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Athlone, 3rd November – Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, this evening announced Prof Barry Smyth as the Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year 2014 at the SFI Science Summit, to an audience of 300 researchers in attendance.  Prof Smyth, an international expert on personalization technologies and recommender systems, was recognised by his peers for his exceptional research accomplishments and contribution to the Irish scientific community over the past year.

Prof Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in UCD’s Scho­­­ol of Computer Science and Informatics. He is also a co-founder of ChangingWorlds, which was acquired by Amdocs Inc, and is Chief Scientist and co-founder of HeyStaks, an Irish collaborative search analytics company.

Presenting the award to Prof Smyth, Minister English, said: “Professor Smyth exemplifies the theme of this year’s SFI Science Summit 2014 – ‘Illustrating Impact.’  An experienced entrepreneur, he has been able to translate his research into the commercial world.  Barry is adept at straddling the worlds of research and commerce, and was one of the the driving forces behind INSIGHT – Ireland’s Data Analytics Research Centre established in 2013 through the SFI Research Centres Programme. INSIGHT is developing innovative new technologies of critical importance to Ireland’s future economic success.  His experience and expertise has brought about a highly successful collaboration between academia and industry, ultimately delivering a commercial impact and generating job creation opportunities in Ireland.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland, added: “We are delighted to recognise Professor Smyth’s achievements with this award.  He is working at the cutting edge, putting Ireland at the forefront of the big data analytics and the sensor web revolution.  His research illustrates the positive benefits that investment in the Irish scientific community can unlock.  We wish him continued success into the future and are glad to be able to honour him with this prestigious award.

Accepting his award, Professor Barry Smyth, said: “I am delighted to be receiving this award. The journey to here has been an unusual and exciting one because I have been able to combine my research interests with commercial opportunities. It is hugely fulfilling to see the product of research make an impact in the real-world. It has been possible only because of the support of UCD, SFI and the Irish government, as well as the hard work of dozens of students and collaborators, and for this I am very grateful.

Barry Smyth holds the Digital Chair of Computer Science in UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics. Barry has published more than 400 scientific papers. He has received more than 20 best paper awards, the inaugural Irish Software Association Outstanding Academic Achievement of the Year Award (2012) and an Honorary Doctor of Technology degree from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Barry’s research has found broad application across markets such as web services, social networking and mobile internet, leading to a number of successful patents and licences and to the foundation of two companies: ChangingWorlds (1998) and HeyStaks Technologies (2008). Barry played a leading role (as CTO and/or CSO) in these companies, which have created more than 150 jobs in Ireland. ChangingWorlds was acquired by Amdocs in 2008 for more than $60m. As the Director of the CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, Barry helped to grow CLARITY from seed funding of €12m to more than €35m in just 4 years, with approximately 30% from industry. More recently, the INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics was established under his leadership in 2013 with the largest ever single SFI Research Centre award of €58 million, combined with €30 million from over 30 industry collaborators.

Neurons
In a ground breaking paper just published in the international journal Neuron, an international consortium involving scientists and clinicians from Trinity College Dublin, led by their long term collaborator Dr John Landers of the University of Massachusetts has reported a new Motor Neuron Disease -associated gene (TUBA4A). The team have shown that they can identify new and important causes of Motor Neuron Disease (MND) through the detailed analysis of rare coding variations in DNA from people with MND.

Genes are a code within DNA used to make all the proteins in a human’s body. Some diseases are caused by faulty coding within our genes, leading to the manufacture of defective proteins. Finding these coding faults can help scientists to understand diseases like MND. The disease, which causes a gradual degradation and death of motor neurons, affects about 300 people in Ireland, with some 110 new cases reported each year.

Dr Landers’ group examined the DNA from 363 people with MND, each of whom also had another family member with the condition. They performed an analysis of every gene in the genome of these patients which generated trillions of individual DNA base cells. Piecing these together, they searched for patterns of rare damaging mutations that appeared more frequently in patients with MND than in people without the disease.

They found that more people than expected with MND had an unusual change in the code for a protein in nerve cells that transport vital building blocks from one part of the nerve cell to another. Damage to this transport system leads to dysfunction of the nerve, and understanding this may help scientists to find new treatments for MND.

This important discovery from Dr Lander’s laboratory, which required advanced DNA analysis by Irish scientist Dr Kevin Kenna, and used samples from the MND Research Group in Trinity College and other centres, has added another piece to the jigsaw of the understanding of the causes of MND.

Speaking about this discovery, Orla Hardiman, Professor of Neurology in Trinity College Dublin, Consultant Neurologist at Beaumont Hospital and one of the paper’s authors said: “We are very excited by Dr Landers’ finding for mutations in the gene TUBA4A in some forms of MND. We are particularly proud of the contribution of Dr Kenna, a young post-doctoral scientist who has recently completed his PhD in MND Genetics with our group in Trinity College Dublin.  This form of international collaboration across leading centres will help us to bring new treatments closer to the clinic.”

“We will continue to collect and analyse DNA from Irish patients with Motor Neuron Disease in collaboration with our colleagues in genetics, Dr Russell McLaughlin and Professor Dan Bradley at Trinity, as there are many discoveries still to be made in collaboration with our international colleagues,” she added.

A video describing this discovery and featuring Dr Kevin Kenna is available here: http://youtu.be/d1rCjNSNiI0

The paper is available from Neuron: http://www.cell.com/neuron/home

Media Contact

Yolanda Kennedy, Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences |yokenned@tcd.ie | 01 896 3551

web-connect-science
  • €155m in funding from the Department of Jobs through SFI will be provided for five World-Class SFI Research Centres
  • €90m co-investment by industry partners, bringing the total investment to €245m
  • Directly supporting 700 researcher positions
  • Addresses research in critical and emerging areas of the economy including applied geosciences, software and medical devices
  • Potential to receive further competitive research funding from industry and EU Horizon 2020

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, and Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD has announced Government and industry funding of €245 million for the establishment of five new world-class SFI Research Centres in Ireland.

The funding of €155 million from the Department of Jobs will be delivered through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Research Centres Programme, coupled with €90 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industry partners. The funding will support cutting-edge research in critical and emerging sectors of the economy which are key for job creation in Ireland. The funding will be provided over the next six years, 2014-2020.

Speaking at the announcement, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, said: “A key part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to build on the major achievements in scientific research we have built up over the past decade and turn more good ideas into good jobs. Today’s announcement will lead to the establishment in Ireland of world-class centres of research excellence and scale which will be game-changers for Irish scientific research.”

“The €245 million investment announced today, and the five new, large-scale, world-class research centres it will support, are aimed at achieving a step-change in the reputation and performance of Ireland’s research system. This builds on the announcement of seven similar centres last year. With twelve world-class SFI Research Centres, Ireland is now well placed to take the lead developing cutting-edge research and new technologies, ultimately delivering more commercial ideas and jobs.”

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, added, “This investment delivers another milestone for this Government’s Research Prioritisation objectives. These SFI Research Centres are ideally positioned to nurture real collaboration across industry and academia in Ireland which supports increased commercialisation of research and will ultimately grow jobs in the STEM sector. Importantly, these centres will also strongly position Irish based scientists to win funding through the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme, and will enable us to attract further investment from international companies in the future.“

The five SFI Research Centres will be involved in over 165 industry collaborations with partners ranging from multinationals to SMEs and including Intel, Google, Microsoft, Medtronic Vascular Galway Ltd, Xilinx, Huawei and many more.

The new funding has been competitively awarded in areas of national importance closely aligned to industry and enterprise needs, job opportunities and societal goals. The five new SFI Research Centres are as follows:

- ADAPT – Global digital connectivity enables enterprises, communities and individuals to share information and communicate globally at incredible speed, in enormous volumes, across the world’s languages and over an ever-increasing number of devices. Adapt’s research will fundamentally change the way in which enterprises, communities and individuals can engage globally in real time. Adapt will enhance efficiencies and global reach for industry partners in key priority sectors for Ireland, including ICT, localisation, financial services, eCommerce, media, entertainment and games, life sciences, eLearning, digital culture and humanities.

