Seven US-Ireland research projects receive €9m joint investment

14 Mar 2022

From left: Research fellow Dr Rebecca Rolfe, primary investigator Prof Paula Murphy and visiting student Natalie Jablonski, who are part of a research team based at Trinity College Dublin that has received funding. Image: SFI

As part of an initiative to boost research collaboration across the Atlantic, projects will be funded in areas such as quantum networks, nanomaterials, photonics and tissue engineering.

A €9m joint investment between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US will fund seven collaborative research projects involving multiple Irish universities.

The funding comes from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the National Science Foundation in the US and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.

SFI said today (14 March) that these seven funding awards will support more than 14 research positions in the Republic of Ireland and 10 research positions in Northern Ireland for three to five years.

The funding comes under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme, first launched in 2006 to increase the level of collaborative research among researchers and industry professionals across the US and the island of Ireland.

There are 16 collaborating institutions including University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, Munster Technological University, Tyndall National Institute and Dublin City University (DCU).

The seven projects to receive funding cover a variety of areas such as energy and sustainability, telecommunications and quantum networks, nanomaterials, optics and photonics and sensor monitoring for water quality and peatlands.

One of the projects at Trinity is focused on tissue engineering for tendon reconstruction. Led by Prof Paula Murphy, the research team will look at the structural changes that drive normal tendon development with a view to enhancing engineered tender constructs via a nanoparticle-hydrogel gene delivery system.

Another project at Trinity, led by Prof Marco Ruffini, will investigate the intersection between classical and quantum networks to create a research foundation for the coexistence of these two domains in existing telecoms infrastructure.

Meanwhile in DCU, researchers led by Prof Noel O’Connor aim to develop and field test a prototype nitrogen sensor system using polymer-assisted bacteria, to create a sensor that can monitor water quality in real time.

‘Scientific discovery across borders’

“These are world-class research projects, driving innovation with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies,” SFI director general Prof Philip Nolan said.

“The US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong collaborative relationship between our countries, encouraging globally relevant scientific discovery across borders.”

Trevor Cooper, director of higher education in Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, said this partnership is playing a “key role” in driving the region’s ‘10x Economy’ economic vision.

“10x Economy recognises that international collaboration is a key feature of the Northern Ireland research landscape and fundamental to driving both economic impact and social advancement,” Cooper said. “This flagship transatlantic partnership is crucial to delivering this vision.”

Co-founding partners in the programme include Ireland’s Health Research Board, the Health and Social Care R&D Division in Northern Ireland and the National Institutes of Health in the US.

Any applications made to the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme must have a minimum of one academic applicant from each of the three regions.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic