€58m Govt-industry funding for new nanoscience SFI research centre AMBER

24 Oct 2013

A new academia-industry research consortium by the name of AMBER has launched today in Ireland. The latest Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre will directly support 99 highly skilled jobs, with these researchers working to spin-out their nanotechnology and materials science research in order to commercialise their discoveries. The goal will be to disrupt sectors such as ICT and medical devices.

AMBER stands for Advanced Materials and Bio-Engineering Research Centre.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) will be leading AMBER Research Centre along with University College Cork (UCC) and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.

With respect to the €58m investment in the centre, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, via SFI, is pumping €35m into the centre. Coupled with this, 18 industry partners are investing an extra €23m.

These 18 industry partners span an eclectic range of sectors, and include such heavyweights as Intel, DePuy, Medtronic, Merck Millipore and SAB Miller.

Tech transfer to impact industry and – ultimately – the consumer

The 99 researchers at AMBER will be translating science into new discoveries and devices in order to disrupt sectors, such as developing next-generation computer chips, and new medical implants and drugs that are cheaper and better for those who are ill in order to speed up their recovery.

The Government confirmed this morning that there is scope for further job creation down the line.

Richard Bruton, TD, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the Irish Government, is launching the new centre this morning, along with Sean Sherlock, TD, the Minister of State for Research and Innovation.

Bruton said almost 50pc of IDA Ireland jobs wins are connected to SFI research projects, which amounts to almost 6,000 jobs per year in recent years.

If Ireland is to start achieving the level of job creation it needs, Bruton said the country must ensure its science and research spending is “properly targeted” at employment opportunities.

“As part of the Action Plan for Jobs, we are making a series of changes to achieve this, including the new SFI centres programme,” he said.

This new target will focus spending on seven large-scale research centres, which will aim to “attract industry funding and compete with the best in the world”.

Nanoscience and Ireland

At the minute, nanoscience is worth €15bn, or 10pc of Irish exports, and employs 250,000 people in sectors such as energy, technology, biomedicine, and pharmaceuticals.

“The importance of AMBER as a driver of future materials science research is clear,” said Sherlock.

As a national centre, he said AMBER would play a “key” role in growing and retaining existing companies.

It will be “providing world-leading research, increasing the level of foreign direct investment and enabling job creation in Ireland”, Sherlock added.

Prof Stefano Sanvito, one of the researchers involved with AMBER, said the centre will aim to “strengthen” Ireland’s reputation for research, create new intellectual property, and support industrial collaborations and the commercialisation of research.

And, on the SFI front, its director-general Prof Mark Ferguson gave a helicopter view of the SFI Research Centres Programme.

This programme, he said, is the “largest-ever” State-industry co-funded research investment of its kind in Ireland.

“The programme will see €200m of Irish Exchequer funding matched by €100m in support from industry. This €300m investment pool is going into the seven SFI research centres, one of which is AMBER.

“AMBER has the potential to impact positively on Ireland’s future, not only in terms of the research outputs and resulting economic gain, but also in terms of creating and maintaining a strong pool of excellent talent within our shores,” Ferguson said.

Nanotechnology illustration via Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic