Ireland bets €28m on tools to turn science ideas into jobs

12 Jan 2016

Ireland's Government is to invest €28.8m in equipment and facilities for 21 strategic SFI projects.

The Government is to invest €28.8m in research infrastructure, including equipment and facilities for Science Foundation Ireland.

Some 21 projects to give researchers the edge in areas ranging from big data to internet of things, marine energy, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and health will be supported.

The investment goals were revealed just a month after the Irish Government published its science strategy Innovation 2020.

The Government said it is to invest in research infrastructure for 21 projects to support the progression of exemplary Irish science in areas including manufacturing, big data, wireless networks, natural resources, internet of things, geo-sciences, nanomaterials, marine renewable energy and animal and human health.

The CEO of SFI and the Government’s Chief Science Adviser Mark Ferguson said that Ireland is increasingly becoming the location of choice for multinational companies to develop and test tomorrow’s technologies.

‘This will ensure that we can compete at the highest levels internationally and continue to turn more good ideas into good jobs’

“Ultimately, this is about providing Irish researchers in strategic areas with the tools to be world-leading,” Ferguson said.

The aim of the investment is that the new infrastructure will ensure that Irish researchers continue to be internationally competitive, with access to modern equipment and facilities that will enable them to be successful in securing future funding from leading companies and Europe, including Horizon 2020.

“By investing in world-class R&D infrastructure, both at a regional and national level, this will ensure that we can compete at the highest levels internationally and continue to turn more good ideas into good jobs,” the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD explained.

The infrastructure of ideas

Among the investments in the areas of human health are a new human motion analysis system to facilitate the development of personal sensing connected health technologies for patients and athletes, a biobank for 4m samples to facilitate the discovery of better treatments for mothers and babies and an early-life lab to monitor how the brain grows.

In the area of big data analytics and the internet of things, projects include testing new radio technologies for IoT, including a 400Gbps communications testbed, as well as a Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR) for gathering radio images of astronomical objects using advanced image processing and data analytics techniques.

In manufacturing, additive manufacturing nanomaterial infrastructure for new 3D-printable materials, such as 3D hip and knee implants, as well as a state-of-the-art advanced analysis facility for real-time direct observation of pharmaceutical process reactions, are to be invested in.

In the area of natural resources and hazards, investment will be made in an early warning system for offshore earthquake and offshore storms, as well as a CT scanner to enable the analysis of botanic, geophysical and natural resources.

And in the area of marine, investment will be made in an Open Ocean Emulator to accurately replicate real ocean wave conditions in a lab setting. Plans are also afoot to invest in a remotely operated vehicle to deploy, repair and maintain wave and tidal energy devices in challenging conditions off shore.

“Today’s investment will advance the implementation of the Government’s new science strategy – Innovation 2020,” the Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills Damien English TD explained.

“The 21 projects will enable globally compelling research to be undertaken across the country, facilitating greater industry and international collaboration, supporting the training of researchers and demonstrating to an international audience that Ireland on an all-island basis is business friendly and bullish in its pursuit of, and participation in, excellent research.”

Science Ireland image via Shutterstock

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