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Honouring excellence in research innovation

Applications are invited for the 2018 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards

Calls are open for the 2018 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards, which celebrates some of the most innovative research undertaken on these shores.

A joint initiative of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, it recognises excellence in research innovation, creation and invention by an organisation, as a result of US foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland.

There are three categories: Irish operations of a US multinational company; higher education institution research centres or institutes with links to the US corporate sector; and Irish SMEs with similar linkages.

In each, the judges look for “exemplary ideas underpinned by innovative research, with a strong social or economic impact”.


The 2017 winner for higher education was University of Limerick. Its biomaterials research team at the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Biomedical Engineering worked in collaboration with R&D staff at US medical device and equipment maker Stryker. Together they designed a new bone repair material.

GovHHS Cognitive Solutions in Dublin, part of IBM Watson Health, won the award for Irish operations of a US MNC. Its work helped IBM develop new techniques for care professionals to better understand the complex social, behavioural and clinical issues facing vulnerable populations.

“It gives you a lot of confidence when you go out into the world with your ideas and have them validated by your peers like that,” says Conor Cullen of GovHHS Cognitive Solutions.

It is of value internally too. IBM has more than 300,000 staff worldwide, he points out. A win raises the profile of its innovative Dublin team among them. “That leads to a good development of synergies between us and other parts of the team around the world.”

The third winner was groundbreaking educational technology company 3D4Medical, whose Complete Anatomy is a cloud-based platform on which the user can explore the human anatomy in 3D.

Leading player

Downloaded by medical students, medical professionals, educators and patients, the app-based product is the leading player in its field, allowing users to zoom into minute detail, rotate body parts and examine at any angle, cut through various structures and witness how the various systems of the body interact with each other. Complete Anatomy is now used in more than 100 medical schools worldwide, including five Ivy League schools in the US and more than 25 of the top 50 medical schools in the world.

For chief operating officer Robert Cairnduff, one of the challenges facing a fast-growing company like 3D4Medical, which is currently moving into the area of augmented reality, is that it has to compete for graphic illustrators with the deep-pocketed gaming sector. The win does not alone boost its profile among the international talent pool however – much of its design work is done by its offices in the Ukraine and Russia – but it also helps it develop its overseas markets.

“When you go to the US and say you have won an American Chamber of Commerce Award, people there take notice,” says Cairnduff.

The closing date for applications for the 2018 US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards is Thursday December 14th at 5pm. For more information see www.ria.ie

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times