2016 Press Releases

€9.3m research investment for UCC

3 Aug 2016
UCC's Tyndall National Institute Image: Janice O'Connell, F22 Photography

Investigating the impact of escaped farmed salmon on wild Irish Atlantic salmon populations is one of five UCC projects which has been awarded €8.5m in Government funding today. A co-led project brings the UCC figure to €9.3m.

The salmon project will exploit new techniques in population genomics and quantitative genetics to investigate how Atlantic salmon escaping from farms reduce the survival potential of wild salmon when they breed together in rivers. The interbreeding of wild and farmed salmon reduces the productivity of rivers and is detrimental to fisheries and biodiversity.

The salmon project is one of 24 being funded to the tune of almost €40 million distributed via Science Foundation Ireland’s Investigators Programme and funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation.  

UCC will lead five of the 24 projects which will involve researchers at the Tyndall National Institute and the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. The Tyndall National Institute projects include theoretical and experimental design of thermoelectric materials for use in various energy-saving applications; the use of magnetics for efficient energy management in electronic devices; exploring the potential of new semiconducting materials to replace silicon in future electronic technologies and enhanced growth processes to prepare thin-film materials for integration into real-world devices.

The sixth project, co-led with TCD, was awarded €1.9m, €805,000 of which will come to researchers at the Tyndall National Institute. This project will explore the development of wearable and flexible electronic products as well as the development of circuits which will underpin the internet of things.

Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation at UCC said:

“We are delighted with the €9.3 million funding for UCC announced today as it provides us with the supports needed to take ideas and convert them into reality. Increased levels of collaboration between industry and academia have already delivered significant value to the Irish economy and initiatives like this help boost innovation through the transfer of technologies to companies.  Today’s announcement will also help make us more competitive when applying for research grants from Horizon2020 and other international sources of funding.”

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said:

“This funding provides an important platform for researchers to advance their investigations and further enhance Ireland’s reputation for excellence in sectors such as health, agriculture, marine, energy and technology. Engaging with 39 companies, the programme offers researchers the opportunity to develop their careers, as well as providing industry collaborators with access to the wealth of outstanding expertise and infrastructure found throughout the island. The alignment of the Investigators Programme with Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research funding programme, will lead to further successes in leveraging EU resources and increasing international collaboration. The projects within this programme clearly demonstrate excellent and impactful research which is a key goal of the Government’s science and innovation strategy – Innovation 2020.”

To drive national success in Horizon 2020, the SFI Investigator Programme involved the collaborative participation of a number of Government Departments and funding agencies. Co-funding for seven of the projects is being provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE), the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added:

 “The Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme supports the highest standard of impactful research, as clearly demonstrated by the outcomes of previous awards.  I have high expectations for these projects; all have undergone rigorous peer review by international experts and we have funded only those projects deemed to be at the pinnacle of scientific excellence. As well as providing an important platform for engagement in Horizon 2020, the programme also creates training and employment opportunities, promotes industrial collaboration and drives advances in energy, agriculture, science, technology and health which will benefit Ireland’s economy and society.” 

The 24 research projects funded are in a range of strategically important sectors.  A further ten projects were also deemed scientifically excellent and impactful by the International Review Panel and are on a reserve list to be funded, if budgets permit later in the year.

Health & Medical

  • Development of a clinical test to predict whether breast and prostate cancer tumours are likely to return after surgery;
  • Development of a one-step germ-detection device for use on foods and solid surfaces;
  • Research into the use of novel neurotoxin-based ‘pain killers’ for chronic pain;
  • Creation of technology for bacterial biofilm disruption and removal with downstream benefits in the areas of drug delivery and water purification;
  • Identification of biomarkers for personalized, cost-effective treatment of chronic kidney disease;
  • Development of cell therapy to treat critical limb ischemia, a complication associated with diabetes;
  • Development of diagnostic devices for analysis of molecules associated with cancer or infectious disease in bodily fluids;
  • Development of a vaccine against MRSA, a hospital-acquired infection;
  • Strategies to non-invasively monitor the progression of inflammation in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease and identification of new ways to slow disease progression;
  • Extraction of compounds from sponges and corals found in Irish waters and examining their therapeutic potential.

Food and Marine

  • Investigating the impact of escaped farmed salmon on wild Irish Atlantic salmon populations;
  • Development of biosensors for TB diagnosis in cattle and identification of way to breed healthier, disease-resistant animals;
  • The impact of the biodiversity of farm grassland on productivity and resilience to future extreme environmental events.

Energy and Environment

  • The use of magnetics for efficient energy management in electronic devices;
  • New theoretical models to help design energy-efficient devices for future Internet platforms;
  • The design of new software and computer-based models to produce more secure power systems;
  • Optimising how fuels burn in order to provide more efficient energy production.

Manufacturing & Materials

  • Enhanced growth processes to prepare thin-film materials for integration into real-world devices;
  • Theoretical and experimental design of thermoelectric materials for use in various energy-saving applications;
  • Exploring the potential of new semiconducting materials to replace silicon in future electronic technologies;
  • Graphene-like materials for the development of future solar-based technologies;
  • Image-based technology to date calcite deposits in carbonate rocks for geochemical, historical and energy-related applications. 

ICT and Communications

  • Creation of extensive and more effective city dashboards in Dublin and elsewhere through software design, virtual reality and data analysis;
  • An optical/near-infrared detector array to help study stars, galaxies and planet formation. 

The 24 research projects supported by the Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme will be funded through eight research bodies, as follows: Dublin City University (1), Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1), National University of Ireland Galway (3), National University of Ireland Maynooth (1), Trinity College Dublin (6), Tyndall National institute (4), University College Cork (5), University College Dublin (7). 

Projects supported under the partnership with Northern Ireland will be announced at a later date and are marked with an *. 


Science Foundation Ireland’s Investigators Programme 2016 – Funded Awards


Principal Investigator (PI): Philip McGinnity

Research Body: UCC

Co-PI Research Body: Marine Institute

Award Title: Wild farmed interactions in a changing world: formulation of a predictive methodology to inform environmental best practice to secure long-term sustainability of global wild and farm fish populations

Award Amount**: €1,709,586

Summary: We will exploit new analytical techniques in population genomics and quantitative genetics to investigate mechanisms by which Atlantic salmon escaping from farms reduce the survival potential of wild salmon, when they breed together in rivers. This reduces the productivity of rivers and is detrimental to fisheries and biodiversity. The issue is limiting the expansion of the salmon farming industry, in Ireland and worldwide. Our group has worked in this area more than two decades and has a large bank of archival and contemporary material. Our results will allow for better management and enable sustainable expansion of this valuable food industry.


Principal Investigator (PI): Stephen Fahy

Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Co-PI(s)*: Ivana Savic

Co-PI Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Thermoelectric efficiency of IV-VI and V2-VI3 materials driven near phase transitions

Award Amount**: €1,750,383

Summary: Thermoelectric materials can convert heat into electrical power or, in reverse, cool devices using electrical current. They have many practical applications, including generation of electricity from waste heat to powering wireless sensors. This project will investigate a novel concept for substantially improving thermoelectric efficiency, based on alloying and/or straining existing good thermoelectric materials like PbTe and Bi2Te3, which will exploit a hidden instability of the materials to reduce their thermal conductivity. We will explore this idea, using large-scale computer simulations to guide us to the best candidate materials, and synthesis and measurement to verify their properties and applications.


Principal Investigator (PI): Cian O'Mathuna

Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Integrated Power Magnetics Technology- From Atoms to Systems

Award Amount**: €1,483,783

Summary: With ‘Energy’ identified as the most significant challenge facing society, this project will deliver novel solutions for efficient energy management in electronic devices. Over the next decade the concept of Power Supply on Chip(‘PwrSoC’) will facilitate a paradigm shift in the power management for ICT technologies. This project targets innovations at different points in Power Supply development including materials, processes, design, circuit-topologies and system-integration. This project presents a disruptive solution using Through-Silicon-Via technology for realising nano-scale inductor structures on silicon to achieve high power densities and efficiency. If successful, this technology will replace traditional ferrite-based passive devices for Power applications.


Principal Investigator (PI): Eoin O'Reilly

Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Multiscale Simulation and Analysis of emerging Group IV and III-V Semiconductor Materials and Devices

Award Amount**: €1,605,610

Summary: The volume of internet data transfer has been doubling every two years, with the internet now estimated to use about 10% of the electricity that we generate. This creates a critical need for new energy-efficient devices to drive the internet, and the future Internet of Things. We target ways to dramatically enhance the capabilities of the existing devices, developing new theoretical models to analyse novel semiconductor combinations that could not exist in nature. These alloys combine new elements with well-established materials, and so can piggy back on existing mass-production technology to deliver highly efficient systems with new functionality and capabilities.


Principal Investigator (PI): Martyn Pemble

Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Design, Deposition and Exploitation of Novel Micro and Nano-scale Materials and Devices for Advanced Manufacturing- DEPO-Man

Award Amount**: €1,938,557

Summary: Nowadays, thin film technologies are everywhere- from electronic/communication devices, to medical devices, solar cells, batteries, energy-saving windows etc. Recently our understanding of coatings of this type has received a huge boost from studies of of materials over the length range of 1/1,000,000th to 1/1,000,000,000th of a metre. Very novel and potentially useful, new thin film materials can now be made in the lab, but for some of these there is a 'technology gap' between the lab and the real world. This present proposal aims to address this gap, using mini lab-scale production systems combined with novel surface and materials chemistry.


Principal Investigator (PI): Georg Duesberg

Research Body: TCD

Co-PI(s)*: Paul Hurley

Co-PI Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Investigating Emerging 2D Semiconductor Technology

Award Amount**: €1,877,163

Summary: Looking towards the future of personal electronic devices, there is currently a growing excitement surrounding the development of wearable and flexible electronic products as well as the development of circuits which will underpin the internet of things. To achieve these new devices there is a need to explore semiconductors beyond silicon, which can operate at lower power and be processed at reduced cost. This project, in collaboration with Intel, aims to gain an increased understanding and control of the electronic properties of a new group of semiconducting materials to allow for their successful integration into future integrated circuits and products.


Principal Investigator (PI): Domenico Zito

Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Integrated Gigabit/s Millimetre-Wave Transceivers (INGBIT)

Award Amount**: €1,159,815

Summary: Radio waves from 28 to 94 GHz have millimetre long wavelengths; this major factor determines the feasibility of the technology. Millimetre wave technology, mmWave, operates in an unregulated bandwidth, available worldwide, with better spectrum efficiency than traditional wireless frequencies and, due to its unique features, has many applications, such as machine to machine networking, high capacity low latency wireless links. This project aims at identifying critical technical paths that inhibit low cost high volume mmWave products, and to offer novel research and design realisation of mmWave integrated circuit architectures, and design realisation, to remove these roadblocks for future consumer applications.


Principal Investigator (PI): Louise Allcock

Research Body: NUI Galway

Co-PI(s)*: Mark Johnson

Co-PI Research Body: NUI Galway

RoI Funding Partner: Marine Institute

Award Title: Exploiting and conserving deep-sea genetic resources

Award Amount**: €1,940,150

Summary: We aim to elucidate unique chemical compounds from two groups of marine organisms (sponges and corals) from the deep-sea – where extreme environmental conditions seem to promote the evolution of novel compounds. We will extract compounds and use fractionation techniques to purify them. We will use mass spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to elucidate their structure and biological assays to determine their pharmacological potential. To increase efficiency of future sampling, we will use mathematical modeling techniques to produce maps predicting areas in Irish waters with the greatest bio-discovery potential to maximize the economic impact of future bio-discovery work.


Principal Investigator (PI): Christopher Brunsdon

Research Body: NUIM

Co-PI(s)*: Martin Charlton, Rob Kitchin

Co-PI Research Body: NUIM

Award Title: Building city dashboards: Addressing fundamental and applied problems

Award Amount**: €2,352,670

Summary: This project will address how to build more extensive and effective city dashboards. It will tackle three sets of fundamental problems: data issues; visualisation/interaction issues; and analytics/modelling issues. It will use the solutions to undertake applied research that significantly extends the Dublin Dashboard (www.dublindashboard.ie) through the development and testing of a new suite of querying, modelling and prediction/simulation modules and novel forms of multimedia interaction, including virtual reality, the projection of data onto architectural models, and converting data into audio-textual forms. This testbed will provide a template to develop, implement and test a Cork Dashboard and influence dashboard development globally.


Principal Investigator (PI): Eoin Casey

Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Interactions between bacterial biofilms and nanoparticles: a focus on the EPS matrix

Award Amount**: €1,176,703

Summary: Biofilms form when bacteria adhere to surfaces and begin to excrete a slimy, glue-like substance, known as the matrix, that can anchor them to materials. Biofilms can form on medical devices with negative implications for healthcare, biofilm also contribute to fouling in the process industries contributing significantly to energy costs. Conventional antimicrobials and disinfectants are only partly successful at killing microorganisms within the biofilm. The focus of this project is instead on the disruption of the matrix using knowledge gained from a better understanding of nanoparticle-biofilm interactions. This will ultimately lead to new methods for biofilm removal.


Principal Investigator (PI): David Chew

Research Body: TCD

RoI Funding Partner: Environmental Protection Agency / Geological Survey of Ireland

Award Title: Developing geochronology by LA-ICPMS imaging: applications of U-Pb calcite dating in raw materials research

Award Amount**: €647,921

Summary: Calcite is the major rock-forming mineral in limestones, and is a common mineral in veins in zinc and lead ore systems such as the world-class Irish Zn-Pb mineral province. Calcite is also a common in mineral in sedimentary basins, where it fills the porosity in hydrocarbon reservoirs. This proposal will develop a new image-based approach to dating calcite by the U-Pb method, using a laser-ablation system coupled to a mass spectrometer. Isotopic dating of calcite has important industrial applications and permits dating of carbonate rocks from key time periods in the ancient geological record, before the appearance of hard-bodied fossils.


Principal Investigator (PI): Henry Curran

Research Body: NUI Galway

Award Title: Combustion Chemistry for Sustainable Fuel Utilization

Award Amount**:  €1,714,059

Summary:  This proposal focuses on understanding, at a molecular level, how fuel burns in combustors in order to enhance the efficient utilization of energy and develop sustainable energy sources in order to comply with economic, environmental, and strategic imperatives. We will combine experimental chemical combustion studies with detailed computer models to develop accurate chemical kinetic models, leading to the identification of optimal conditions for combustion efficiency with minimal emissions. We will study the combustion of conventional fuels by considering some key gasoline and diesel components in addition to some novel biofuels to be used in gas turbines for energy production.


Principal Investigator (PI): Oliver Dolly

Research Body: DCU

Award Title: Delineating the exocytotic proteins (SNAREs) underlying sensitisation of nociceptor sub-sets in chronic pain: engineering botulinum neurotoxins as improved versatile analgesics

Award Amount**:  €2,775,948

Summary: Pain arises from noxious stimuli to peripheral sensory neurons, whose responses are amplified by specialised molecules; the electrical signals go to the brain and are interpreted as pain. In hard-to treat cases, this signaling becomes so pronounced that chronic pain results. We aim to lower the content on sensory nerves of channels that conduct pain signals, by inactivating components concerned with their activity and surface delivery, using novel neurotoxin variants. Upon confirming the ability of a designed therapeutic to alleviate pain in animal models, the candidate ‘pain killer’ will be prepared in a form suitable for eventual testing in humans.


Principal Investigator (PI): Sylvia Draper

Research Body: TCD

Award Title: Targeting Synthetic and Material Advances in the Activity and Function of Light-emitting Molecular Complexes: New Platform Technologies Based on Polyaromatic Ligands'

Award Amount**:  €1,356,177

Summary: As oil/coal reserves are depleted, the need for society to convert to new energy sources will be heightened. A promising alternative is to use the Sun as the primary source of energy and hydrogen (obtained from water) as the primary fuel. There are serious technical problems that have to be overcome to make this happen and before the most promising devices are fit-for-purpose. The research in this proposal will shine a spot light on the active material ingredients of fuel and solar cells. It explores how the materials work at a fundamental level and articulates a road map for commercialisation.


Principal Investigator (PI): William Gallagher

Research Body: UCD

Co-PI(s)*: William Watson

Co-PI Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Optimal Management of Gender-¬Specific Cancers via Efficient Use of Protein Profiling, Digital Pathology and Systems Medicine Tools (OPTi-¬PREDICT)

Award Amount**: €2,510,491

Summary: Increasing proportions of patients are being diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage, due to improved screening programmes. Many early-stage cancers are unlikely to return following surgery alone, yet patients are often given more aggressive treatment than is necessary, as doctors cannot accurately distinguish low-risk from high-risk tumours. We aim to address this problem for breast and prostate cancer, by developing two clinical tests to segregate low/high-risk tumours by analysing tissue/blood samples. In addition, we will develop a computational model which uses a patient’s individual clinical data to predict how likely they are to respond to a particular therapy.


Principal Investigator (PI): Catherine Godson

Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Discovery of an integrated risk profile for chronic kidney disease and development of a clinical biomarker panel for personalising medicine

Award Amount**: €1,171,485

Summary: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects ~10% of the population; prevalence increases with age. CKD significantly reduces quality of life and is associated with increased risk of premature death. CKD is a major public health concern consuming 2% of healthcare budgets, plus costs from excess cardiovascular disease associated with CKD. This innovative project extends existing collaborations to integrate clinical, molecular and environmental data for >700,000 individuals to deliver outcomes with economic and societal impact. We will develop a biomarker profile to facilitate stratified, personalised medicine for CKD by identifying high-risk individuals, tailoring effective therapies, and streamlining the development of novel treatments.


Principal Investigator (PI): Aoife Gowen

Research Body: UCD

Co-PI(s)*: Amalia Scannell

Co-PI Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Multi-scale hyperspectral imaging for enhanced understanding and control of food microbiology (HyperMicroMacro)

Award Amount**: €1,548,873

Summary: Food safety requires rapid and consistent identification of micro-organisms. We aim to develop a novel, non-destructive, one-step system, capable of detecting and identifying microbes on a range of foods and surfaces. The project addresses critical gaps in our knowledge of the growth and persistence of bacteria, spores and biofilms on foods and surfaces using hyperspectral imaging at multiple spatial scales (from microscopic to macroscopic) and spectral modalities combined with microbial characterisation and high throughput sequencing. Based on this knowledge we aim to develop a prototype rapid detection system to improve safety and security of the food chain.


Principal Investigator (PI): Martin Ulrich Hegner

Research Body: TCD

Award Title: Nanomechanical detection of noncoding RNA for diagnosis in biological fluids

Award Amount**: €1,276,291

Summary: Our project integrates state-of-the-art technologies across multiple disciplines to create a smart diagnostic system that significantly improves the prognosis of diseases and the quality of life of affected patients. We have identified specific patterns of expression of short non-coding RNA molecules relevant to cancer, infectious diseases such as microbial blood stream infections and adverse drug effects. Nanomechanical sensing can selectively analyse these molecules in complex biological fluids within one hour. The proposed research with six partners links academia and clinical research to industry through multi-disciplinary activities to develop unique diagnostic devices for investigations at molecular scale up to whole organisms


