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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.

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  • €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.

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

Martyn-Pemble

Researchers at Tyndall National Institute, Cork, are partnering with scientists from the United States and Northern Ireland to unlock the energy potential in water. The project aims to use semiconductor materials and sunlight to isolate energy-laden hydrogen in water by replicating processes found in nature.

The €1million initiative, entitled ‘Research into Emerging Nanostructured Electrodes for the Splitting of Water’ (RENEW), is led by Professor Martyn Pemble and Dr Paul Hurley at Tyndall, Professor Paul McIntyre at Stanford University and Professor Andrew Mills at Queen’s University Belfast.

Borrowing from electronics, the researchers will first seek to create the optimum ‘artificial leaf’ using layers of semiconducting materials such as silicon. These would be water-resistant and used to ultimately create clean fuel by splitting the molecules of water into hydrogen and oxygen under natural conditions without any additional energy.

Stokes Professor of Materials Chemistry at Tyndall, Prof Pemble – one of four principal investigators for the project – explained: “The main focus for the project is a tiny, stacked arrangement of materials that is used for some transistors in the electronic industry. Previous work has shown that these structures can act as basic ‘artificial leaves’ for splitting water and the aim now is to make them more efficient.”

Professor Pemble added: “Professor McIntyre has shown that if you put the right metal on the surface of a silicon stack and provide light, then you can get it to oxidise water to give oxygen. Then, on another electrode connected to it – perhaps a platinum wire – the electrons that we have gained can be used to reduce water, and this produces hydrogen. So it only requires the sunlight to fall on this attack of layers where the water oxidation takes place. Then, according to Prof Andrew Mills, who is an acknowledged expert on photocatalysis, ‘the rest of the process is driven by the electrochemistry’.”

While previous similar processes for harvesting hydrogen for fuel have required the use of additional energy, or have been heavily reliant on the presence of ultra-violet light, RENEW will focus on using natural light and will experiment with a range of semi-conducting materials. Key to the process will be creating an impenetrable top layer that can withstand water’s corrosive effects, by a process known as atomic layer deposition.

Reflecting on the RENEW partnership, Professor Pemble noted, “We have been thinking about doing this for a long time – it is quite obvious that these layered structures can have other applications outside of electronics – and now we have got the opportunity to bring it forward. The ultimate goal is to combine our expertise to get to a point where you just drop the electrodes into water and when the sun comes out they would start to bubble away generating an unlimited, free and completely clean source of hydrogen, as well as oxygen.”

The RENEW project is expected to run for the next three years and is jointly funded by the National Science Foundation in the US, Science Foundation Ireland and the Department for Employment and Learning for Northern Ireland under the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Program.

Enda Kenny DC Visit

13th March 2014, Washington D.C.:

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. presented Dr. Garret A. FitzGerald with the inaugural SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal at an Science Foundation Ireland hosted event in Washington D.C. The SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal is intended to recognise the achievements of a distinguished Irish scientist or engineer, living and working in the USA, in particular their contribution back to Ireland.

Welcoming the award, the Taoiseach said: “I very much welcome this opportunity to present the inaugural Science Foundation Ireland St. Patrick’s Day medal to Dr. Garret FitzGerald. This award recognises the contribution of individuals who are outstanding in their fields of expertise, and have made a notable contribution to Ireland’s heritage of knowledge and research. Dr. FitzGerald’s achievements in his field are hugely outstanding and it is important that we in Ireland join those in the international scientific community who have already recognised his significant contribution to science.”

Dr. FitzGerald’s research is focused in the area of biomedical cardiovascular pharmacology and in particular the effects of pain medicines on cardiac systems. He was instrumental in the discoveries relating to the use of low-dose aspirin in preventing cardiac disease and to date has been awarded both the Irish Times/RDS Boyle Medal and the 2013 Grand Prix Scientifique – considered the world’s most prestigious honor for cardiovascular research. Dr. FitzGerald is the McNeil Professor in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he also chairs the Department of Pharmacology and directs the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics.

Dr. Garret A. FitzGerald, MD, FRS, said: “The US remains the most innovative and supportive environment in which to pursue scientific research and the ties that bind us have delivered wonderful opportunities to the Irish people to harvest that resource to the benefit of scientific development at home. This has been realised through training of Irish scientists in the US and through Irish – American scientific collaboration both in academia and industry – often supported by Science Foundation Ireland, itself modelled on the US National Science Foundation. It is a great honor for me to receive the St. Patrick’s Day Medal which reflects the scientific dimension of the long and happy relationship between our countries.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government added: “SFI’s aim in creating the St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal is to recognise individuals who are not only outstanding in their fields of expertise but who have also demonstrably assisted researchers in Ireland in either academia or industry—via mentorship, supervision, collaboration, industrial development, entrepreneurship. Dr. FitzGerald’s commitment to the education of Irish people while living in the USA is admirable – offering a competitive summer program for Irish secondary school students, as well as training countless scientific investigators from Ireland.”

The SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal was commissioned by SFI in consultation with the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. Jeweller Martina Hamilton, based in County Sligo, was selected to create the medal. An award winning designer with over 20 years experience as both a sculptor and silversmith, Martina’s design features a sterling silver orb with internal pattination mounted on a walnut base. Inspired by exploration and experimentation, the use of both positive and negative space in the piece represents scientific analysis and investigation. The orb itself reflects the recurring shapes found across many fields of science, from astronomy to microbiology.