€12m research fund announced

30 May 2003

Funding of €12m will be awarded to some of Ireland’s most talented researchers engaging in a wide range of projects in the sciences, engineering and technology under the Basic Research Grants Scheme. The programme is being jointly funded by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Research Council’s Embark Initiative.

This new source of funding will be provided to 88 research projects being undertaken in third level institutions throughout Ireland over the next three years. According to those providing the funds, the Basic Research Scheme is “designed to support the most promising researchers in developing their careers for the future long term benefit of society and the economy”.

The research projects being funded under the 2003 Basic Research Grants Scheme will be conducted in Biotechnology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Macro/Micro Biology, Computer Science, Engineering and in the Earth Sciences.

“Investing in science and technology is an investment in Ireland’s future development and wealth-creation,” said Feargal Ó’Morain, chairman of the National Research Support Fund Board. “Enterprise Ireland will very actively continue to demonstrate its interest in the outputs of scientific research to harness such new knowledge for the good of the economy. We will continue to work with and encourage the very best of Irish researchers to explore new knowledge and how it may be applied to the development of existing Irish companies and to the emerging industries of tomorrow.”

It was also confirmed that the Embark Initiative will continue to co-operate with Science Foundation Ireland in developing the future of the Basic Research funding scheme as responsibility transfers from Enterprise Ireland. The scheme closely complements the specific strategic roles which each organisation has in funding research projects. SFI empowers bio-tech and ICT research capacity towards the achievement of socio-economic benefits. The Embark Initiative addresses individual research funding and academic development needs at Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral level in the sciences, engineering and technology sectors.

An example of the type of project being funded is the work being undertaken by Thomas Naughton at NUI Maynooth’s Department of Computer Science. Naughton’s goal is to develop the theoretical underpinnings of the first suite of compression tools for digital holograms of 3D objects. The imaging and processing of real-world three-dimensional (3D) objects are increasingly required in areas such as automated inspection, medical imaging, security and the entertainment industry. Since holograms are intrinsically 3D, a hologram is an attractive medium for representing 3D information.

Although holography and its capabilities have been known for many decades, it is only very recently that digital holography has been investigated. The advantage of a digital representation of holograms is that it allows processing (such as picture enhancement, and conversion into video streams) and transmission over conventional Internet or digital television channels. Whether for use in scientific, industrial, or multimedia applications, the efficient compression of holographic data will always be desired.

The applications process was independently adjudicated based on a candidate’s academic merit, research subject matter and achievements to date. A full list of successful candidates being offered funding is available at: www.embark.ie and www.enterprise-ireland.com.

By Dick O’Brien