- CONNECT Centre for Future Networks & Communications – The key challenges that face society all drive the need for new and varied forms of networked services. These include mobile Internet, connected health, smart agriculture, smart grids and metering, and environmental monitoring services. The CONNECT Centre focuses on future broadband, cellular and Internet-of-Things networks on which all of these services will be enabled; thereby growing the economy and supporting society at large.

- CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices – As the global population ages, one in three people are expected to be over 65 by 2050, with the potential financial burden for healthcare expected to rise. CÚRAM is engaged in research to radically improve health outcomes for patients by developing innovative implantable ‘smart’ medical devices to treat major unmet medical needs. This research will position Ireland as the leader in developing medical device technologies which will provide affordable transformative solutions for chronic diseases.

- iCRAG Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences – Geoscience underpins the discovery of raw materials, water and energy resources that are critical to the world’s economy. With increasing demand and diminishing supply, focused innovations in geoscience are of paramount importance globally. Ireland is home to Europe’s largest zinc mine, untapped hydrocarbon resources in challenging North East Atlantic deep water environments, and a diverse geological framework with important untapped seabed and groundwater resources. The iCRAG centre will carry out research to find and harness these resources whilst protecting the environment.

- LERO The Irish Software Research Centre – Software is everywhere and key Irish industry sectors such as manufacturing, medical devices, financial services, cloud computing, analytics, and smart cities depend on it. LERO’s research mission is to replicate the success of traditional software engineering in the context of large-scale, pervasive, physically-integrated, highly interconnected, evolving, and continuously-available systems, in which the boundary between design-time and runtime is disappearing.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said, “These five new SFI Research Centres were selected following a highly competitive and rigorous international peer review process which screened for scientific excellence and assessed potential economic and societal impact. These five SFI Research Centres complement the seven we announced last year – which are already having a major positive impact: making important scientific advances, initiating and enhancing enterprise, training people with appropriate skills, winning EU projects and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation. These SFI Research Centres combine scientific research with deep and significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact. We are confident that they will make a significant contribution to Ireland’s economy, employment and reputation.”

The five centres involve a collaborative partnership across Higher Education Institutions in Ireland with participation from Cork Institute of Technology; Dublin City University; Dublin Institute of Technology; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; Dundalk IT; NUI Galway; Maynooth University; Royal College of Surgeons Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; Tyndall National Institute; University College Cork; University College Dublin; University of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

As a result of today’s announcement there will be a total of twelve SFI Research Centres in Ireland. Today’s investment marks the second tranche of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme; last year €300 million (€200 from SFI and €100 from industry) in funding was announced for seven research centres, the largest ever combined Government and Industry co-funding collaboration of its kind in the research field in Ireland.

BTYSTESanFran2014

Three Irish students have won a global science research competition at the GoogleScience Fair 2014 in San Francisco. Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork were named the grand prize winner in the 15 to 16-year-old age category for a project which examined the use of natural bacteria to increase crop output. They were inspired to try and help improve food production, particularly in third world countries, after learning about a famine in the Horn of Africa in 2011.

The basis of their project focuses on a naturally occurring bacteria in soil called Diazotroph. Their research showed that if Diazotroph is present, it accelerates the germination process of high-value crops such as barley and oats, potentially boosting output by up to 50 per cent. Using naturally occurring Rhizobium strains of the Diazotroph bacteria family, they carried out an extensive study of their impact on the germination rate and subsequent growth of the cereal crops wheat, oats and barley. Detailed statistical analysis of their results indicated that these bacterial strains accelerated crop germination by up to 50 per cent and increased barley yields by 74 per cent. Such a cereal crop performance improvement could significantly assist combating the growing global food poverty challenge and benefit the environment by reducing fertilizer use.

The Irish students are previous winners in the 2013 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and have competed in the EU Contest for Young Scientists. They were among five global finalists for their age category selected from thousands of submissions by students in more than 90 countries.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Emer (16) said they worked on the project for three years. “We did a lot of experimental work in Ciara’s house. First we took over the spare room, [AND]then expanded into the kitchen, sitting room, conservatory, and the garden.. We tested over 13,000 seeds. It was quite a lot of work but it has really been worth it,” she said.

