New grants link Irish researchers with companies to tackle industry issues

4 Apr 2022

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A new fellowship programme will give 27 researchers experience in industry while providing companies with fresh expertise in areas from VR to medtech.

Researchers across Ireland will be linked up with industry partners to undertake projects in areas such as VR, chatbots, biotech, coastal erosion and breast cancer.

This comes under the new Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), which has awarded 27 grants worth €2.1m to support these academic-industry collaborations.

Industry partners, which include Analog Devices, Huawei and Boston Scientific, will provide co-funding for the programme with a combined value of €1.9m.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said the programme will bring together academics and industry partners on “some exciting research projects” where participants can “mutually benefit from each other’s invaluable knowledge and expertise”.

The fellowship programme is designed to help kick-start postdoctoral researchers’ careers in industry or support academics who want to spend some time in their field of expertise.

The collaboration is also expected to benefit participating companies, with research knowledge that could help tackle industry challenges.

Those awarded fellowships can take them on a full-time basis between one and 12 months, or on a part-time basis between two months and two years. The maximum award funded by SFI is €100,000.

“At SFI, we are keen to be part of a framework that can enable researchers to seek and secure diverse career opportunities in areas such as industry, research funding and administration and Government affairs,” said SFI director general Prof Philip Nolan.

“The applications to the programme have been incredibly strong and we are pleased to see such a high-calibre of projects coming to life.”

Researchers to receive grants include Jamal Nasir of NUI Galway, who will be working with Fidelity Investments on the optimisation of chatbots with reinforcement learning, and Ahmad Ziaee of University of Limerick, who will team up with DePuy Ireland on the development of advanced coating and masking tech for bioactive 3D-printed implants.

Meanwhile, University College Dublin’s Ming Zhao will work with Lakeland Dairies on process analytical technology tools for monitoring milk powder reconstitution processes, and Tyndall National Institute’s Walter Messina is looking at the design and fabrication of a localised drug delivery device for photodynamic therapy with Boston Scientific.

Applications for the 2022 SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship call are now open. The programme is also supported by IDA Ireland.

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Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic