Science research in Ireland: the present and the future

11 Nov 2011

Elena Irina Pascu takes a look at the scientific landscape in Ireland as it corresponds to the various universities across the land, underpinned by significant State investment over the last 10 years.

“The search for knowledge or systematic investigation to establish novel facts, solve or improve current situations,” is what defines research. It is a permanent search for knowledge.

Since 2000, Ireland has understood that just investing in fresh ideas, innovation and research will boost its economy and develop new businesses. The great number of the various research centres is a testament to the impact of the Irish Government’s investment.

Dublin Institute of Technology

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is Ireland’s largest higher education institution, with more than 22,000 students. It combines the academic excellence of a traditional university with professional, career-oriented learning at bachelors, masters and doctoral levels, preparing graduates for productive leadership roles and global citizenship. Our commitment to student-centred learning, useful knowledge, rigorous processes of discovery and critical enquiry, and support for entrepreneurship and diversity are key elements of our distinctive mission.

DIT has a distinctive approach to teaching and learning that is underpinned by a strong commitment to quality enhancement. It incorporates practice-based learning, research using real-life issues, internship in the community or industry, volunteerism, study abroad opportunities, and promotes inter-disciplinarity through modularisation. Graduates are prepared for global citizenship, capable of adapting to a changing international environment.

Nearly 20pc of the student body comes from outside Ireland, creating a culturally diverse and stimulating teaching and research environment. A community of more than 800 student and staff researchers are engaged in addressing 21st-century challenges, ensuring DIT plays a vital role in Ireland’s transition to a smart society. Our researchers actively collaborate with users across industry, business, the public and voluntary sectors. Academics and students are committed to making a significant contribution to international knowledge and enhancing Dublin’s role as Ireland’s global gateway.

DIT is a member of the European University Association, and the International Association of Universities and is ranked in the top 3pc of universities worldwide (Times Higher Education & QS University Rankings).

Research at DIT is organised through four multi-disciplinary research pillars, each of which addresses key issues of national and global strategic importance. Within each of these themes, the research is carried out within cross-disciplinary research institutes and centres

Environment and health

Environmental Health Sciences Institute (EHSI)
Radiation and Environmental Sciences Centre (RESC)
Inorganic Pharma and Biomimetic Research Centre (IPBRC)

New information and media technologies

Digital Media Centre (DMC)
Applied Intelligence Research Centre (AIRC)
Antenna & High Frequency Research Centre (AHFRC)
Communications Network Research Institute (CNRI)

Materials and energy

Focas Research Centre (Focas)
Centre for Industrial and Engineering Optics (IEO)
Centre for Research in Engineering & Surface Technology (CREST)
Dublin Energy Lab (DEL)
Centre for Elastomer Research (CER)
Photonics Research Centre (PRC)
Electrical Power Research Centre (EPRC)

Society, culture and enterprise

Centre for Social & Educational Research (CSER)
Centre for Transcultural Research & Media Practice (CTMP)
Business Society & Sustainability Research Centre (BSSRC)
DIT Centre for Consumption & Leisure Studies (CLS)

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, founded in 1592, is the oldest university in Ireland. Trinity is one of the world’s leading research-intensive universities, with a holistic outlook encompassing all major academic disciplines, with five key areas of interest:

European and international integration

Culture and creative arts

Materials and intelligent systems

Biosciences and translational research

Transport, energy and environment

Trinity College Dublin research centres and institutes cover areas such as neuroscience, globalisation, immunology, molecular medicine and the Trinity Long Room Hub for the arts and humanities, which are firmly established among the international leaders in their fields.

“Trinity is instrumental in driving significant national collaborative research ventures, such as such as the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC), Molecular Medicine Ireland (MMI) and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT),” as dean of research Dr David G. Lloyd, says.

University College Dublin

University College Dublin, founded in 1854, is Ireland’s largest university. The top universities ranking 2010-2011 included UCD as the 94th university. Also, UCD is one the highest research income universities in Ireland. The number of funded research projects has grown rapidly during the last few years, most notably from national agencies, such as Science Foundation Ireland, and from the European Commission. Its research areas include:

Agriculture, food science and veterinary medicine

Arts and Celtic studies

Business and law

Engineering and architecture

Health sciences

Human sciences


NUI Galway

National University of Galway was established in 1845. This is another Irish university world known for its research in areas such as:

Biomedical science and engineering

Informatics, physical and computational sciences

Environment, marine and energy

Applied social science and public policy


In recent years, the university has secured more than €400m in funding, much of it being invested in research areas. One of the world-class biomedical research centres focusing on gene therapy and stem cell research (REMEDI) is part of University of Galway.

University College Cork

University College Cork was established in 1845. UCC has a strong commitment to research, which it regards as its defining characteristic as a university. The university’s capabilities in biotechnology and information computer technology are key factors in growing spin-off companies. In the 2011 QS World University Rankings, UCC was placed 181th in the world, up three places relative to 2010. Research at UCC focuses in areas such as:

Arts, Celtic studies and social sciences

Business and law

Medicine and health

Science, engineering and food science

The strategic thematic areas are supported by four research institutes, each a major centre of excellence: Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) and BioSciences Institute (BSI), Environmental Research Institute (ERI), Tyndall National Institute (Tyndall) and Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century (ISS-21).

NUI Maynooth

National University of Ireland Maynooth, founded in 1795, is Ireland’s fastest-growing university. It commits itself to establishing an international reputation as a world-class research-led institution of learning and academic discovery. Research at NUI Maynooth is a 200-year-old continuous search for knowledge, being a research-led institution with internationally recognised strengths in a number of focused areas:

Arts, Celtic studies and philosophy

Science and engineering

Social sciences

Its research is supported by institutes and research centres, as a proof the university values scholarship, discovery and enterprise.

Dublin City University

Dublin City University, established in 1980, is now one of the leading public universities in Ireland. As Prof Eugene Kennedy, the vice-president for research, says: “Research centres were established early in DCU’s growth with support from the Government’s Programme in Advanced Technology. Later initiatives, such as University Designated Research Centres (UDRC), National Centres and Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology, have continued this theme of building research flagships, which are significant in terms of national leadership and international competitiveness.”

The university is home to Science Foundation Ireland’s Biomedical Diagnostics Institute and Centre for Next Generation Localization. Research in DCU focuses on different areas, such as:

Science, engineering and technology

Health sciences and biotechnology

Education and humanities

University of Limerick

University of Limerick was established in 1972. The University of Limerick has an established reputation for being Ireland’s leading university in industry-led research. This has resulted in significant research commercialisation activities and collaboration between our leading researchers and industry. Beside its research institutes, UL has research centres focusing on four areas:

Arts, humanities and social sciences

Education and health sciences

Science and engineering


Elena Irina Paşcu

In advance of Dublin City of Science 2012, is hosting Science November, a month dedicated to news, reports, interviews and videos covering a range of Irish science, research and innovation.