Sophie (17) described the prizes the trio have won as “absolutely amazing”. “We get to go on an exhibition with National Geographic to the Galápagos Islands. We get $50,000 towards our project and a $25,000 scholarship. It’s absolutely insane.”

Another part of the girls’ prize will see them undertake astronaut training with Virgin Galactic.

“We’ll be trained as airforce civilians going on a trip to outer space. It is part of Richard Branson’s project to commercialise space travel. [WE ARE]really excited about that.… It’s not even about the prize, just getting recognition for all our hard work,” said 16-year-old Ciara.

Asked about their plans for the next few days, Emer said they were going to celebrate for the next few days but are “ looking forward to going home and meeting our friends, going back to school and in the long run we are definitely going to continue the project and try to commercialise it in whatever way we can. Then we can really begin to change the world.”

Human Bone Marrow MSCs

NUI Galway has signed an agreement to formalise collaborative ties with the Mayo Clinic Centre for Regenerative Medicine in the US. The agreement follows many years of close cooperation, and paves the way for joint collaborations in clinical trials using regenerative therapies.

(You can check out REMEDI’s research in an upcoming episode of Series 3 of The Science Squad, due for broadcast this Autumn on RTE One)

Collaborative research projects will focus on a number of key strategic areas of importance for both institutes, including adult stem cell therapy, gene therapy, biomaterials and biomedical engineering. Furthermore, the agreement facilitates ongoing student and staff exchange between Galway and the US.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) puts the emphasis on regulatory science to facilitate global translation of regenerative medicine therapies to the clinic. Both the National University Ireland Galway and the Mayo Clinic Centre for Regenerative Medicine have GMP cell manufacturing facilities, licensed for use by the respective national medical authorities.

National University of Ireland Galway’s President, Dr Jim Browne, welcoming the signing of the MOU, said: “Formalising our longstanding links paves the way for advancing our common agenda which is to realize the potential of regenerative medicine. Here in Galway we have Ireland’s only facility licenced to produce stem cells for human use, while the new clinical and translational research facility for conducting clinical trials with patients will be complete in early 2015.”

NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), both of which are supported by Science Foundation Ireland, are working together specifically to develop joint clinical trial programmes in the area of regenerative medicine.

Professor Tony Windebank, Deputy Director for Discovery of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Mayo Clinic said: “Mayo Clinic and NUI Galway have an established track record and commitment to regenerative medicine over the last decade. The Mayo Clinic has prioritized the development of new regenerative medicine clinical applications as a critical strategy for meeting the needs of patients in the future, which was evidenced in the formation of our Centre for Regenerative Medicine in 2012.”

The signing of the MOU comes on top of the recent announcement of a new $16 million agreement between Mayo Clinic and Enterprise Ireland where up to 20 novel medical technologies will be commercialised in Ireland over the next five years with the aim of creating several high value medical technology spin-out companies.

Video featuring Professor Tony Windebank, Deputy Director for Discovery of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Mayo Clinic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B98ci3iAknE

MichaelODywer

Researchers at the National University of Ireland Galway have identified an enzyme that has a key role in the spread and survival of blood cancer cells. The discovery, which focussed on the cancer multiple myeloma, has just been published by the internationally acclaimed journal, Blood.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood which results from an overproduction of plasma cells, the white blood cells that produce antibodies. It leads to problems such as anaemia, bone damage, kidney failure and elevated calcium levels. There are about 240 new cases of multiple myeloma diagnosed each year in Ireland.

The research team was led by Health Research Board (HRB) Clinician Scientist, Professor Michael O’Dwyer and Professor Lokesh Joshi of the University’s Glycoscience Group, which is supported by Science Foundation Ireland. The group studies the complex sugars which cover all cells in the human body, and many of the proteins in the bloodstream. Dr Siobhan Glavey, a medical doctor funded by the HRB, also had a key role lead in the study and was lead author on the paper.

HRB Clinician Scientist, Michael O Dwyer, Professor of Haematology at the National University of Ireland Galway says; “While treatments for multiple myeloma have improved over the last decade, and most patients are living longer, there is no cure. Our research is crucial because it sheds new light on the biology of multiple myeloma which could lead to new strategies to overcome resistance to treatment.”

