Science research to get €300m funding

Science Foundation Ireland director general Professor Mark Ferguson in `Mouth Tank?, an acoustic installation by Michael Hanna at the Science Gallery Dublin today.  Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/The Irish Times

Science Foundation Ireland director general Professor Mark Ferguson in `Mouth Tank?, an acoustic installation by Michael Hanna at the Science Gallery Dublin today. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/The Irish Times


The Government and industry are to invest €300 million in scientific research over the next six years, including €200 million from the State and €100 million from about 150 industrial partners.

The money will be used to create seven new research centres covering a wide range of areas including the marshalling of computer data, research into marine energy, infant medical care and food research amongst others.

The centres were selected from amongst 100 initial applications by academic and industrial partners after an international review by scientific experts.

The investment represents the largest of its kind yet made and will deliver a “new era” for Ireland, said Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton and Minister of State Sean Sherlock at today’s launch at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

All of the centres have a host university and a lead researcher, but they also have academic partners from across the Irish third level sector. There is also direct company investment and involvement in the research with come centres involving more than 40 company partners. The funding will open up at least 800 research jobs across the seven centres, said Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland which will channel the State funding to the centres.

The centres will have a “hub and spoke” structure, with academic researchers at its centre and companies connected via spokes, Prof Ferguson said.

The largest centre is called Insight and will conduct research into “big data” the storing, handling and analysis of vast amounts of computerised information.

This is the only centre that has four host institutions, each with its own shared lead investigator, and has 45 industrial partners. Hosts include University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Galway and Dublin City University.

All other centres have a single host institution and a single lead investigator, plus other academic and industrial partners.

University College Cork faired particularly well in the selection process, serving as host to four centres. Trinity College Dublin will lead one centre while University of Limerick will lead another.

The Amber (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre) at Trinity will look at new materials for use in electronics and medical devices. Limerick will host SSPC, the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre. It will pursue drug development and synthesis.

Cork is hosting APC, the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre which conducts research into microbes in the gut. Capture, the Centre for Perinatal Translational Research will study ways to improve clinical medical practice for infants just before and after birth, in particular developing diagnostic tests for hidden illnesses.

I-Pic the Irish Photonic Integration Research Centre is developing electronics that use light rather than electricity to operate.

Another large centre for Cork, Marei – Marine Renewable Energy Ireland, will conduct research into the harnessing of wave and wind energy to produce electricity.

The combined funding, some of which represents benefit in kind rather than direct investment, will last for a minimum of six years, Prof Ferguson said.

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