US-Ireland R&D partnership reaches €73m milestone

16 Jan 2019

From left: Dr Mark Rooney, Dr Irina Tikhonova, Aidan Gough, Dr Susan Joyce and Dr David Simpson. Image: US-Ireland R&D Partnership

Trilateral partnership on R&D funding flies the flag for transatlantic research.

The US-Ireland Research and Development (R&D) Partnership – an alliance between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US – has awarded €73m in funding to collaborative research projects.

According to the latest figures from InterTradeIreland, 49 projects have been granted funding across key sectors including health, nanoscale science and engineering, telecommunications, and energy and sustainability.

‘Cross-border initiatives such as this are essential if we are to facilitate real knowledge-sharing and progress, particularly to tackle mega-trend issues that can impact businesses and society globally’

Launched in 2006, the US-Ireland R&D Partnership is led by a steering group of senior representatives from each of the three jurisdictions, with InterTradeIreland providing the secretariat for the group on the island of Ireland.

Impactful research

“Cross-border initiatives such as this are essential if we are to facilitate real knowledge-sharing and progress, particularly to tackle mega-trend issues that can impact businesses and society globally,” explained Gráinne Lennon, international funding and collaborations broker at InterTradeIreland.

“A highly competitive competition, partnerships need to be embedded in creativity and collaboration, and must demonstrate real value to secure support. Thankfully, the stats speak for themselves, and we are thrilled that so many local researchers are excelling in their respected fields to secure funding. Leveraging groundbreaking thinking both at home and internationally, the research being undertaken is truly world-leading and we look forward to seeing the advancements made by the latest projects.

“The partnership has made 49 research awards and approved over €70m of funding to a wide range of projects since it was first launched 12 years ago. It is a tangible legacy of the Peace Process and, despite the current uncertainty surrounding Brexit, cross-border and international research collaborations are still very much taking place,” Lennon said.

The latest phase of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership aims to tackle global challenges facing the agri-food sector. The first project successful under the agricultural call was from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in partnership with Teagasc and the University of Missouri in 2016. It was entitled ‘Application of next-generation sequencing for the identification of DNA-based biomarkers in regulatory regions of the genome for susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease complex’.

Last year, almost €1m was issued to three successful agri-projects with Republic of Ireland researchers. One such project, NAGpro – a collaboration between University College Cork (UCC), Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Tennessee – aims to improve animal husbandry through developing safe alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters.

“Through open communication and discussion with Queen’s University Belfast and University of Tennessee, we brought our ideas together in an exciting way to address a current problem,” said Dr Susan Joyce, college lecturer at the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC.

“It was really great for our teams to meet and generate excitement and scientific curiosity around the project. The agri-food industry continues to be a crucial part of the Irish economy, and this funding provides great opportunities for the sector and researchers to develop funded collaborations with partners in the US and Northern Ireland.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years