€15m research fund to support 79 projects of 'direct relevance' to daily life


FASTER COMPUTERS, better medical treatments and new ways to monitor the environment could all arise from research funding worth €15 million announced yesterday by Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock.

The money will support 79 separate research projects for the next four years under the Research Frontiers Programme operated by funding body Science Foundation Ireland. This programme backs research that provides an educational benefit but also advances national scientific progress.

The major funding will flow into projects looking at optical sensors, advanced solar cells, cyber security and high-speed wireless communications.

One novel project involves development of a volcanic ash forecasting system. There is also a collection of projects looking at medical diagnostics and treatments for cancers, schizophrenia, Type-2 diabetes and cystic fibrosis, among others.

The research supported under the programme was of “direct relevance” to our daily lives, Mr Sherlock said yesterday. The projects provide direct benefits in themselves but also help to create and sustain jobs within Ireland.

“It is vital that Ireland has a robust and competitive research environment that contributes to economic recovery,” Mr Sherlock said. These projects were part of the drive to “further build Ireland’s research capability in support of our economic development”.

The awards made under the programme were hugely valuable given they provided support to early-career researchers, said Dr Graham Love, director of policy and communications with the foundation.

This early-stage financial backing helped to build the research careers of the “most promising minds”, and this in turn contributed to the wider economy, he added.

The 79 projects were selected from a pool of 291 applications, representing a 27 per cent success rate for applicants. The selection process was “rigorous”, Dr Love said, with evaluations of the proposals carried out by 123 international researchers.

The Research Frontiers Programme had already enjoyed considerable success and had made a major contribution, he said. It had supported 67 collaborations with industry, 436 more with overseas research bodies and also the publication of 499 scientific papers.

Trinity College Dublin won the largest share of projects, with 18 awarded. University College Dublin researchers received 13 funding awards, NUI Galway 10, University College Cork nine and NUI Maynooth seven. Ten other bodies also received awards.