Irish Govt invests €39m in science commercialisation drive – 30 flagship projects

29 Jun 2012

The Irish Government has revealed a new €39m investment that will fund 30 flagship science research projects. The strategy, which includes involvement from players like Intel, Hitachi, Analog Devices and Johnson & Johnson, will support 151 researchers.

The 30 flagship projects are spread across areas identified by the Government as key for commercialisation opportunities, including energy, ICT and life sciences.

Projects include molecular imaging of cancer, obesity, inflammatory diseases, green transport and comms networks and renewable energy generation and storage.

“Over the past decade, Ireland has built up a very substantial infrastructure and a reputation for basic scientific research, and many of the high-end jobs we have created in multinational and indigenous companies are directly related to these achievements,” the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton explained.

“However, a central part of this Government’s plan for jobs and growth is to ensure that this research is better targeted at turning the good ideas of researchers into good products and good jobs. Already, investments of €700m from multinational companies in 2011 was in R&D – but we must do more.

“To achieve this, we have introduced legislation to allow SFI to go beyond basic research to investigate commercial solutions; we have identified 14 areas which the Government is targeting for commercialisation; and we have adopted a series of reforms to make it easier to commercialise the results of State-funded research, including a one-stop shop.

“Today, I am very happy to announce that the Government is investing a further €39m in 30 new research projects in areas which the Government has identified as having particular potential for jobs and growth, including ICT, health/life sciences and energy.

“What is particularly heartening is that much of this research is being done in collaboration with companies who are seeking to find new products and services, including Intel and Analog Devices. I congratulate SFI on its achievements; we must now build on this to ensure that even more of this work is translated into commercial products and services and ultimately the jobs we need,” Bruton said.

Projects being funded under €39m Irish Government science commercialisation strategy

Finbarr O’Sullivan: Statistical Methods for Molecular Imaging of Cancer with PET

An interdisciplinary programme involving statisticians (the lead PI), radiologists/medical physicists, clinicians (oncologists) collaborating with a goal of integrating quantitated PET imaging information into therapy planning and management for cancer care (matching the right drugs, doses and timing to the right patients), with likely benefits for application to Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Doug Leith and Robert Shorten: Green Transport & Communication Networks

A research programme focusing on the development of algorithms to regulate the aggregate effect of vehicles, enabling vehicles to co-operate with each other to avoid pollution peaks, for example, to manage traffic flow more efficiently while respecting an emissions budget, and to regulate electric vehicle load on the energy network. This combines priority areas Future Networks and Communications with Smart Grid and Smart Cities with the goal of acting as a catalyst for the development of networked transport systems to tackle the Green City research agenda and position Ireland at the forefront of this emerging area which is potentially of considerable economic importance.

Paul Cotter: Obesibiotics

The microbes present in the gut are an underutilised source of valuable antimicrobial producers. Such antimicrobial producers could be employed to alter the overall composition of the gut microbial population in a beneficial way. Studies of the gut microbiota have already highlighted the importance of gut microbes with respect to obesity and related disorders. The overall objectives of this research programme are to harness the antimicrobial-producing capacity of the gut, and utilise this resource to identify ‘obesibiotics’, ie, antimicrobial-producing gut microbes which can target specific obesity-associated populations with an ultimate view to the treatment/prevention of obesity and related disorders.

Patrick Guiry: Asymmetric Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Lipoxin Analogues and Tetrahydrofuran Derivatives

Chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, account for significant ill health and morbidity in Ireland. Furthermore, inflammation is known to be a key process underlying numerous other diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, asthma and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Lipoxins are a class of compounds found in nature that help to prevent inflammation. The focus of this research programme is to make new lipoxins using a series of chemical reactions, test their anti-inflammatory activity and use these lipoxins to synthesise more potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer drugs.

Jonathan Coleman: 2D Atomic Crystal-Nanoconductor Hybrids: High Conductivity Nano-Structured Materials for Energy Applications

The world faces a severe energy shortage which can only be addressed by improvements in renewable energy generation and storage. Efforts to generate energy from waste heat using thermoelectric materials and to improve energy storage using batteries and supercapacitors have been frustrated by a lack of suitable materials. One class of materials, the inorganic layered compounds, displays properties which are almost perfect for each of these applications. However, these materials face one drawback; their electrical conductivity is too low to successfully address these applications. Recent developments within Coleman’s group for the first time allow nanoconductors to be inserted into inorganic layered compounds, giving new materials with all of the properties of layered compounds but with their electrical conductivity increased a billion fold. This research programme will focus on the development of these new hybrid materials to revolutionise the next generation of thermoelectric devices, supercapacitors and batteries.

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