag-health-tech and an immersive VC opportunity. This experience will develop the business potential of strong research programmes, in readiness for transitioning ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Professor Dolores O’Riordan, Vice-President for Global Engagement, UCD, said: “The development of the International Innovator Fellowship demonstrates the value of our existing links to strengthen connections with California-based research and investors for future collaboration. This initiative is timely with the current heightened awareness of diet, health and pandemic recovery that has led to innovations to address today’s societal challenges.

Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, Innovation, and Impact, UCD, said: “Today’s agreement represents a very exciting extension of the lasting partnership between UC Davis and UCD. We already have well-established connections and collaborations, particularly in the areas of agriculture, food, and health, which both universities spearhead globally. Innovation is a priority for UC Davis and UCD, as it is for Ireland and the US in general. Today’s agreement reflects this and will provide the fellow with an outstanding insight into the role of venture funding in one of the most innovative regions of the world.”

The long-standing partnership between the two global academic institutions provides industry exposure and expert insights to leading food and health graduate researchers. It also provides potential for Principal Investigators (PIs) to develop stronger links and collaborative relationships between labs at UC Davis and UCD, while investors gain deeper technical insights into new portfolio directions.

IIFH Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine at UC Davis Dr Justin Siegel said: “IIFH pairs academic experts with industry investors to identify and advance innovations across the global food system. This International Innovator Fellowship takes our existing collaborative framework to the next level by placing an international student with a local venture capital firm, bringing expertise from their home institution, and offering a unique global perspective. We see this as an incredible opportunity for global cross-cultural collaboration to tackle some of the most pressing food system challenges and deploy breakthrough innovations that will improve human and planetary health.”

This unique training opportunity allows students to explore and build competency in entrepreneurship through technical, business and investment exposure between established partners.

UC Davis is currently ranked first in the US for agriculture, veterinary medicine, sustainability, and diversity. UCD is the number one university globally on citations per paper in the areas of agricultural science and food science and technology, based on Thomas Reuters InCitesTM 2009-2013 data among institutions publishing at scale.

Dr Paul Dodd, Associate Vice Chancellor for Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives at UC Davis said: “Building from a well-established collaboration between two of the top ranked universities in the world in areas of agriculture, food and health, this agreement stands as a significant development in global advancement of research, investment and education and a great example of further partnership between California and Ireland through the interaction of ‘the two UCDs’. The International Innovator Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for accelerating food system innovations through the inclusion of international perspectives and interdisciplinary collaborations.”

Dr Joanna Regulska, Vice Provost and Dean, Global Affairs, UC Davis, said: “University College Dublin has long been an important partner for UC Davis. The International Innovator Fellowship deepens our collaboration and opens possibility for exciting future research, innovation in food and health, and exchange. It also deepens connections between academia and industry in important ways.”

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