News & Events

Minister English announces over €30 million SFI investment in scientific research

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD today announced over €30 million of research funding for 23 major research projects. The funding will be delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Investigators Programme. The Programme will provide funding over a four to five year period, for 23 research projects involving over 100 researchers. Funding for each project will range from €500,000 to €2.3 million.

Government funding will support 100 research positions working on 23 research projects involving 40 companies

Investment will support world-class research in key priority areas in Ireland

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD today announced over €30 million of research funding for 23 major research projects. The funding will be delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Investigators Programme. The Programme will provide funding over a four to five year period, for 23 research projects involving over 100 researchers. Funding for each project will range from €500,000 to €2.3 million.

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said, “This funding provides assistance to individual researchers to advance their investigations and address key research questions in sectors such as energy, medicine, food and nutrition, technology and agriculture. It allows researchers to further their careers and build partnerships with leading industry partners who also benefit from access to some of the leading academic talent on this island. The Investigators Programme is an important contributor to Ireland’s credentials as a research leader in a number of sectors.”

The SFI Investigators Programme supports excellent scientific research that has the potential to impact Ireland’s society and economy. The 23 projects were selected by competitive peer review involving 400 international scientists after a call for proposals across a number of thematic areas of national and international importance. The awards include research in areas such as materials science, data management, medicine and pharmaceuticals, food and nutrition, agriculture and veterinary research and have links to 40 companies.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The SFI Investigators Programme provides important support to researchers in Ireland, creating employment opportunities and allowing them to leverage State funding to access additional funding streams, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. Their research focuses on areas such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, animal breeding and disease prevention, ICT and data storage, as well as bioenergy among other topics. These are areas that will make a difference to both, Ireland’s economy and society. All of the successful projects have been peer reviewed by international experts to ensure scientific excellence and we have funded every project deemed to be of the highest standard internationally.”

Examples of projects supported:

  • Prof. Martin Steinhoff University College Dublin - Worldwide, itch is the most frequent symptom in dermatology with a significant impact on quality-of-life for patients and their family members. Therapy-resistant itch is a major medical burden in many diseases (skin, renal, dialysis, liver, leukemias) and elderly people. A major barrier for therapeutic progress is our poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms of itch in humans. To develop new treatments against therapy-resistant itch, we will first identify in a translational setting key cytokines and chemokines in different human itch subtypes. With companies, we will then test in human studies the beneficial effects of treating itch by blocking cytokine/chemokine pathways.       

 

  • Prof. Fiona Doohan, University College Dublin - The challenge of increasing wheat production by 70% to feed the world population in 2050 is great. We have to make a concerted international effort to increase yields, not least by controlling the diseases that reduce yield and contaminate grain with toxins. This project focuses on unravelling novel mechanisms involved in wheat response to stress and delivering knowledge and tools that can be used in plant breeding and crop biotechnology in order to improve wheat resistance to disease. Consequently, it will contribute to our understanding of plant biology, and to the development of sustainable means for enhancing food productivity.

 

  • Prof. Justin Holmes University College Cork - Increasing the number of transistors on a silicon chip enables the production of faster and smaller mobile and computing devices. However, current and prospective future mobile devices based on existing technology are energy inefficient due to high power consumption and the dissipation of a large amount of heat, leading to wasteful battery usage or the requirement for elaborate cooling systems. This project will develop new nanoscale materials for “energy efficient” electronic devices. Successful implementation of the materials developed in this project could lead to smarter and “greener” electronic gadgets.

 

  • Prof. Noel O’Dowd and Prof. Sean Leen, University of Limerick - This aims to develop new modelling tools for Irish industry for more accurate design and assessment of materials and structures. The focus will be on welds, which are the most common location of failure in engineering components. The tools will be used to provide tailored combinations of welding and heat treatment parameters, to design material structures at the nano-, micro- and macro-scale. Specific applications are the design for optimum grain size in power-plant steels and improved designs for steel pipelines used in oil and gas offshore platforms.

                       

  • Prof. Stefano Sanvito Trinity College Dublin - Our society produces immense quantities of data. In 2050 a hard disk with the diameter equal to the distance between the earth and the moon will be necessary to record all the information produced by humanity. For this reason the development of new, denser and faster way to store information is key to maintain our standard of life. This project will construct a range of designing tools for developing such next generation of recording devices. In particular it will create a simulator for fast magnetic memories and a protocol for identifying the most useful materials to fabricate such devices.

 

  • Dr. Donagh Berry Teagasc - The Agri-Food industry is the largest indigenous industry in Ireland. The objective of this proposal is to achieve the Irish Government’s strategy of increased animal production through: 1) greater exploitation of more precise genetic information, 2) more precise estimation of how each genetic variant affects performance and 3) development of precision mating plans. The results will be disseminated to industry through low-cost, customised tools and resources, which are also applicable to other species and breeds.

 

Under the SFI Investigators Programme, 23 research projects were funded through 14 research bodies, as follows: Dublin City University (2), Dublin Institute of Technology (1), Marine Institute (1), National University of Ireland Galway (3), Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (1), Teagasc (1), Trinity College Dublin (5), University College Cork (2), University College Dublin (6) and University of Limerick (1).

 

About SFI Investigators Programme:

The SFI Investigators Programme alternates between thematic and open calls for proposals. The current call was thematic and included a new partnership with the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland. Projects supported under the partnership in Northern Ireland will be announced at a later date.

Details of the thematic areas can be found at SFI Investigators Programme

The call for applications for the 2015 Investigators Programme (IvP 2015) is currently open. The call aims to stimulate and catalyse strong participation by Ireland’s researchers in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research framework programme (H2020). In recognition of the national importance of H2020 and the need to demonstrate a collaborative all-island approach, SFI is pleased to announce that the IvP 2015 call involves the participation of a number of Government Departments and funding agencies. Co-funding Partners include the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DEL), Teagasc, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Irish Research Council (IRC).

About Science Foundation Ireland:

SFI funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of, education in and engagement with, STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and in particular to the growth of the economy. See www.sfi.ie

For further information please contact:

Piaras Kelly/Grace Milton Edelman piaras.kelly@edelman.com / grace.milton@edelman.com

00 353 1678 9333

Full list of projects supported:

Lead Applicant

Co-Applicant(s)

Research Body of Lead Applicant

Proposal Title

Lay Summary

Donagh Berry

 

 

 

 

 

Teagasc

 

 

 

Precision cattle breeding using precision genomics

The Agri-Food industry is the largest indigenous industry in Ireland. The objective of this proposal is to achieve the Irish government’s strategy of increased animal production through: 1) greater exploitation of more precise genetic information, 2) more precise estimation of how each genetic variant affects performance and 3) development of precision mating plans to fully maximise the long-term and sustainable benefit of all genetic variation present while minimising the accumulation of inbreeding. The results will be disseminated to industry through a low-cost, customised genotyping panel. Tools and resources developed are also applicable to other species and breeds.

 

Patrick Cullen

Paula Bourke (Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT))

DIT

Cold plasma decontamination of cereal grains (PlasmaGrain)

This proposal addresses an identified need to develop advanced process technologies, which are a green alternative to fumigants for a sustainable grain industry. A non-thermal plasma will be induced within the confines of a grain conveyor aimed at rapid and continuous treatment of grain during conveying. The approach is low energy, overcomes current resistance issues found with fumigants, does not adversely affect grain quality and critically leaves no residual chemistry. System efficacy will be tested against grain pests, fungi, mycotoxins and residual pesticides. A pre-competitive prototype will be developed by the project to preserve cereal grain of high quality.

Fiona Doohan

 

UCD

Identifying disease resistance breeding targets in order to enhance the sustainability of cereal production and the security of food supply.

The challenge of increasing wheat production by 70% to feed the world population in 2050 is great. We have to make a concerted international effort to increase yields, not least by controlling the diseases that reduce yield and contaminate grain with toxins. This project focuses on unravelling novel mechanisms involved in wheat response to stress and delivering knowledge and tools that can be used in plant breeding and crop biotechnology in order to improve wheat resistance to disease. Consequently, it will contribute to our understanding of plant biology, and to the development of sustainable means for enhancing food productivity.

Justin Holmes

 

UCC

Silicon compatible, direct band-gap nanowire materials for beyond-CMOS devices

Increasing the number of transistors on a silicon chip enables the production of faster and smaller mobile and computing devices. However, current and prospective future mobile devices based on existing technology are energy inefficient due to high power consumption and the dissipation of a large amount of heat, leading to wasteful battery usage or the requirement for elaborate cooling systems. This project will develop new nanoscale materials for “energy efficient” electronic devices. Successful implementation of the materials developed in this project could instigate smarter and “greener” electronic gadgets.

Anne Marie Healy

 

TCD

Development of Fixed Dose Combination Products using Advanced Pharmaceutical Processing Technologies

It is well accepted that cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory conditions and diabetes are the main causes of disability/death within developed countries. Current dosing regimes are sub-optimal and require a significant pill burden leading to non-compliance. Improved dosage forms permitting reduced dosing frequency will improve patient compliance, clinical outcomes and management of the respective disease. Through the use of advanced pharmaceutical processing technologies, we will manufacture delivery systems capable of tailoring drug release to meet clinical demands. This project will be positioned at the rapidly developing interface between pharmaceutical and chemical engineering technologies.

Tia Keyes

 

DCU

Microcavity array supported lipid membranes: Highly versatile cell membrane models in sickness and in health

This progamme builds advanced models of the cell-membrane to address two issues away from the complexity of the living cell. The first models membranes reminiscent of health and of disease states (e.g. Alzheimers) to help understand how each affects membrane permeability towards different drugs. These models can help ensure drug effectiveness and safety before preclinical testing. The second model addresses structure and dynamics of sugar lattices that occur at the cell-membrane. They play an important role in autoimmune disorders and cancer and understanding how they form and the role of the membrane will aid in developing therapeutics for these diseases.

Walter Kolch

 

UCD

Overcoming drug resistance in metastatic malignant melanoma by personalizing treatment

Malignant melanoma is a skin cancer that is one of the deadliest cancers because of its tendency to spread rapidly and its resistance to drugs. The recent introduction of new drugs that inhibit Raf and MEK kinases has achieved remarkable treatment successes, which unfortunately are of limited duration. The aim of this proposal is to investigate the mechanisms of resistance to these drugs and based on this understanding (i) design personalized drug combinations that can avoid or overcome this resistance; and (ii) derive diagnostic biomarkers that predict which drug combinations will be most effective for individual patients.  

Alexey Lastovetsky

 

UCD

Meeting the Future Challenges of Heterogeneous and Extreme-Scale Parallel Computing

In our digital era, computing becomes truly comprehensive and ubiquitous with more and more areas routinely relying on high performance computing (HPC). Science, engineering, Internet-based computing, data analytics and data mining, financial computing, smart cities just to name a few all need HPC resources. To respond to this ever increasing demand, HPC systems become highly heterogeneous, hierarchical and extremely large and complex. Traditional applications and software cannot efficiently utilize this new generation of computing systems. The goal of the proposed research programme is to develop fundamental algorithms and methods that would allow application programmers to efficiently use these platforms.

Seamus Martin

 

TCD

Pro-inflammatory ‘Cytokine fingerprinting’ for the stratification of Psoriasis patients for cytokine-targeted biologic therapy

Overproduction of immune messenger proteins, called cytokines, causes a number of immune disorders, such as psoriasis. Fortunately, a new generation of cytokine-blocking drugs (biologics) has tremendously improved treatment of diseases such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis. However, at present, the decision to treat patients with biologics is based upon clinical criteria rather than ‘molecular’ evidence that a particular cytokine is elevated in a patient. To improve biologic therapy, we need more precise ways of matching the correct biologic to the right patient. We aim to develop a new approach, called ‘cytokine fingerprinting’, to solve this problem.

Laoise McNamara

 

NUIG

Mechanobiology based approaches for osteoporosis therapeutics

Tissues of the human body can adapt in response to mechanical forces by a cellular process known as mechanobiology. Although mechanobiological processes are fundamental to normal bone physiology and may play an important role in the development of osteoporosis, the role of mechanobiology in bone development and changes occurring during ageing are not yet fully understood. Moreover mechanobiological responses have not been targeted as treatments for osteoporosis, nor have they been sufficiently exploited to develop novel regenerative tissue strategies. This research project will advance understanding of mechanobiology to develop treatment approaches for bone pathologies.

 

 

 

Grace Mulcahy

 

UCD

Application of New and Emerging Technologies to Develop Vaccines against Fasciola hepatica

Liver fluke infection (fasciolosis) is a global disease of farm animals and causes great losses to the agricultural community. By merging recent technological advances in molecular biotechnology we will gain a deeper understanding of how liver fluke parasites interact with their animal hosts, cattle and sheep. We will learn at a molecular level how these parasites invade their hosts, how they control and regulate their immune responses and how this leads to chronic disease, pathogenesis and death. Then, using this new knowledge, we will develop new effective vaccines to counteract the parasite and to protect farm animals from this disease.

John O’Doherty

Torres Sweeney (University College Dublin (UCD))

UCD

The Macroalgal Fibre Initiative: ‘natural molecules naturally’.

Widespread use of antibiotics in veterinary and human medicine has, over time, selected for a broad spectrum of pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics. This is of major concern for public health and has resulted on an EU ban on ‘in-feed’ antibiotics in animals. Hence there is an urgent requirement to identify alternatives. The preventative and therapeutic properties of seaweed has been known since early times. The objective here is to characterise the molecules in native macroalgae that have health promoting properties, develop the large-scale methodologies to purify them and explore commercial avenues for them in the animal feed industry.

Noel O'Dowd

Sean Leen

UL

Multi-scale through-process characterization for innovative manufacture of next-generation welded connections (Mechanics)

 

 

 

This proposal will develop new modelling tools for Irish industry for more accurate design and assessment of materials and structures. The focus will be on welds, which are the most common location of failure in engineering components. The tools will be used to provide tailored combinations of welding and heat treatment parameters, to design material structures at the nano-, micro- and macro-scale. Specific applications are the design for optimum grain size in power-plant steels and improved designs for steel pipelines used in oil and gas offshore platforms.

Colm O'Dwyer

 

UCC

Diffractive optics and photonic probes for efficient mouldable 3D printed battery skin materials for portable electronic devices

For modern portable electronics, long-life, safe and high performance Lithium-ion batteries are a necessity. We will develop new materials and coating methods for a Li-ion battery skin that can function when coated onto 3D printed structures. Also, a unique, non-destructive tool for monitoring the state of charge of the battery skin will also be developed. This will be a non-destructive method that gives the battery status by the colour of the material, and can also be used during research to optimize the performance of these new materials to for better performance with longer lifetime.

Vincent O'Flaherty

 

NUIG

i–PAD: Innovative biological phosphate (bioP) and anaerobic digestion (AD) technology for waste treatment, energy generation and phosphorus recovery.

This research targets new technologies for treatment of wastewaters from industry (food production) and households (sewage). The output will be a system for simultaneous purification of wastewater, production of renewable energy and recovery/recycling of valuable nutrient resources (phosphorus). The proposed system relies on microorganisms, which transform wastewater pollutants into a readily usable fuel (methane/natural gas) by digestion of organic matter. Methane provides a competitive low-carbon fuel source, which can be used for transport, home heating and electricity production. The proposed research will have positive impacts towards more sustainable food production, economic competitiveness and innovation, environmental protection and climate change.

Richard O'Kennedy

 

DCU

Metabolomic and array-based biomarker approaches to understand human exposure to potent carcinogenic fresh water toxins

Colorectal and liver cancer are the 3rd and 6th most common cancers globally. The role that exposure to water and food toxins play in the development of these cancers is not fully understood. Increasing numbers of human poisonings globally are caused by freshwater algal microcystin toxins due to climate change and pollution. These toxins are linked to cancer but there is no means of measuring the extent of human exposure and thus determining how important they are in these diseases. We will identify and validate biomarkers of microcystin exposure and conduct surveys in low and high risk populations.

