Research centres in Ireland and their people

21 Nov 2011

Elena Irina Pascu takes a look at the scientific landscape in Ireland in terms of the various research centres around the country and the people directing them.

1.     Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC)

The APC aims to deliver innovative research that establishes Ireland as a centre of excellence in GI health, to help the development of indigenous industry and to attract multinational companies to Ireland to instigate collaborative research programmes. Director of the centre is Prof Fergus Shanahan. 

Shanahan is also the chair of the Department of Medicine at University College Cork (UCC). He is a UCD medical graduate and was awarded the gold medal in medicine from the Mater Hospital, Dublin. He also was trained in Canada and the US, and received multiple fellowships from the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom, and the fellowship of the American College of Physicians. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles and several books. As well as being director of the APC, Shanahan is also a principal investigator in the Host Response core, with particular research interests in mucosal immunology, inflammatory bowel disease and most things that influence the human experience.

Fergus Shanahan

Prof Fergus Shanahan, director, Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre

2.     Centre for Human Proteomics (CHP)  

The Centre for Human Proteomics (CHP) was established in May 2003 at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The focus of the CHP is the application of proteomics technologies to identify proteins, their modifications and their role in disease.

Prof Jochen Prehn is the scientific director of the centre and also head of Department of Physiology and Medical Physics at RCSI. He is also the director of the Centre for the Study of Neurological Disorders (CSND) and the Centre for Human Proteomics and Medical Systems Biology. Prehn was the first recipient of the Science Foundation Ireland Fellows-Research Professorship award in 2003 and is considered an international authority on the single-cell analysis and the molecular control of nerve cell death.

Jochen Prehn

Prof Jochen Prehn, scientific director of the Centre for Human Proteomics

3.     Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN)

CRANN is recognised internationally as a leading institute for nanoscience research. The institute works across the research spectrum from the development of new nanomaterials with improved mechanical, magnetic, electrical or optical properties and their subsequent application in electronic or medical devices, sensors, or new drug delivery systems.

Prof John Boland holds the position of director. He graduated with a BSc degree in chemistry from University College Dublin and a PhD in chemical physics from the California Institute of Technology. For 10 years (1984-1994) he worked as part of the research team with the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center (New York). In 2002, Boland moved to the School of Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin as a Science Foundation Ireland principal investigator. Boland’s research interests focus on understanding nanoscale processing and materials properties for advanced device applications, including the development of new protocols for assembling, fabricating, and testing nanometre-scale device structures.

John Boland

Prof John Boland, director of the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices

4.     Centre for Telecommunications Value-Chain-Driven Research (CTVR)

CTVR is Ireland’s largest telecommunications research centre. It conducts industry-informed research in the telecommunications field. The centre focuses on wireless and optical networks of the future, with an emphasis on the technologies that will underpin these networks.

Prof Linda Doyle is the director of the centre. She is also an associate professor at TCD. Her research focuses on cognitive radio, reconfigurable networks, dynamic spectrum access, spectrum management regimes and spectrum policy. Her group includes a number of researchers. The centre also includes a number of researchers who focus on art and technology-related research.

Linda Doyle

Prof Linda Doyle, director of the Centre for Telecommunications Value-Chain-Driven Research

5.     Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI)

The vision of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute is to be recognised as one of the leading international web science research institutes interlinking technologies, information and people to advance business and benefit society.

Prof Stefan Decker is the director of the institute and a professor at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His research interest is semantic web. He has been ranked as 1035 in the list of most-cited computer scientists. Previously, he worked at ISI, University of Southern California (two years, as research assistant professor and computer scientist); Stanford University, Computer Science Department (Database Group) (three years, as post-doc and research associate); and Institute AIFB, University of Karlsruhe (four years, as a PhD student and junior researcher).

Stefan Decker

Prof Stefan Decker, director of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute

6.      Molecular Medicine Ireland

Molecular Medicine Ireland was established by the National University of Ireland, Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University College Cork, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and their associated academic hospitals, as a research partnership to accelerate the translation of biomedical research into improved diagnostics and therapies for patients.

The HRB is the chief funding agency for competitive, peer-reviewed health research in Ireland and is a major provider of research and information services to the health system.

Enda Connolly’s has been chief executive of the Health Research Board (HRB) for the last few years.

7.     Lero – The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre

Lero is the Irish software engineering research centre. It brings together leading software engineering teams in a co-ordinated centre of research excellence.

Prof Mike Hinchey is director of Lero and professor of software engineering at the University of Limerick. Hinchey was previously director of the Software Engineering Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. He remains as a consultant to NASA. Hinchey has held a number of professorships, both visiting and permanent, in a number of universities, including the University of Nebraska, The Queen’s University of Belfast, New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Skovde in Sweden and University of Queensland in Australia. His work with NASA was implemented in various space projects and will be incorporated in future missions. He helped make NASA missions self-managing and able to proceed to terrains that were previously inaccessible. He also helped develop significant advances in survivability, with consequent less likelihood of mission failure.

Mike Hinchey

Prof Mike Hinchey, director of Lero

8.     Tyndall National Institute

Tyndall’s objective is to create a research institute, which would become a focal point of information and communications technology (ICT) in Ireland, to support industry and academia.

Prof Roger Whatmore took the position of CEO of Tyndall National Institute in Cork, Ireland, in January 2006. He has a PhD from Cambridge University and he spent 18 years working with the GEC Marconi (formerly Plessey) research laboratories at Caswell in the UK on the development and exploitation of ferroelectric materials in a range of electronic devices, particularly pyroelectric infrared materials and detectors, and piezoelectric sensors and actuators. He was awarded GEC’s Nelson Gold Medal for this work. He also led the team that won the Prince of Wales’ Award for Innovation that year. He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. In 2003, the IoM3 awarded him the Griffith Medal and Prize for distinguished work in materials science.   

Roger Whatmore

Prof Roger Whatmore, CEO, Tyndall National Institute

9.     National Centre for Sensor Research

The National Centre for Sensor Research is a world-renowned, large-scale, multidisciplinary research facility focused on the science and applications of chemical sensors and biosensors.

Prof Malcolm Smyth is the dean of the Faculty of Science & Health at Dublin City University. He is also the president of the Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and is the first analytical chemist from the Republic of Ireland to hold this prestigious position. His research interests and experience are centred mainly in the fields of electroanalysis and separation science, with particular emphasis in the areas of electrochemical detection for HPLC and CE, modified electrodes and biosensors. He is the senior associate scientific editor of The Analyst, and serves on the editorial advisory boards of several journals.

Malcolm Smyth

Prof Malcolm Smyth, dean of the Faculty of Science & Health at Dublin City University, and president of the Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry

10. Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI)

The Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) is a world-class biomedical research centre focusing on gene therapy and stem-cell research.

Prof Timothy O’Brien established the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI, Galway (REMEDI). The focus of the institute is to exploit the synergies between the technologies of gene delivery and stem-cell biology to promote organ regeneration and repair. The principal initial disease targets of the institute are ischaemic cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis. A graduate of University College Cork, O’Brien spent 13 years in the US at the Medical College of Wisconsin (residency in internal medicine), the Mayo Clinic (fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism) and the University of California, San Francisco (post-doctoral fellow and Mayo Foundation Scholar). He also directs the GMP stem -cell production facility at NUI Galway and is a principal investigator at the Galway Clinical Research Facility. His principal research interest is in the development of gene and cell therapy approaches to cardiovascular disease, with a special interest in diabetic vascular disorders.

Timothy O'Brien

Prof Timothy O’Brien established the Regenerative Medicine Institute

11. Telecommunications Software and Systems Group

The TSSG’s research focus is on the dramatic changes occurring in the telecommunications software industry, and indeed on the wider converged communications industry, particularly in managing networks and in developing innovative new services for those networks.

Director Dr Willie Donnelly’s main research interest is telecommunications network management, with particular emphasis on autonomic network management, bio-inspired network management techniques and the challenges of managing the future internet. Nationally, Donnelly has served as a board member of IRCSET, from 2001 to 2006, as well as an advisory group member on the Advisory Science Council Research Careers Task Force, Forfás wireless working group, communications management working group and the Marine Institute working group on future research. Internationally, Donnelly has played a leading role in the European IST/ICT framework programme since 1989, with WIT and the TSSG continuing to be at the forefront of both the autonomic communications and future internet initiatives. Donnelly has been at the forefront of the European Telecommunications Management research and development industry since 1991. He co-founded the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group at WIT in 1996.

Willie Donnelly

Dr Willie Donnelly, co-founder and director of TSSG

12. Systems Biology Ireland

SBI carries out cutting-edge research focused on unravelling the complexity of biological systems and improving the biomedical application of stem cells.

Prof Walter Kolch has been Systems Biology Ireland’s director since its inception in 2009. He has a world-class reputation for his research in proteomics, cell signalling and analytical biochemistry. He has published more than 140 papers and is particularly noted for his work on cellular signalling pathways. You’d be forgiven in thinking that therefore Kolch has no time for anything else and I’m afraid you would be wrong. As director of SBI and the Conway Institute, he has introduced several new initiatives, such as the PhD and post-docs forum, which allow for a much happier and cohesive working environment.

Walter Kolch

Prof Walter Kolch, director of Systems Biology Ireland

13.  National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis

NIRSA’s remit is to undertake fundamental, applied and comparative research on spatial processes and their effects on social and economic development in Ireland.

The director of the institute is Prof Rob Kitchin. He is also chairperson of the Irish Social Sciences Platform. He is editor of the international journals Progress in Human Geography (ISI rank 2/61) and Dialogues in Human Geography, and for 11 years was the editor of Social and Cultural Geography. He has successfully written or been a principal investigator on nearly 40 grants, totalling more than €29m, including funding from PRTLI 2, 4, 5, ESRC, NSF, Interreg and RIA. He has undertaken research for a wide range of bodies including government departments, semi-stage agencies, NGOs and community groups. His research has been widely covered in national and international media.

Rob Kitchin

Prof Rob Kitchin, director, National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis

14. An Foras Feasa

Foras Feasa will advance the generation and utilisation of interactive media by its emphasis on the incorporation of information and communication technology.

The director of An Foras Feasa is Prof Margaret Kelleher. She is a senior lecturer in the Department of English, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, having joined the department in 1996. Previously, she lectured in the Mater Dei Institute, Dublin. In 2002-2003, she held the Burns Visiting Chair in Irish Studies at Boston College. She is the current president of the Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland. Her main research interests and publications are in Irish women’s writings, 19th-century Irish literature, the literature of famine, and literature and education. She is the co-editor (with Philip O’Leary) of the forthcoming Cambridge History of Irish Literature.

Margaret Kelleher

Prof Margaret Kelleher, director, An Foras Feasa

15. The Moore Institute

The mission of the Moore Institute is to promote research and research-led teaching, and to solicit financial support for the best younger scholars from any country who wish to work either alone or in multi-disciplinary groups.

Prof Nicholas Allen is Moore Institute Professor at NUI Galway. He is writing a cultural history of 1916 and its impact on modernism for Cambridge University Press, and editing Ernie O’Malley’s later letters and papers with Cormac O’Malley. His other books are Modernism, Ireland and Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and George Russell and the New Ireland (Four Courts, 2003). Allen is editor of That Other Island (2007), with Eve Patten, Gerald Dawe’s The Proper Word (2007) and The Cities of Belfast (2003), with Aaron Kelly. He leads the Galway strand of Texts, Contexts, Cultures, a graduate programme run in association with Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork, and has supervisory interests in a range of 20th-century Irish literature, history and art.

Nicholas Allen

Prof Nicholas Allen, Moore Institute Professor at NUI Galway

16. The Long Room Hub

The Hub seeks to encourage and foster innovative interdisciplinary research across the entire spectrum of the arts and humanities at Trinity College Dublin, with a particular interest in stimulating research that will unlock the treasures of the college’s incomparable library, and in encouraging the application of new technologies to arts and humanities research.

Poul Holm is professor of environmental history at Trinity College Dublin and academic director of the Trinity Long Room Hub, the research institute for the arts and humanities. He has been a senior curator at the Fisheries and Maritime Museum, Esbjerg, Denmark; professor at the University of Southern Denmark; rector (president) of the University of Roskilde; and chairman of the Danish Research Council for the Humanities. He is former president of the European Society for Environmental History. He has published on fisheries history and marine environmental history; coastal communities and culture; and the Viking settlements in Ireland. He is currently chair of the global History of Marine Animal Populations project, HMAP, which is a 10-year project aiming to understand human impacts on ocean ecology.

Poul Holm

Poul Holm, professor of environmental history at Trinity College Dublin, and academic director of the Trinity Long Room Hub


CLARITY is a research centre that focuses on the intersection between two important research areas – adaptive sensing and information discovery – to develop innovative new technologies of critical importance to Ireland’s future industry base and contribute to improving the quality of life of people in areas such as personal health, digital media and management of our environment.

Prof Barry Smyth holds the digital chair of computer science in the School of Computer Science and Informatics at University College Dublin. He has a PhD from Trinity College Dublin and his research interests include personalisation, recommender systems, case-based reasoning, machine learning, and information retrieval. Smyth has published in excess of 350 research papers and received more than 15 Best Paper awards for his research. He is a co-founder of ChanagingWorlds Ltd., a leading provider of mobile content discovery solutions, recently acquired by Amdocs Inc. Smyth is currently the director of the CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies.

Barry Smyth

Prof Barry Smyth, director, CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies

18. Biomedical Diagnostics Institute

BDI is focused on the development of the next generation of biomedical diagnostics devices.

