Science funding of €6.5m unveiled


Almost 60 scientists have received funding to help them bring their research from the lab to the marketplace, it was announced today.

The support, collectively worth €6.5 million, comes via the funding body Science Foundation Ireland.

It made the awards under the foundation’s Technology Innovation Development Award (Tida) programme, said the body’s newly appointed director general Prof Mark Ferguson. The goal was to get more research flowing from Irish laboratories converted into products and services that can create companies and jobs.

The projects supported cover a wide range of areas including stem cell-based approaches to repairing eye damage, “smart” syringes that can relay information back about the tissues around them, wifi management systems to improve wireless capacity and a complete rethink about how people receive online support for products that they buy.

“It is about pull-through,” Prof Ferguson said. “Here is a way in which they can potentially apply their research.”

The funds were provided at the point where a scientist might begin considering how the research could be translated into a product. “It is to get people to think about how they can commercialise it,” he said.

Minister of State Sean Sherlock unveiled the awards today and stressed how they matched Government policy aimed at achieving a return on the State investment in research.

“There is a particular momentum at present in the drive to commercialise scientific research,” he said. “This is at the core of the government's Action Plan for Jobs 2012 announced last week: investment in research leading to jobs.”

The awards are now worth about €100,000 each, double the amount provided last year in the inaugural round of Tida awards, said Dr Ruth Freeman, the foundation’s director of enterprise and international affairs. The increase is intended to help researchers bridge the gap between the beginning of research translation through proof of concept and as close as possible to delivery of a product.

Recipients of Tida awards will also have access to training in Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship. This will provide the commercial backup needed to help participants increase the likelihood of their discoveries reaching the market.

Awards went to all seven Irish universities, to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork. A number of Institutes of Technology also received funding including Athlone, Carlow, Cork Dublin, Tralee and Waterford.