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Showcasing leading edge innovation

US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards ‘offer a very high profile way to demonstrate what Ireland is achieving in that space’

Now in their sixth year, the US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards recognise excellence in research innovation, creation and invention by an organisation, as a result of US FDI in Ireland. A joint initiative between the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and the American Chamber of Commerce, the awards are sponsored by KPMG and Ulster Bank.

A new category to recognise innovation in talent development has been added this year. The other award categories are for the Irish operation of a US headquartered and controlled multinational company and an Irish higher education institute or research centre with US corporate links.

“These awards are very important because they give us the opportunity to showcase the research and innovation activity that’s going on in industry in collaboration with the higher education sector,” says Prof Peter McHugh who chairs the awards assessment panel. “They offer a very high profile way to demonstrate what Ireland is achieving in that space. And Ireland is achieving an awful lot. The awards are a way of bringing that to the attention of the public, to industry, as well as to American business. That will help ensure continued strong linkages between industry and the higher education sector.”

Those linkages are also very important. “The US is not the only country that Ireland collaborates with, of course, but is a hugely important part of Ireland’s FDI story,” he adds. “America is number one in that space and medtech, ICT, pharma, and fintech are all critically important sectors where America leads. Ireland needs to be seen as a leader in the research and innovation space and working with the US corporate sector is key to that.”

"We're very pleased to have been involved with the awards from the very beginning," says Anna Scally, international tax partner with KPMG. "This year has been quite unusual. We thought we would have been able to present the awards in mid-year as normal but that had to be postponed. We're delighted that we will be able to present them on December 10th."


Nine entries have been shortlisted for this year’s awards. “The calibre of this year’s shortlist is testament to the growth in the level of innovation happening in Ireland as a result of US FDI,” she continues. “It’s particularly remarkable to see how companies have embraced evolving technologies in their research and innovations this year, whether it be 3D printing, automation, AI or machine learning. Having the skills and expertise here in Ireland to carry out such innovative work will be critical if we want to continue to bring this kind of investment to these shores. It’s great to see the exceptional quality of the shortlisted nominees as well of all of the entries this year.”

The timing of the awards this year is very important, according to American Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mark Redmond. "The awards highlight a very important dimension for Ireland during the pandemic and that is the capacity to engage in cutting edge research. We are very grateful to the RIA and KPMG and Ulster Bank for their continuing support for this very important project."

The new innovation in talent category is particularly important at a time when competition for FDI is intensifying, Redmond believes. “The ability of Ireland to maintain its international competitiveness will be critically dependent on talent,” he says. “This new award will shine a spotlight on some of the great things being done in that area by US multinationals in Ireland.”

Prof McHugh sees this as an important addition to the awards. “It’s very interesting. We’ve seen this happening over the years. Innovation is more than that spark of genius and what entities put around it. It’s about what people do as well. This award recognises and rewards organisations for what they are doing to develop their people. It could be an innovative way to develop the talent of the people who are engaged in the innovation or it could be a case of a company developing a product because of the way it manages its people.”

US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards nominees

Category: Irish Operations of a US Multinational

Boston Scientific Clonmel: Tactra Malleable Penile Prosthesis is a next-generation device used to treat erectile dysfunction. This innovation has already transformed patients' lives.

Boston Scientific Cork: This highly automated and innovative process enabled volume production of disposable orca valves, designed to minimise the risk of patient infection. Cleaning of valves used in endoscopes is extremely difficult and a high volume, low-cost single use valve was a key market need.

IBM Research Foresight: Foresight is a machine learning system for forecasting and what-if analysis of forced displacement for the humanitarian sector developed by the Danish Refugee Council and IBM.

IBM Research AI in Healthcare: Protecting vital public health programmes with artificial intelligence. When dollars intended for public health programmes are lost to fraud waste or abuse (FWA), vulnerable citizens are ultimately the victims. The IBM AI system can detect FWA by applying automatically extracted healthcare policy knowledge to healthcare bills.

Category: Higher Educational Institute

Waterford Institute of Technology/Boston Scientific Clonmel: A partnership involving the South Eastern Applied Materials Research Centre based at Waterford Institute of Technology and Boston Scientific Clonmel resulted in the development of a novel interactive database and an in-situ monitoring system for determining the best build process parameters to produce good quality 3D printed parts.

Ulster University/Avellino Labs: A research collaboration in which Avellino and Ulster University have joined forces to fight blindness through the development and delivery worldwide of molecular diagnostics and therapeutics.

Category: Innovation in Talent Development

Microsoft Ireland: Microsoft Ireland's DreamSpace is an immersive, research-based Steam (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) experience for students and teachers to enhance their skills, develop their understanding of machine learning and AI concepts, promote an understanding of technology sector career pathways, and support and inform classroom curriculum development.

PepsiCo/UCC: PepsiCo Ireland's Million Women Mentors (MWM) programme with UCC and CIT seeks to redress under-representation of females in STEM careers in Ireland, fostering career development through mentoring female STEM undergraduates and graduates. PepsiCo mentors support build confidence and guide students to pursue STEM careers.

Intel: Talent pipeline development through strategic engagements with universities. A tailored and managed interaction between Intel, students and faculty leading to an informed and engaged talent pipeline for future job opportunities.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times