Prof Michael Berndt is the director of the institute. Previously, he was head of the College of Medicine and Health, University College Cork, and interim director of the Biosciences Institute, UCC. His research interests include thrombosis, inflammation and vascular biology. He also holds the position of professor of experimental medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Berndt is chairman elect of the Executive Council of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

Michael Berndt

Prof Michael Berndt, director, Biomedical Diagnostics Institute

19. Urban Institute of Ireland

The UII unites the scientific, technical, professional and public-policy disciplines of UCD, including engineering, planning, environmental policy, architecture, geography, economics, sociology, physics, rural development, transport policy, biology and climatology to provide the synergy required to tackle the multidimensional challenges of achieving sustainable development in new and innovative ways.

Prof Frank Convery is Heritage Trust professor of environmental policy, and director of the Urban Institute Ireland, University College Dublin (NUID-UCD). He has a long history in European environmental economics and policy work, and has been involved in numerous successful European research projects. As a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA), he chaired the committee overseeing the reports the agency commissioned and published on the uses of environmental taxation and voluntary approaches in environmental policy. He is president of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.

Frank Convery

Prof Frank Convery is Heritage Trust professor of environmental policy, and director of the Urban Institute Ireland

20. Irish Research Cluster Institute (ICSI)

The institute’s research is based within the fields of analytical, bioanalytical and environmental chemistry; specifically in the development and application of the separation sciences, including liquid chromatographic based analysis, capillary zone electrophoresis (CZE) and coupled with techniques such as liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Prof Brett Paull is the director of the institute. He he earned his degree in environmental sciences from Polytechnic Southwest, Plymouth. In 1992, Polytechnic Southwest became the University of Plymouth, where, working under the supervision of Dr Phil Jones, was awarded a PhD in 1994 (research into the development of novel ion chromatographic techniques for trace metal analysis). Subsequently, he took up the position of associate lecturer in analytical chemistry within the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tasmania, Australia, working on the development of ion chromatographic and capillary electrophoretic methods of analysis. In January 1998, he moved to the School of Chemical Sciences, Dublin City University, as lecturer in analytical chemistry, where he established an Analytical Separations Research Group (currently based within the NCSR). In 2004, was made senior lecturer, and in December 2006 was promoted to associate professor.

21. Research Institute for Networks and Communications Engineering (RINCE)

RINCE is an Irish national research institute focused on innovation in engineering technologies.

The director of the institute is Prof Barry McMullin. He graduated with a BE (electrical engineering) degree from University College Dublin. His primary research activity is in the domain of artificial life. He serves on the organising committees of both the European and US conferences on artificial life, and as a member of the editorial board of the Artificial Life journal. He has a secondary research interest in the area of web accessibility, engineering websites and services to best meet the requirements of all users, specifically those with disabilities.

Barry McMullin

Prof Barry McMullin, director of Research Institute for Networks and Communications Engineering (RINCE)

22. Marine and Environmental Sensing Technology Hub

Marine and Environmental Sensing Technology Hub promotes collaboration between research institutions and industry, and assists in the development of companies’ strategies in the marine and environmental sector through technical excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy. The hub also supports national economic development priorities like ‘Ireland’s Smart Economy’, and facilitates effective technology transfer between researchers and industrial partners. In addition, it provides a secure platform for career development in niche focused technical specialities, and assists Ireland in securing a market-leading position in next-generation marine and environmental technologies.

Prof Fiona Regan is the director of MESTECH. She studied environmental science and technology at the Institute of Technology in Sligo and graduated in 1991. She obtained her PhD in analytical chemistry in 1994, at Dublin City University (DCU). Following her PhD, she carried out post-doctoral research in the physics department of DCU. In 2002, she continued as a lecturer in analytical chemistry in the School of Chemical Sciences, DCU, and in 2008 she was promoted to senior lecturer, where she has an active research group in the area of separations and sensors for environmental application. Her group (Analytical Environmental Research Group (AER), currently consists of 13 researchers. In 2009, she was promoted to associate professor in environmental sensing and is PI of the Beaufort Marine Sensing Programme at DCU.

Fiona Regan

Prof Fiona Regan, director of MESTECH

23. Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials

The Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials focuses on developing implantable biomaterials to restore dysfunctional cells and tissue that result from disease or injury. Biomaterials include both natural and synthetic materials, or a combination of both. Their effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by incorporating therapeutic agents, such as drugs, cells, genes, growth factors or other bio-molecules. NFB focus on several clinical areas, including musculoskeletal, neural, soft tissue repair and cardiovascular applications.

Prof Abhay Pandit is the director of the centre. Pandit has more than 20 years of experience in the field of designing biodegradable biomaterials. He pursued his post-graduate degree under the guidance of Prof Dale Feldman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he worked on the treatment of pressure ulcers using biomaterials for growth factor delivery. For his role in the development of biomaterials and tissue engineering research at NUI Galway and in recognition of the progress achieved thus far and the potential impact of research in the field of biomaterials, he received funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), which has led to the establishment of NFB, an extension of the world-class biomedical research currently being carried out at the NCBES (National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science).

Abhay Pandit

Prof Abhay Pandit, director of The Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials

24. Focas Research Institute

The Focas Research Institute addresses research questions across the intersections of materials and energy with a strong focus on bio- and nanotechnologies. It actively promotes interdisciplinary collaborations within DIT and with national and international organisations, including the National Biophotonics and Imaging Platform, the Integrated NanoScience Platform for Ireland, the EuroBioImaging European Research Infrastructure network and the QNano European Research Infrastructure for nanomaterial safety testing. Focas provides consultancy expertise for industry and works closely with DIT’s Hothouse Technology Transfer Office to maximise the commercial potential of research. It has been particularly successful in solar energy, energy efficiency, grid power, energy storage, photonics, sensing and imaging, nanotechnology and materials science. The Focas Research Institute houses state-of-the-art core laboratory space and provides administrative and technical support to more than 120 staff and research students based in its research centres.

Prof Hugh J Byrne is head of the Focas Research Institute, DIT. Byrne is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, where he was awarded his PhD in experimental physics in 1989. He completed post-doctoral research in Trinity College in 1991, before spending periods as a visiting research scientist at the Max-Plank Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart (1991-1995) and the National Institute Materials and Chemistry Research, Tsukuba, Japan (1995-1996), prior to joining Dublin Institute of Technology in 1996 as a lecturer in the School of Physics. He played a central role in the establishment of the PRTLI-Cycle 1 (1999-2003) funded Facility for Optical Characterisation and Spectroscopy (FOCAS). In 2007, he led the DIT participation in the PRTLI Cycle 4 funded Integrated NanoScience Platform for Ireland (INSPIRE) and National Biophotonics and Imaging Platform, Ireland (NBIPI). INSPIRE was extended as a National NanoScience Graduate School under PRTLI Cycle 5 (2011-2016). Byrne’s current research activities are in the areas of nanobio interactions and biospectroscopy. He has published more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and has supervised 25 PhD students to completion.

Hugh Byrne

Prof Hugh J Byrne, head of the Focas Research Institute, DIT

25. Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology (CREST)

CREST is at the forefront of research in surface coatings technology (architectural, automotive, medical devices, aerospace, manufacturing, etc), corrosion control technology (materials selection mechanisms), and nanomaterials (sol-gel). It engages in consultancy and contract research. CREST uses a range of surface characterisation (SEM, TEM, AFM) and analytical techniques (ICP, XRD, GC, EDS, WDS).

Dr John Colreavy has accumulated almost two decades of experience in the surface coatings industry, both in Ireland and the UK, including ICI’s Paint Research Centre, British Steel and Courtaulds. While working at British Steel, he was an investigator within British Steel’s Physical Metallurgy Group and after completing two years as a materials analyst embarked on a course of research which led to the award of PhD from UMIST’s Corrosion and Protection Department in 1995. 

Colreavy subsequently worked in Enterprise Ireland as a research officer on industrial R&D and consultancy projects. He worked on significant projects, such as the restoration of the Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin, and in 2001 delivered a study to the EU Commission, which has formed the basis of an EU directive proposed by DG Environment. He initiated the Irish branch of the Institute of Corrosion in November 2001 and was promoted to senior research officer in 2002. Colreavy was responsible for the transfer of the CREST Centre to the Focas Institute in Dublin Institute of Technology in 2003 and is currently centre director.


Dr John Colreavy, director of CREST


Sensor network/telecommunication/web science:

Centre for Telecommunications Value-Chain-Driven Research (CTVR)

Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI)

Lero – The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre

Tyndall National Institute

National Centre for Sensor Research

Telecommunications Software and Systems Group

An Foras Feasa


Research Institute for Networks and Communications Engineering (RINCE)

Health/biotechnology/regenerative medicine/nanoscience/biomaterials:

Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC)

Centre for Human Proteomics (CHP)

Molecular Medicine Ireland

Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI)

Systems Biology Ireland


Biomedical Diagnostics Institute

Irish Research Cluster Institute (ICSI)

Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials

Marine/spatial/urban science:

Urban Institute of Ireland

Marine and Environmental Sensing Technology Hub


The Long Room Hub

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