Science funding of more than €25m announced


SCIENCE FOUNDATION Ireland has announced research funding worth more than €25 million. The money will support 27 projects in a range of areas including energy, environment, health and telecommunications.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O’Keeffe yesterday welcomed the support, saying it would create new jobs in the smart economy.

The money comes via research funder Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under its Principal Investigator Programme.

The 27 awards range from about €500,000 up to €1.8 million and are expected to support research involving 139 scientists over the next five years.

Mr O’Keeffe said the money was “targeted and strategic”, adding the value for money objective was “paramount”.

Continued investment in the smart economy remained central to Government thinking and the researchers funded by SFI had the potential to create new jobs.

“I think they give credence to the smart economy, what we are trying to achieve,” Mr O’Keeffe said after the launch in Dublin.

Awards made under the principal investigator scheme are awarded after a rigorous assessment by international scientific peers. The leading investigator typically works from a third-level institution and will build a team including undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate researchers.

The projects cover a wide range of areas but all fall within SFI’s remit set by statute to support life science, information and communications technology and energy research.

Projects highlighted at the launch included work at the Tyndall National Institute to produce copper wires measured in millionths of a millimetre.

Another at UCC involves a study of proteins inside the cell that are able to connect with the cell’s outer membrane.

A Dublin City University project will look at new neuro therapeutics including the use of botox to control pain. Another project there will develop lasers that can be tuned to deliver a range of light frequencies.

SFI’s programme supported 751 principal investigators during 2009. Overall the science funder supports the work of more than 3,200 researchers who in turn collaborate with 400 local and multinational firms trading in Ireland.

DCU scientist Prof Oliver Dolly, who will receive €1.164 million for his work on neuro therapeutics, said researchers could leverage more funding from private companies after receiving a an SFI award. His own work had attracted five times more funding from companies than was originally provided by SFI.