An R&D lab based at Dublin City University – established through the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) scheme and almost scrapped last year by the Department of Education & Science – has reaped the earliest fruits of the scheme and is generating €2.2m a year in external funding through investors like Intel, Ericsson, Esat BT, Lucent, Xilinx and ParthusCEVA.
Last year, academics involved in research at third level were aghast at a threat by Education minister Noel Dempsey to maintain a freeze on €140m worth of capital expenditure under Cycle 3 of the PRTLI. However, in July last year. following intense lobbying Dempsey agreed to resume the funding.
“The decision to retain PRTLI sent out the right message and affirmed Ireland’s commitment to science and technology,” says Chris O’Malley, strategic development executive, at Dublin City University. “The PRTLI gives Ireland the kick-start to achieve critical mass in the science world.”
The Research Institute for Networks and Communications Engineering (RINCE) at DCU was established in 1999 as part of a €45m investment alongside two other national research centres, including the National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology and the National Centre for Sensor Research. Between them the three centres employ some 300 research staff.
RINCE performs basic and applied research, technology transfer and forms start-up companies and intellectual property (IP) in the fields of high speed networking, mobile applications, vision systems ubiquitous computing and fields like biomedical imaging, and has spawned start-up company digital television company Aliope, which is in the process of creating 11 new jobs on the back of funding from Enterprise Ireland.
According to Professor Patrick McNally, the centre has won €2.2m worth of external funding per annum from a number of industry players including Esat BT and Intel. “Our plan is to keep growing this and prove that the investment in RINCE and our sister research centres is a model for the future.
“Until recent years, 80pc of R&D in Irish universities was funded through EU grants. Also, interaction between colleges in Ireland was widely discouraged.
“The focus of the PRTLI scheme in the early days was capital investment which is now translating into investment in people, knowledge and ideas. As a result, there has been a major transformation of the academic landscape in Ireland and all the various institutions are pooling information and communicating and a kind of collective is being formed.
“Our mission at the moment is to transfer technology out of universities and fuel start-up companies and it seems to be working,” McNally concluded.
By John Kennedy