The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mandated under the EPA Act, 1992 to prepare programmes for environmental research. The first programme outline was published by the EPA in a report called 'Environmental Research - Discussion Document on a National Programme and Priorities', 1995. This programme, called Environmental Monitoring, R&D sub programme, was funded under the Operational Programme for Environmental Services (1994-1999) by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The Environmental Research Technological Development and Innovation (ERTDI) programme has been in operation since the beginning of 2000. Provision for the ERTDI programme is contained in the Irish Government's National Development Plan 2000 - 2006 under the Operational Programme for the Productive Sector. The programme is implemented by the EPA on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG).
The aims of the programme are to:
- Contribute to a better environment by producing better data and information based on sound science
- Generate new data, information and knowledge for improved management of the environment
- Develop new techniques and methods for measuring, recording and predicting the quality of the environment
- Develop practical methods for the integration of environmental considerations into policies and programmes of the main economic sectors.
As the ERTDI programme currently stands (August 2003), there are eight main areas where research is being supported. These are:
- air quality;
- cleaner production;
- climate change;
- land use, soils and transport;
- water and resource management; and
- water quality.
Grants are awarded on the basis of calls for proposals or calls for tender which are announced in the main daily newspapers and on the EPA website.
The content of the ERTDI programme addresses issues identified by the EPA through its periodic state of the environment reporting and indicators reporting. Relevance to policy is ensured through consultation with researchers and policy makers across a broad range of economic sectors. Consultations to date have taken place through correspondence, meetings and using electronic conferencing. The main issues identified in the latest state of the environment report called 'Ireland's Environment: A Millenium Report' (EPA, 2002) were:
- Eutrophication of inland waters
- Urban environment and transport
- Waste and litter
- Climate change
- Protection of natural resources
Approx. 80% of funding was distributed in the form of grant aid to selected research projects, with the remainder being provided for development of the National Environmental Research Centre of Excellence.