Bord na Móna has a long history of both practical and research based development. Employees have found practical solutions to the many challenges of workplace, economy and outlook throughout the company’s history. They have demonstrated their creativity in the most difficult of circumstances: making parts for machines when World War II prevented their purchase, developing new products and processes and establishing international networks.
The company’s first standalone research and development unit, the Experimental Station, was set up in the 1940s. It documented and photographed all internal processes and research projects and collected studies from around the world. The Experimental Station compiled a library of international research on peat which is unique and has served the company well. In 1954, Bord na Móna staff organised and hosted the first International Peat Symposium.
The company’s commitment to scientific research was renewed with the opening of the Peat Research Centre in 1990. This centre collaborated with government and academia to offer Research Fellowships in peat sciences.
Sir John Purser Griffith, one of the pioneers of peat innovation, developed an industry at Turraun, Co. Offaly beside the Grand Canal. His business was a microcosm of what Bord na Móna would later become.
Purser Griffith, who, according to Todd Andrews, looked like an Old Testament prophet, installed baggers to macerate turf. He also built a small power station and a moss peat plant. He bought a canal barge to transport his products to market and set up a retail and wholesale sales depot at Harcourt Terrace, Dublin. John Purser Griffith was a man ahead of his time but he lived to see the beginning of the Irish peat industry.
Based on Purser Griffith’s work and that of Professor Pierce Purcell, who built Lullymore briquette factory and pioneered milled peat production, Bord na Móna adapted the Peco process of milling peat. In the wake of these men, Bord na Móna has for decades imported, modified, designed and built its own machines to suit Irish bog and weather conditions.
In 2008, a technology centre was established by Bord na Móna in the U.S.A. to provide clean air and water solutions through the use of biofilters. All of this comes under the umbrella of innovation, in which significant investment is planned over the coming years. Additionally an Innovation Centre has been set up at the head office complex in Newbridge. Its brief is to develop the synergies between the various businesses and lead the way in environmentally responsible development.
One of many innovators who worked for Bord na Móna is Broc Carty, who began his career as an apprentice in Clonsast, Co. Offaly. During his half-century career, one of Broc’s greatest achievements was his involvement in utilising peat fibre for air and water treatment systems. This innovation resulted in the development of the Puraflo system, an internationally successful peat-based biofiltration product that cleans waste water and sewage to exemplary standards.
In 1988 the Board commissioned the Broc Carty award for excellence in innovation to acknowledge Broc’s contribution to innovation throughout his career.