“Working in close cooperation with Dr Irene Ghobrial from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard in the US and colleagues from the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, we focused on alterations in a process called glycosylation, a process whereby proteins and lipids are modified by specific sugars, because of its role in cell-cell interactions and the spread of cancer cells in the blood.”

“In essence, we have linked the overproduction of a specific enzyme called sialyltransferase to disease progression and worse outcomes in multiple myeloma. The increase in this enzyme activity causes a series of knock on effects; increasing glycosylation, which in turn increases the interaction of the cancer cells with receptors on the walls of blood vessels called selectins which then encourages their circulation, spread and retention in the bone marrow.”

“Our aim now is to prevent these interactions that cause the spread using specific enzyme and selectin inhibitors”.

Dr Graham Love, CEO of the HRB, commented on the importance of the research: “Understanding what causes multiple myeloma to progress, or generate worse outcomes, is the first step towards improving treatment. This discovery reinforces the transformational role our Clinician Scientists have in bringing real clinical questions to a research environment and delivering results back to the bedside.”

Space Enbio

Investment in 40 new projects to help transition high potential young talent to fully independent research leaders

Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock, T.D. has announced €23 million in new funding to help support 40 of Ireland’s most promising young research talent to become fully independent researchers. The funding which is being awarded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will help ensure that Ireland’s most talented young researchers can be encouraged to remain in Ireland, while also helping to attract excellent young researchers from other countries to base themselves here.

Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock TD said:“Funding for researchers at the outset of their careers is an important element of the Government’s strategy for job creation in research and innovation under our Action Plan for Jobs. SFI’s funding schemes for early career researchers help ensure that excellent research with the potential for real economic and societal impact is properly supported in Ireland. Investment like this is important for Ireland’s developing international reputation for excellent research with impact. The 40 research projects being awarded by SFI today demonstrate the enormous talent and potential that exists among Ireland’s young researchers.”

The €23 million in funding delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, through SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes will support researchers and post-graduate students working on projects in areas such as sustainable and renewable energy, cancer research, neurological disorders, immunology, microbiology, biotherapeutics and Wireless Networks.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said:“Both of the programmes under which funding is being announced today will help promising young researchers to create and develop impactful careers here in Ireland and in turn enable the pursuit of scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact. These programmes are also an important factor in ensuring that Ireland can succeed in persuading top young scientific talent from abroad to base their research efforts here in Ireland.”

SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) provides support for excellent postdoctoral researchers who wish to take steps towards a fully independent research career, while the Career Development Award (CDA) aims to support early and mid-career researchers who already hold a salaried, independent research post and who are looking to expand their research activities. Both programmes aim to support the development of young researchers with the potential to become excellent, fully independent research leaders in their chosen fields.

The 40 research projects awarded funding today will be funded by SFI through 12 research bodies, as follows: Trinity College Dublin (5), National University of Ireland Galway (5), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (4), Dublin City University (4), University College Cork (4), University of Limerick (4), National University of Ireland Maynooth (3), University College Dublin (3), National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (3), Teagasc (2), Tyndall National Institute (2) and Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1).

A further 12 projects were also deemed scientifically excellent by the International Review Panel and are on a reserve list to be funded by SFI, if budgets permit later in the year.

Examples of projects supported:

Orla O’Sullivan (Teagasc Food Research Centre, Cork) SIRG

Orla’s research focuses on microbial diversity in the gut. Microbial diversity is highest in a healthy gut and Orla’s research will investigate if it is possible to improve that diversity and in turn improve the overall health of individuals. The research will also examine whether alterations in diet and/or lifestyle can influence microbial diversity and function.  Orla’s ultimate goal is to inform the potential development of nutritional supplements that can help improve human health.

Stephen Dooley (University of Limerick) SIRG

Stephen’s research will focus on understanding ways that cleaner and more versatile energy sources can be developed from indigenous biomass resources, including plant matter.  His goal is to find ways that help ensure that Ireland imports less fossil energy by creating environmentally benign energy technologies, particularly for transportation. He hopes that his research can help achieve this by informing a deeper and predictive understanding of how indigenous biomass, in particular, can be harnessed.

Patrick Hayden (Dublin City University) SIRG

Patrick’s research will investigate techniques that could improve the quality of laser-powered high-precision measurement. High-precision measurements on the composition and uniformity of drugs are useful to the pharmaceutical industry to help perform quality control as drugs are developed and produced. One method to perform these measurements is by measuring light emitted from the surface of the drug when a laser pulse is focused on it. The process is known as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) at short wavelengths and Patrick’s research aims to increase the efficiency of this process. The research could also have applications in other areas including archaeology and forensic science.

Aoife Morrin (Dublin City University) CDA

Aoife’s research aims to explore the potential for the analysis of skin in non-invasive or minimally invasive diagnostic approaches as an alternative to more invasive blood sampling. Skin is the largest human organ and contains rich analytical information related to a wide variety of medical conditions. Pressures on healthcare systems have resulted in a greater focus on enhanced efficacy of treatments and cost reduction. As such, there is a lot of research into new diagnostics that can address these challenges. Aoife intends her research to demonstrate innovative approaches to the analysis of skin that can be used for the early detection of various conditions including eczema flare-ups, liver failure, and skin cancer.

Alex von Kriegsheim (University College Dublin) SIRG

Alex’s research aims to develop new treatments to help prevent against bowel cancer in patients with colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both conditions lead to chronic inflammation of the gut, which can in turn increase the risk of bowel cancer. Alex hopes that his research can identify the ways in which this inflammation causes the growth of cancer cells and how the process can be halted through the release of important enzymes known as hydroxylases, which are blocked in chronically inflamed tissues.

Click Here for the list of Funded Projects

MikeCoey

A team of researchers from the AMBER centre at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) are behind the discovery of a new magnetic material they claim will revolutionise the ICT sector.

The material is made from an alloy of three metals, manganese, ruthenium and gallium (MRG), and is reportedly as strong as the strongest magnets available in the world today. However, it has the characteristic of not appearing magnetic at all to the untrained eye.

Known technically as ‘zero-moment half metal’, the material could potentially spawn a completely new line of materials research and open up numerous possibilities for electronics and information technology.

Led by Prof Michael Coey, the AMBER team said MRG has incredible potential and could lead to the possibility of limitless data storage, resulting in huge, superfast memory in personal computer devices. It could also eliminate the potential of external magnetic forces to ‘wipe’ computer data.

For 25 years, researchers worldwide have grappled with how to create a magnet such as MRG by trying to arrange numerous combinations of atoms in a way which was difficult without flouting the basic principles of physics.

Potential ‘big data revolution’

The AMBER research team claims to have solved this problem by using established industry-standard processes for making the electronic circuits on silicon chips, making it relatively easy for MRG to be adopted by computer and electronics companies.

Commenting on the discovery and its potential to lead a ‘big data revolution’, Coey said, “Magnetic materials are what make reading and storing data – either on personal devices or on large-scale servers in data centres – possible. Magnets are at the heart of every electronic device we use, from computers and laptops to tablets, smartphones and digital cameras.

“Given its unique insensitivity to magnetic fields, and the tenacity of its internal magnetic properties, MRG could now revolutionise how data is stored, which could have major implications for the future development of electronics, information technology and a host of other applications.”

PROF LUKE O'NEILL

Eleven researchers based in Irish universities have been ranked among the world’s top 3,000 by the multinational media body Thompson Reuters. Inclusion means the person’s research is listed in the top 1 per cent for the number of times their work has been cited by other scientists.

The list includes scientists and engineers in NUI GalwayTrinity College Dublin,University College DublinUniversity of LimerickUniversity College CorkBeaumont Hospital, Dublin and the University of Ulster.

All were gauged to be “highly cited researchers” who had had an “exceptional impact”, Thompson Reuters said.

Their work “has consistently been judged by peers to be of particular significance and utility”, the company said when releasing the list on the website highlycited.com.

Those selected will also be published in book form, the Thompson Reuters 2014 World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.

