Lucent unveils new R&D lab

8 Mar 2005

A €43m research facility that aims to harness Irish science and engineering talent while undertaking leading-edge telecommunications research was unveiled yesterday at Lucent’s Blanchardstown site.

Bell Labs Ireland plans to employ 40 researchers focusing on a range of supply chain management and product development technologies. Researchers there will work in partnership with nine leading Irish universities and technical institutes in achieving their goals.

The lab is part of a €69m investment package announced by the Government last June that has also seen the creation of a cross-university telecommunications research facility, the Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain-driven Research (CTVR) based at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The Bell Labs facility will account for more than €43m of the total investment and is being jointly funded by Bell Labs and IDA Ireland, while the CTVR is being funded by Science Foundation Ireland as part of its ambitious Centre for Science Engineering and Technology programme.

Officially opening the new facility, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD described the investment as a “perfect fit” with the Government’s policy of expanding Ireland’s research base. “The investment moves Ireland a step closer to being a world leader in ICT and related technologies.”

He continued: “This is a huge vote of confidence in our ability to provide many of the supports necessary for a world-renowned institution, which include a favourable tax regime and a business-friendly environment.”

Also present at the opening was Bill O’Shea, president of Bell Labs, who noted that strong government support for research and development, Ireland’s educated population and a well-developed third-level sector were all significant factors in the decision to choose Ireland as the location for the investment.

Dr Lou Manzione, executive director of Bell Labs Ireland, described the new facility as “proof that the Government’s investment in sciences is working” and felt that the collaboration between Bell Labs and IDA would act as a catalyst for other companies to consider Ireland as the location for their research centres.

It was also announced that Bell Labs Ireland is to spearhead a new research project involving nanotechology. The team, whose members also includes researchers from three Irish universities – TCD, University of Limerick and the Tyndall Institute at University College Cork – as well as a number from the company’s main labs at Murray Hill, New Jersey, will use ‘nanograss’, a newly developed Bell Labs surface that contains billions of tiny silicon posts, to study the effectiveness of transferring heat from silicon surfaces to liquid coolants. It is felt the research could lead to important breakthroughs in creative cost-effective communications devices and networks.

Also unveiled yesterday was a new museum to showcase some of the inventions made by Bell Labs scientists down the years. The objects on display include the world’s first fax machine dating from 1925, the Vitaphone Projector (1926) that allowed sound to be added to the movies for the first time, a replica of the first transistor from 1947, a half-scale model of Telstar, the world’s first commerical satellite launched into orbit in 1962 and, from more recent times, the first mobile base station antenna for mobile technology and the first optical router for fibre-optic communications.

Apart from acting as a valuable historical archive, the museum will play an important educational and promotional role, said Manzione. “We hope that it will inspire and help awaken people’s interest in careers in science and engineering.”

Lucent Technologies employs nearly 600 people in Ireland out of a total of 5,000 in Europe as a whole.

By Brian Skelly