Research & Innovation

Irish Researchers and Companies Continue to Perform Strongly in Research and Innovation

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Irish Researchers and Companies Continue to Perform Strongly in Research and Innovation

Irish Researchers and Companies Continue to Perform Strongly in Research and Innovation
May 08
10:24 2018

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan T.D., has hailed the latest Irish successes in the EU’s programme on research and innovation, Horizon 2020, which commands a total budget of approximately €75 billion. The national support network for Horizon 2020 is led by Enterprise Ireland, an agency of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

From the programme’s inception in 2014 to January 2018, Ireland has now secured over €513 million under Horizon 2020. Recent wins have come on both the academic and industry sides of the research programme. Last week, three large awards totalling more than €8 million were made to researchers at Irish universities by the European Research Council.

  • Professor Fergal O’Brien at the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) Department of Anatomy and AMBER: The Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science research centre was awarded €3 million for a research project that aims to revolutionise the treatment of damaged articular joints such as the knee or ankle. This is achieved by combining cutting edge recent advances in the area of 3D printing and advanced manufacturing with new insights in stem cell and gene therapy to develop a platform biomaterial technology (a scaffold) capable of repairing both bone and cartilage.
  • Professor Rhodri Cusack, at Trinity College Dublin: Awarded €3 million for him and his team at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) to conduct a research project which will use neuroimaging to measure the hidden changes in mental representations during infancy and compare them to predictions from deep neural networks. This technology has been responsible for recent dramatic advances in artificial intelligence.
  • Professor Kenneth Wolfe, of the UCD School of Medicine and UCD Conway Institute: Awarded €2.37 million for his new project – ‘Killer plasmids as drivers of genetic code changes during yeast evolution’. Professor Wolfe’s project will examine the evolution of genetic code and the changes it underwent in several species of yeast.

On the industry side of the programme, Maynooth-based biotech company Avectas was recently awarded €2.1 million under phase 2 of the SME Instrument. Avectas is developing a technology allowing for permeable cells to be extracted from a patient, re-engineered to attack cancers, and infused back into the patient.

The SME Instrument is part of the European Innovation Council pilot which has been set up to support top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists who have bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally. Earlier this month, 9 Irish SMEs from across the country were awarded phase 1 funding under the SME Instrument, which gives them a lump sum of €50,000 to carry out a feasibility study, which includes drafting a business plan, three days of business coaching and free business acceleration services. These firms join 56 other Irish companies who have been awarded phase 1 funding since 2014.

In welcoming this success Minister Halligan said: “I would like to congratulate all of the researchers from academia and industry in Ireland who continue to identify world-class research and business opportunities and to successfully secure this prestigious funding. Irish researchers continue to punch above their weight and their continued ability to win such competitive funding highlights the fact that they are among Europe’s best.

Since the beginning of the programme over 8,600 applicants from Ireland have now secured more than half a billion euros in funding for research and innovation projects across a diverse range of sectors and industries. However, there are still fantastic opportunities to be seized in the final work programme of Horizon 2020, which I announced in October, and we must continue to be ambitious and to build upon our success thus far. I continue to urge all our researchers, in companies, higher education institutes and public bodies, to seize the opportunities available.”

Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, which leads the national support network for Horizon 2020, said: “It’s been a fantastic week for news of Horizon 2020 with Ireland’s researchers and companies very ably competing at the highest levels, demonstrating both Ireland’s research and innovation excellence. My congratulations go to all of the winners, and in particular Professor O’Brien, Professor Cusack, Professor Wolfe and to the team at Avectas. We would strongly encourage other researchers and SMEs to consider Horizon 2020 opportunities too.”

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