€20-million investment to create marine digital nervous system

12 Feb 2010

Some €20 million worth of research funding is going into the creation of a digital nervous system for Ireland’s coastline that will have important economic impacts in terms pollution and alternative energy.

The DCU-based National Centre for Sensor Research has revealed that €20 million in research funding has gone into the creation of a cluster of marine technologies that could have an economic benefit for the country.

The Beaufort Marine Research Awards amount to €20 million and will fund new marine research projects over seven years throughout Ireland.

DCU held a workshop today to provide an overview of research projects carried out under the Beaufort Marine Research Awards which were launched in 2007 as part of ‘Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge, Research & Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007-2013′.

DCU eyes future projects

DCU’s says it intends to develop a cluster of marine, environmental and technology projects in light of recent climatic events.

Under the leadership of Prof Dermot Diamond, the NCSR was awarded €2.48 million, from the National Development Plan (NDP) to focus on the development of bio-sensing platforms for targets like microbes, parasites, pathogens and toxins as at present, despite significant capabilities in related areas, there is no specialist national leader or team.

“These awards are capacity building through the funding of a cluster of research projects. The next generation of technologies of the marine environment will provide information and knowledge to realise the economic potential,” Diamond said.

The lack of low-cost, self-sustaining platforms for monitoring water means that measurements are carried out primarily through grab sampling at a limited number of places and time, followed by analysis at a centralised facility.

The resulting gaps in our knowledge of water quality means that when a major event occurs there is dispute about where the pollution originates and who is responsible.

“Our knowledge of what is happening in the oceans is directly related to our ability to collect accurate data,” said Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute.

“Work undertaken by the NCSR will not only allow the Marine Institute to improve its existing SmartBay ocean sensing system in Galway Bay but also to take an important step closer to the realisation of a SmartCoast network, delivering environmental information in real-time from locations all around the coast.”

The NCSR’s aim is to roll out platforms capable of remote sampling and analysis over extended periods of time and to ultimately produce the building blocks of an ‘environmental nervous system’ comprised of many distributed sensing devices that share their data in real time on the web, enabling the source of pollution events to be quickly located and remedial action initiated rapidly to minimise the danger to people and contamination of distribution systems.

By John Kennedy

Photo: A digital nervous system is being created for Ireland’s coastline that will carry an economic impact with respect to pollution and alternative energy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years