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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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Professor Fergus Shanahan, from University College Cork (UCC), has been named this year’s SFI Researcher of the Year. Professor Shanahan, who is one of the leading international experts in the area of gastrointestinal research, was presented with the award by Mr Sean Sherlock, T.D, Minister for Research & Innovation in recognition of his significant contribution to understanding how intestinal bacteria influence both health and disease in the gut and beyond.

Professor Shanahan is the current Director of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) an SFI funded Research Centre, and we featured his work in the area of radiation dose optimisation for Crohn’s disease imaging in series one of The Science Squad. You can view the segment by clicking here: APC – Crohn’s Disease Imaging

Fergus, congratulations from everyone at The Science Squad!

For further information on Professor Shanahan and the SFI award click here