New research facility could revamp nanotech in Ireland

27 Apr 2010

CRANN, the Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Cork-based nanoscience research institute, opened its new Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) today, featuring some of the world’s most powerful microscopes.

Costing €12m and jointly funded by the Higher Education Authority and Science Foundation Ireland, the 6,000 sq-foot facility based on the TRCD campus will enable researchers to see and manipulate materials at the atomic scale. One example of this is the Helium Ion microscope, which has enabled CRANN researchers to obtain a unique insight into how blood platelets and cancer cells interact, which leads to the spread of cancer throughout the body.

Advanced Microscopy Laboratory is a boost for Ireland

The unique state-of-the-art infrastructure will significantly enhance Ireland’s international competitiveness in delivering research firsts and providing added value to industry, and has already gained the support of multinationals, such as Boston Scientific, Intel and Hewlett-Packard (HP). A shared-access facility, the CRANN AML is open to all researchers from academia and industry.

“The CRANN AML is a national asset driving competitiveness for Irish academia and industry, enabling Ireland to leapfrog other countries, moving up the international league tables to attract research, jobs and funding we would have missed out on previously without the appropriate infrastructure.

“Of €150bn in goods and services exported by Ireland in 2008, it is estimated 10pc were enabled by nanoscience and related nanotechnologies. By focusing on the area of nanotechnology there is the potential to grow this figure to 20pc, allowing Ireland to take a significant share of an estimated global market of €3trn in 2015. The CRANN AML is a critical piece of the infrastructure that will help us achieve that goal,” said Dara Calleary, Minister for Labour Affairs and Public Service Transformation.

“The vision and joined up thinking by the HEA and SFI in coming together to fund the CRANN AML is to be commended,” Calleary added. “It is an excellent example of how Ireland’s smart economy is enabled through high-quality research programmes, state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly trained, technically skilled personnel. In addition, it is an example of how appropriate joined-up thinking at Government level can enable economic benefits.”

Impacts from the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory

Prof John Boland, director of CRANN at TCD, noted: “The value of the CRANN AML facility is that it can deliver short, medium and long-term impacts. In the short term, we are working with industry, particularly indigenous companies, to improve existing products that are coming to market; in the medium term, working with companies like HP and Intel, we will develop next-generation products; and in the longer term we are carrying out fundamental research which will lead to improved technologies, electronic and medical devices and potential new patient treatments.

“This focus on collaboration with industry is critical to deriving value from this investment and we look forward to using it as a magnet both to attract FDI as well as supporting indigenous companies who are developing new products for global export.”

By Deirdre Nolan

Photo: CRANN’s Advanced Microscopy Laboratory is now open