Bruton announces €1.7m US-Ireland research partnership

12 Mar 2019

Image: © Barry/

SFI research centre Cúram in collaboration to conduct research into smart cardiovascular repair technologies.

Cúram, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre for medical devices, will partner in a three-way collaboration worth €1.7m as part of a US-Ireland research partnership.

The announcement was made today (12 March) by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, TD, while at an SFI event in Boston.

The project will conduct research into smart cardiovascular repair technologies through the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme.

The programme was launched in 2006 and aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D among researchers and industry professionals across the US, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

This latest collaboration will be led by Dr Manus Biggs at the Cúram research centre and conducted in conjunction with North Carolina State University and Queen’s University Belfast.

It is estimated that 90pc of cardiovascular diseases are preventable. However, there is a huge need to develop strategies to reduce hospitalisations and readmission rates.

This research project aims to use combined expertise in advanced sensor systems, microanalytical systems, biomaterials, energy harvesting and systems biology to transform current medical interventions and standards of care, to research and develop externally powered implants for continuous cardiovascular health monitoring.

Biggs said the US-Ireland partnership award will facilitate exciting multidisciplinary research between the three centres of excellence in science and engineering. “We look forward to working with our partners in the US and Northern Ireland on this critical healthcare need.”

SFI director general Prof Mark Ferguson congratulated Biggs and his collaborators on the award and said it highlights the benefits of scientific collaboration on both sides of the Atlantic. “The US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme is a unique, cross-jurisdiction initiative which fosters excellent scientific discovery,” he said.

Research programme to help education access for refugees

From left: Denise Manton, Lero; Minister Richard Bruton, TD; Ross Smith, Microsoft; and Mark Ferguson, SFI. Image: Greg M Cooper/SFI

In other research news, Bruton announced the renewal of an international research contract between SFI-funded software research centre Lero and Microsoft, designed to help refugees access online education.

The programme uses the latest artificial intelligence (AI) to further develop a chatbot to help refugees in the Middle East access online courses that will fit their individual personalities and ambitions. It is currently in early testing at refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Bruton made the announcement today as part of SFI’s St Patrick’s Day programme at MIT, stating that while technology is transforming how we live and work, it is also transforming how we learn.

“This project is an incredible example of the potential of technology to increase access to education,” he said. “By using cutting-edge artificial intelligence, Irish researchers are leveraging the power of technology to help the most disadvantaged fulfil their potential.”

Lero researcher Dr Anthony Ventresque said the war in Syria has left many young people with little or no education for several years. Working with Microsoft, he and his team have developed a chatbot in Arabic and English called Hakeem.

“This provides young refugees with the persona of an online older brother or sister to guide them, anywhere and any time, to the right skills training and academic content, from language and entrepreneurship to coding or a trade,” he said.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic