Big impact from small things: Nanoscience supports 14,000 jobs in Ireland

8 Nov 2017

AMBER’s Prof Valeria Nicolosi is Europe’s only five-time ERC awardee. Image: Naoise Culhane

The island of the machines is pulsating with potential as the nanoscience and materials science research sector reveals its economic impact.

The nanoscience and materials science sector supports 14,000 jobs in Ireland and its economic impact is estimated at €500m after just one decade of focused research.

That’s according to the latest impact assessment report from AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre), a centre based at Trinity College Dublin and backed by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

‘In the next decade, nanoscience and materials science in Ireland will lead on the international stage, and we remain committed to making a difference to the social and economic wellbeing of Ireland’

According to the report, Ireland was ranked first in the world for nanoscience research and third in the world for materials science research in 2016.

The report estimates that for every €1 that was invested, AMBER and its host institute CRANN have helped the Irish economy to grow by €5. It added that they generated more than 14,000 jobs in Ireland over 10 years and, during this time, had a total income of €108m, generating a gross output nationwide of more than €505m.

“AMBER, through world-leading researchers, is creating new knowledge and intellectual property. It is transferring that knowledge to industry through licensing agreements, industrial staff exchanges and spin-outs,” said SFI director of programmes, Dr Darrin Morrissey.

“The report highlights the impressive outputs from AMBER and demonstrates how Ireland’s research community are world-leading and making tangible impacts on our economy.”

AMBER said that continued funding will enable it to become one of the international centres of choice for collaborative industry research. This, in turn, would enable Ireland to continue to be an attractive destination for tech giants.

Not only that, but the experience and expertise of AMBER researchers will inevitably result in spin-out companies and lead to further employment.

“In the next decade, nanoscience and materials science in Ireland will lead on the international stage, and we remain committed to making a difference to the social and economic wellbeing of Ireland through the quality of our research and training for graduates, and our engagements with businesses and communities, both nationally and internationally,” said AMBER director Prof Mick Morris.

“This report showcases the critical importance for AMBER to continue to be funded for world-class research so that we can deliver scientific, economic and societal impacts into Ireland for the benefit of the entire population.”

Large footprint from the science of small after just 10 years

In the past decade, the institute has worked with more than 200 companies in Ireland and internationally, and has received €4.4m of industry cash in the last four years, with a further €1.7m contracted.

More than €45m in European funding has been awarded to CRANN and AMBER academics.

More than 2,400 research papers, generating more than 76,000 citations, have been published by AMBER researchers. Not only that, but 45pc of AMBER academics have taken out a patent compared to 8pc of Irish academics and 6pc of UK academics.

In addition, AMBER researchers have been awarded more ERC funding than any other research centre in Ireland and Prof Valeria Nicolosi is Europe’s only five-time ERC awardee.

The report claims that AMBER and CRANN academics are far more engaged across a broad range of knowledge exchange activities than either Irish or UK academics, including giving invited lectures, working with research consortia and engaging with industry. A reported 79pc of CRANN/AMBER academics gave invited lectures compared to 50pc of Irish academics and 55pc of UK academics.

An Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald, TD, commended AMBER on its performance.

“The results contained in today’s report are testimony to the impressive research discoveries, significant industry collaborations, new patents and new technologies delivered by AMBER, all of which delivers real societal and economic impact, positioning Ireland as first and third internationally for nanoscience research and materials science research, respectively, last year.

“Government remains firmly committed to supporting high-quality, internationally competitive research, with the potential to generate jobs and support economic growth. I commend Professor Morris and all of his team on these impressive results.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years