Jochen Prehn

Markus Rehm (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI))

RCSI

Development of personalised medicine approaches for the clinical application of IAP antagonists in metastatic and high risk early stage colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the Western world. As many as 50% of patients with early stage disease don’t benefit from current chemotherapy; and less than 6% of patients with advanced disease are alive after 5 years. We aim to improve treatment of colorectal cancer by using a new drug that selectively “kills” cancer. Importantly, we will maximize the clinical impact of these drugs by developing a way of identifying patients who will benefit most from this treatment. Experienced teams in Belfast and Dublin and commercial partners will work together to deliver these goals.

David Reid

 

MI

Creating the knowledge for precision fisheries management: spatially aware ‘nudging’ to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield using real-time fisheries incentives.

We aim for maximum productivity of commercial fisheries, constrained by the law (including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive), ensuring ecological sustainability. Paralleling precision farming, spatial ecological data and models enable maximisation of fishing yield within ecological constraints, to the finest possible spatial scale. This project develops the scientific tools to support an incentive scheme that guides fisheries to achieve maximum sustainable yields, accounting for ecological variability in time and space as well as stock status. Using ecological data to calculate maps of real-time incentives, leaves fisheries free to determine their best spatial distribution of effort to maximise profit sustainably.

Michael Rowan

 

TCD

Alzheimer’s disease patient-derived synaptic plasticity-disrupting soluble protein assemblies

Alzheimer’s disease kills millions world-wide due to an irreversible decline in the function and viability of nerve cells. Subtle changes in the brain can be detected indirectly using measures of key proteins in spinal fluid ten-to-twenty years before clinical diagnosis. This provides a window of opportunity to intervene early. We, and others, have implicated certain rogue forms of these proteins in the disruption of nerve memory mechanisms. This research will aid the development of new ways of assessing these rogue forms, both in spinal fluid and nerve cells derived from individual patient skin cells, and the selection of personalised therapies.

Marco Ruffini

 

TCD

O’SHARE: An open-access SDN-driven architecture enabling multi-operator and multi-service convergence in shared optical access networks

The main reason why many users experience inadequate broadband speeds is that the deployment of appropriate high-speed optical infrastructure to the customer home requires very large upfront investment. O’SHARE targets the problem by developing novel technologies that spread the infrastructure cost across a large number of service providers and network operators. The higher revenue generated by this model will incentivise the deployment of high-speed networks to many homes. In addition it will increase the competition, promoting novel applications, better services and lower prices. O’SHARE will demonstrate the developed technologies in an international testbed, supported by leading industry and academic collaborators.

Alan Ryder

 

NUIG

Advanced Analytics for Biological Therapeutic Manufacture (AA-BTM).

Many drugs for human health are complex biological molecules like proteins which are made in living cells on an industrial scale. Both the cell food (media) and the protein products have to be carefully analysed to make sure that they are good and safe. Both media and proteins are very complex mixtures that are difficult to analyse. Here we will build a faster, cheaper, and non-contact way of testing using light to generate chemical information from these mixtures. This information will then be analysed using advanced statistical methods (chemometrics) and the results used to improve manufacturing, and reduce drug costs.

Stefano Sanvito

 

TCD

Atomistic simulators for magnetic memories design: MMDesign

Our society produces immense quantities of data. In 2050 a hard disk with the diameter equal to the distance between the earth and the moon will be necessary to record all the information produced by humanity. For this reason the development of new, denser and faster ways to store information is key to maintaining our standard of life. The MMDesign project will construct a range of designing tools for developing such next generation of recording devices. In particular, it will create a simulator for fast magnetic memories and a protocol for identifying the most useful materials to fabricate such devices.

Martin Steinhoff

 

UCD

Neuro-immune communication in skin diseases: Cytokines and chemokines

Worldwide, itch is the most frequent symptom in dermatology with a significant impact on quality-of-life for patients and their family members. Therapy-resistant itch is a major medical burden in many diseases (skin, renal, dialysis, liver, leukemias) and elderly people. A major barrier for therapeutic progress is our poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms of itch in humans. To develop new treatments against therapy-resistant itch, we will first identify in a translational setting key cytokines and chemokines in different human itch subtypes. With companies, we will then test in human studies the beneficial effects of treating itch by blocking cytokine/chemokine pathways.

Back to Top