Cutting edge

Inclusion in this publication means the researcher is among those “who are on the cutting edge of their fields. They are performing and publishing work that their peers recognise as vital to the advancement of their science”.

NUI Galway had three academics on the list: Henry Curran (engineering), Colin O’Dowd (geosciences) and Donal O’Regan (mathematics).

TCD had two: Luke O’Neill (immunology and also pharmacology and toxicology) and Jonathan Coleman (materials science).

UCD also had two: Colm O’Donnell (agricultural sciences) and Desmond Higgins (computer science).

UL had Michael Zaworotko (chemistry), UCC had John Cryan (pharmacology and toxicology), Beaumont Hospital had Mary Cannon (psychiatry and psychology) and University of Ulster had Brendan McCormack (social sciences).

The use of citation listings as a measure of research quality has sometimes been drawn into question but it remains a widely used metric despite this. Its strength lies in the fact that it reflects later access of the research by scientists working in the same area. If your paper is truly cutting edge then others will want to cite the original work within their research papers.

‘Huge testament’

Prof O’Neill yesterday expressed his delight at having been named on the list. “Being included in the top 1 per cent of anything is great,” he said. He described it as a “huge testament” to the work of his research team over the past decade.

Prof Coleman also praised the students and post doctoral researchers who work with him in the lab, and thanked funding bodies including TCD and Science Foundation Ireland. “Without them this would have been impossible,” he said.

TeagascAlberta

Edmonton, Canada…Teagasc, Ireland’s agriculture and food development authority, and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the University of Alberta in Canada have signed an agreement that will result in additional highly qualified personnel working in the agri-food sector.

This international agreement, signed in Edmonton, Canada on June 16, 2014, provides research funding to allow four PhD students to receive prestigious Walsh Fellowships and pursue their research to benefit the agri-food sector in both countries. Each Walsh Fellowship is valued at €22,000 per year (about $40,000 CAD) for four years. The funding is provided equally by Teagasc and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.  The students will be directed and supervised by professors of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES) and co-supervised by Teagasc researchers.

Students will spend at least one year in Teagasc and one year in the University of Alberta in Canada, and will generally split their time equally between Canada and Ireland.

Dr. Frank O’Mara, Director of Research for Teagasc said, “Teagasc are continuously seeking collaborative arrangements with like-minded, leading research organisations around the world, to link with the foremost international scientists to deliver solid science for the future. Working with Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the University of Alberta is one such opportunity. I am confident this agreement will benefit the agri-food sectors in both Ireland and Canada. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m delighted we’re able to do it.”

Teagasc provides integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities. It operates in partnership with all sectors of the agri-food industry and with rural development industries, employing approximately 1,100 staff at 52 locations throughout Ireland. It has developed close alliances with research, advisory and training agencies throughout the world and is continuously seeking to expand its international contacts.

Dr. Stan Blade, CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions said, “Revenue from Alberta’s agri-food sector is an important component of the province’s economy but the sector has not grown significantly over the last decade. Teagasc has a superb record in creating new value-added opportunities in the food industry based on their expertise and facilities. Research and innovation supported through these inaugural Walsh Fellowships can help to accelerate growth in this sector, both in Alberta and Ireland.”

Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, an Alberta government research funding agency, invests in science and innovation to grow prosperity in Alberta’s agriculture, food and forest sectors through new technologies, products, services or industry practices. It routinely seeks R&D partners in the areas of sustainable production, bioindustrial innovation, food innovation, ecosystem services and prion diseases.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the students to conduct their research in an international setting and leverage the expertise in both Alberta and Ireland,” said Dr. John Kennelly, Dean of the Faculty of ALES. “We live increasingly in an inter-connected world and it’s through partnerships like these that we’re able to provide excellent training to highly qualified students in an international setting so they may, in turn, provide solutions to global challenges in the agri-food industry.”

The Faculty of ALES provides solutions to global challenges in the fields of food and nutritional security, environmental sustainability, bioresource innovation, and individual and community well-being. An applied science faculty, ALES also draws on the social sciences, business and the arts and humanities to provide comprehensive solutions. We teach this approach to our students, providing them with well-rounded real-world skills as they enter the labour market.