Partnership with US institute aims to boost enterprise and job creation


TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has announced a new partnership between two Irish universities and the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US to turn academic research into job-creating business opportunities.

He said the institute being formed by the University of Limerick (UL), NUI Galway (NUIG) and Georgia Tech was exactly the type of development the Government was trying to encourage.

“It can help us achieve our goals for increasing collaboration between higher education institutions, establishing better linkages between higher education and industry, and delivering the economic growth and job creation we need in the years head.”

Georgia Tech is the leading academic centre in the US for industrial engineering and last year raised over $500 million (€404 million) in research funds. Since 2006, it has operated an international campus in Athlone but the new translational research institute with UL and NUIG represents a big expansion of its Irish activities.

Georgia Tech president GP “Bud” Peterson explained translation research as “moving ideas to inventions, and inventions to products, and products to businesses”. The work of the institute would contribute to the economic recovery and renewal of both Ireland and the US, he said.

The college is already engaged in research in Ireland in a number of areas. One project is looking at the use of technology in the creation of ambient assisted living in the home and community; another involves the development of a wireless sensor network to enhance the efficiency of heating systems.

Another project allows students on both sides of the Atlantic to interact with each other by means of videoconferencing, while NUIG and Georgia Tech researchers are developing advanced tracking systems to improve the efficiencies of manufacturing sites using expensive clean-room facilities. UL president Don Barry described the new institute as an exciting development for the UL-NUIG Alliance formed earlier this year. “It is absolutely vital that we work together to form new partnerships and in turn deliver real results with real projects leading to the delivery of high-value jobs. This institute will champion the application of research to drive scientific and economic progress in our regions.”

Mr Cowen also defended his Government’s policies in the face of concern among university heads about budget cuts. He said research spending had increased by 10 per cent year-on-year for the past decade. Total spending on research programmes amounted to €865 million, with another €300 million to be allocated soon.

“At a time of scarce resources, we need to see our universities collaborating more and coming together so that they get better outputs. More from less is the key to us achieving growth and recognising what the economic realities are and what the exchequer can provide.”

NUIG president James Browne said the initiative would bring to Irish higher education Georgia Techs model of translating academic research into products, process and services which served industry and generated economic wealth.