SFI announces €40m funding for 24 advanced research projects

3 Aug 2016

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has announced €40m in funding for 24 research projects, including one to develop a vaccine for the superbug MRSA.

The SFI fund was announced as part of its Investigators Programme, which will support more than 200 researchers over four-to-five-year periods with funding amounts ranging from €500,000 to €2.7m.

Co-funding for seven of the projects is being provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE), the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

With 24 projects selected under this current round of funding, a further 10 projects were also deemed scientifically excellent and impactful by the international review panel and are on a reserve list to be funded, if budgets permit later in the year.

Five scientific research topics have been included among this latest funding, including ICT and communications; energy and the environment; manufacturing and materials; food and marine, and health and medical.

One of the projects, if proven successful, would have major ramifications for the health sector as it aims to develop a vaccine for the treatment of MRSA, a potentially lethal infection contracted in hospitals and other, similar environments.

Graphene materials and city dashboards

Other projects will look into the development of graphene-like materials for future solar-based technologies, as well as the creation of extensive and more effective city dashboards in Dublin and elsewhere through software design, virtual reality and data analysis.

Professor Mark Ferguson, director-general of the SFI, said: “I have high expectations for these projects; all have undergone rigorous peer review by international experts and we have funded only those projects deemed to be at the pinnacle of scientific excellence.

“As well as providing an important platform for engagement in Horizon 2020, the programme also creates training and employment opportunities, promotes industrial collaboration and drives advances in energy, agriculture, science, technology and health, which will benefit Ireland’s economy and society.”

The other projects funded include:

Health and Medical

  • Development of a clinical test to predict whether breast and prostate cancer tumours are likely to return after surgery
  • Development of a one-step germ-detection device for use on foods and solid surfaces
  • Research into the use of novel neurotoxin-based ‘painkillers’ for chronic pain
  • Creation of technology for bacterial biofilm disruption and removal with downstream benefits in the areas of drug delivery and water purification
  • Identification of biomarkers for personalised, cost-effective treatment of chronic kidney disease
  • Development of cell therapy to treat critical limb ischemia, a complication associated with diabetes
  • Development of diagnostic devices for analysis of molecules associated with cancer or infectious disease in bodily fluids
  • Strategies to non-invasively monitor the progression of inflammation in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease and identification of new ways to slow disease progression
  • Extraction of compounds from sponges and corals found in Irish waters and examining their therapeutic potential.

Food and Marine

  • Investigating the impact of escaped farmed salmon on wild Irish Atlantic salmon populations
  • Development of biosensors for TB diagnosis in cattle and identification of way to breed healthier, disease-resistant animals
  • The impact of the biodiversity of farm grassland on productivity and resilience to future extreme environmental events.

Energy and Environment

  • The use of magnetics for efficient energy management in electronic devices
  • New theoretical models to help design energy-efficient devices for future internet platforms
  • The design of new software and computer-based models to produce more secure power systems
  • Optimising how fuels burn in order to provide more efficient energy production.

Manufacturing and Materials

  • Enhanced growth processes to prepare thin-film materials for integration into real-world devices
  • Theoretical and experimental design of thermoelectric materials for use in various energy-saving applications
  • Exploring the potential of new semiconducting materials to replace silicon in future electronic technologies
  • Image-based technology to date calcite deposits in carbonate rocks for geochemical, historical and energy-related applications.

ICT and Communications

  • An optical/near-infrared detector array to help study stars, galaxies and planet formation.

Microscope image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic