Three Irish research projects to receive share of €168m EU funding

14 Dec 2021

Image: © jpgon/

Two projects at Trinity and one in Athlone will receive funding under an EIC programme awarding an average of €3m to innovative tech research ideas.

Three research projects coordinated at Irish universities have secured funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC) as part of its Pathfinder programme to develop new technologies for future applications.

This programme provides grants to support early-stage development of future tech up to a proof-of-concept stage. A total of €168m will go to the 56 projects that were chosen in this call, with an average of €3m funding per project.

Two of these research projects are coordinated by Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for advanced materials and bioengineering research, while another is coordinated by Athlone Institute of Technology, which is now part of Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest.

The EIC falls under Horizon Europe, the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation, and was launched earlier this year. It plans to invest more than €10bn over the next seven years to develop and expand breakthrough tech innovations in the EU.

TCD said its awards have a total recommended funding value of more than €6m, with around €2m expected to go to the TCD teams. The university’s provost, Prof Linda Doyle, said the funding process was very competitive.

“Only 6pc of all applications in the latest round were successful and only three awards came to project coordinators in Ireland –which means only the very best research proposals with the potential to make landmark societal impacts are given the go-ahead,” she added.

Irish projects

TCD project ThermoDust is focusing on thermal management issues affecting different industries. The team plans to develop a radically new material with outstanding heat-transport performance that could improve heat dissipation and make major impacts in areas such as ICT, electric vehicles and aerospace.

Principal investigator Dr Rocco Lupoi said materials development and the evolution of many electronics are being hindered by a lack of success in heat removal, with data centres using a considerable amount of their energy on cooling systems alone.

“Ultimately, we believe this project will establish Ireland and Europe as a leader in heat management and pave the way for innumerable new products and innovations that will be more efficient and sustainable than current alternatives.”

SSLIP, the other TCD project to receive funding, is focusing on a new concept called superlubricity, where solid, atomic-sized 2D materials can slide across one another experiencing virtually no friction. The team aims to scale up this idea to reduce friction in areas such as manufacturing and transportation to reduce energy consumption and friction damage.

Principal investigator Dr Graham Cross said a 20pc friction reduction in combustion engines would save an estimated €120bn each year and reduce Co2 emissions by 290m tonnes. “This is critical for future technologies since drastic improvements in energy efficiency and low carbon CO2 emission are key objectives to most road maps for long-term sustainable transportation.”

Finally, EcoPlastic is the Athlone IT project to be awarded funding. It is looking to convert forms of plastic waste, such as low-grade PET and mixed recalcitrant PET plastic waste, into high-performing biopolymers – molecules that are usually produced naturally such as starch, cellulose, zein and gelatin.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic