SFI’s Insight centre bags Medtronic and Fidelity research partnerships

21 Mar 2022

Prof Máire Connolly, a funded investigator at the Insight research centre in NUI Galway. Image: SFI

The SFI research centre is working with Medtronic on pandemic preparedness and with Fidelity Investments on knowledge graphs, natural language inference and computer vision projects.

Insight, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre for data analytics, is collaborating with Medtronic on research at NUI Galway into ventilator supply chains and pandemic preparedness.

The two-year project will look at ways to future-proof supply lines of medical devices such as ventilators by utilising the knowledge gained during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Medtronic pledged to support research into this area last December, after its CEO received an award for the company’s contributions during the Covid-19 crisis.

The medical device company, which has a base in Galway, has now confirmed that it committed a €300,000 investment to the research collaboration. It is part of its Giving back to Galway initiative, which has contributed more than €900,000 to local projects.

SFI director of science for the economy Dr Siobhan Roche said: “Enhancing the performance of ventilator supply chains will be of significant value in the case of future pandemics, helping to advance global healthcare and offering real-life tangible benefits to our society and economy.”

The project is being led by Insight and the Global Health team at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine. While looking at ways to enhance supply chain resilience, the team will also evaluate training materials for nurses without prior experience of managing ventilated patients to support rapid upskilling.

The Global Health team is led by Prof Máire Connolly, a funded investigator at the Insight centre in NUI Galway. Connolly welcomed the collaborative venture and said she looks forward to “developing this crucial area of research for better pandemic preparedness and supply chain resilience in the future”.

Insight CEO Prof Noel O’Connor added: “If it wasn’t clear before 2019, the events of the last two years have demonstrated the absolute necessity for investing in projects like this to ensure that we are prepared for future pandemics.

“I am delighted that this project gives Prof Connolly, one of the world’s leading academics in pandemic preparedness, the opportunity to partner with a world-leading healthcare technology company like Medtronic.”

In early 2020, Medtronic’s manufacturing plant in Galway began working 24/7 to double its production of ventilators to meet global demand during the pandemic. The company also released the full specifications of one of its ventilator designs in a bid to overcome global shortages.

Fidelity projects

Insight has also expanded its research relationship with financial services firm Fidelity Investments through a number of collaborative projects.

Fidelity Investments is currently working with Insight in three key areas: knowledge graphs, natural language inference and computer vision.

Insight researchers are working on three Fidelity-funded projects at NUI Galway and Dublin City University, and Fidelity is also supporting two SFI Industry Fellowships involving Insight researchers at NUI Galway.

“It’s wonderful to see our ongoing engagement with Fidelity continue to go from strength to strength, given the importance of this industry sector to the Irish economy,” O’Connor said.

“It is important that we continue to set the standard for how world-class research can advance the state of the art in financial services, ensuring Ireland’s leadership in this arena into the future.”

Lorna Martyn, head of technology and senior VP at Fidelity Investments Ireland, added that the ecosystem in Ireland provides a “unique opportunity for mutually beneficial collaboration” between business and academic centres such as Insight. “The combination of business and research expertise is truly symbiotic in surfacing progressive applied opportunities,” she said.

Medtronic and Fidelity are not the only companies working with Insight. In January, Facebook parent company Meta announced a €500,000 investment into a research programme that aims to future-proof EU data flows and drive innovation in data protection, which is being run by four SFI research centres: Insight, Lero, FutureNeuro and Adapt.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic