independent

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Local eco-designer gets palace invite

BILL BROWNE

Published 20/03/2014 | 05:26

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Eco-design expert Dr Frank O'Connor from Kiskeam.

A PIONEERING eco-designer from Kiskeam is to meet Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace next Tuesday during a reception to mark the forthcoming State visit to Britain by President Michael D Higgins.

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Dr Frank O'Connor is among a number of prominent people with Irish links to be invited to the palace for the reception.

The founder of the world renowned Cardiff based Ecodesign Centre, Dr O'Connor was last year honoured for his work by the EU Parliament with the prestigious World Green Design Contribution Award.

This in turn prompted Alun Davies, the Minister for Natural Resources and Food (Wales), to describe Dr O'Connor as having 'the biggest impact in 2013' in an article for the Chartered Institutions of Waste Management magazine.

The minister and his policy team also recommended he be included on the guest list for the Buckingham Palace reception.

Dr O'Connor studied for his masters in design and advanced manufacturing at the University of Limerick, while his interest in recycling was sparked by a chemistry lecturer during his bachelor's degree.

After spending four years working for Alps Electric in Millstreet, Dr O'Connor moved to Wales in 1995, where he undertook a self-funded PhD at University of Glamorgan.

"It was a big ask, but when you are passionate about something, it really drives you on," Dr O'Connor told The Corkman.

In 2000 his burning ambition to change the way people viewed eco-design led him to begin lobbying the Welsh government on the issue, in addition to advising businesses and educators on the concept.

In 2005 Dr O'Connor received a grant from the Welsh government to develop his work, which led to the establishment of the Ecodesign Centre the following year.

One of the most important establishments of its kind in the world, the centre has been at the forefront of new thinking in the field of international eco-design.

Within two years it had become a certified Centre of Excellence, with its work in helping to shape government policy, business strategy and educational awareness putting it at the cutting edge of global eco-design.

The centre has been part of countless sustainable projects in more than 20 countries, with much of the overseas work aimed at helping to enhance knowledge of eco-design in so called 'transition states'.

This has included the working on sustainable fish-farming in Vietnam as well as projects in Kenya and South Africa.

Dr O'Connor has also worked as an advisor with the UN and the European Commission, has been a special advisor to the Welsh government and has given expert testimony to House of Lords committees on eco issues.

In October of last year Dr O'Connor announced he was to leave the Ecodesign Centre to pursue other projects.

Next Tuesday's reception at Buckingham Palace will be a fitting way to mark his immense contribution to eco-design.

Dr O'Connor said it was nice to be recognised for his work over the years. "Although, I must admit I did not expect anything like this. My wife, Sally, and I were surprised when the invite came through the letterbox and my friends and family thought I was having them on at first," he laughed.

"That said, I am really looking forward to next Tuesday. I'm just going to relax and enjoy the occasion. I'm sure it will be great craic," he added.

Corkman

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