Principal Investigator (PI): Marina Lynch

Award Title: Targeting glial plasticity to alleviate age-related loss of neuronal function in Alzheimer’s disease

Award Amount**: €1,786,483

Summary: It is predicted that 80 million people will have Alzheimer's disease (AD) by 2040. Current treatments are ineffective and do not address the cause of AD. Age is the greatest risk factor therefore understanding age-related changes in the brain is key to understanding the pathogenesis of AD. Here the causes and consequences of the age-related inflammatory changes that are exacerbated in AD will be investigated. The objectives are to find a way to assess neuro-inflammation non-invasively and to identify strategies to limit the progression of neuro-inflammation and the associated loss of neuronal function in age and a model of AD.


Principal Investigator (PI): David MacHugh

Research Body: UCD

Co-PI(s)*: Stephen Gordon

Co-PI Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Development of Next-Generation Control Tools for Bovine Tuberculosis: A One Health Approach

Award Amount**: €1,849,519

Summary: Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) is a disease of cattle that exacts a tremendous toll on Irish agriculture and is a threat to human health. Control of BTB is hampered however by the lack of good diagnostics and significant gaps in our understanding of how the bacterial agent, Mycobacterium bovis, causes disease in cattle. Our research will use a range of novel genomics approaches to reveal natural blood ‘biosensors’ that can provide the next generation of BTB diagnostics. We will also establish how bacterial infection is established and identify host genetic variation for breeding healthier animals with enhanced disease resistance.


Principal Investigator (PI): Rachel McLoughlin

Research Body: TCD

Award Title: Profiling ‘immune signatures’ predictive of outcome in Staphylococcus aureus infection: Advancing next generation vaccine design

Award Amount**: €2,192,331

Summary: The WHO highlights antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as a particular threat to society, strongly advocating for the development of alternatives to antibiotics. Efforts are underway to develop vaccines against S.aureus, however progress is curtailed by a lack of knowledge on S.aureus interactions with the host immune system. This project will establish if particular immune cells (T-cells) are important in protecting against infection in at-risk patients and will identify strategies used by the bacterium to inhibit the protection afforded by these cells, which may impede vaccine efficacy. Knowledge gained will inform S.arueus vaccine development, attracting significant industrial interest.


Principal Investigator (PI): Federico Milano

Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Advanced Modelling for Power System Analysis and Simulation

Award Amount**: €1,744,155

Summary: Traditionally, the stability analysis of power systems has been based on deterministic models. However, in recent years, increasing penetrations of renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, and the ubiquitous presence of communication systems, have encouraged researchers to reconsider the modelling of power systems in order to take into account uncertainty and volatility in the system. This project will develop novel models to capture such aspects and to accurately reproduce the dynamic behaviour of power systems. The project will help system operators to exploit renewable resources and to operate the system in a more secure and efficient fashion.


Principal Investigator (PI): Timothy O'Brien

Research Body: NUI Galway

Award Title: Combinatoral Cell Therapy for Diabetes-related critical limb ischaemia

Award Amount**: €739,075

Summary: We believe that a diabetic blood vessel complication critical limb ischaemia (CLI), a condition where blood flow to the lower extremity is impaired to the extent of threatening viability, could be treated with cell therapy to regenerate damaged tissues. We will isolate reparative cells, expand and then inject into sites of blood vessel damage. Cells from diabetics are known to be defective so we will identify and correct this defect and potentially use patient’s own cells for therapy or in combination with cells from healthy donors. We aim to provide a pioneering new treatment for CLI personalised to diabetic patients.


Principal Investigator (PI): Tom Ray

Research Body: DIAS

Award Title: Building the Next Generation MKID Camera

Award Amount**: €1,600,200

Summary: Optical and near-infrared wavelengths allow us to explore high redshift galaxies, star and planet formation in our own Milky Way, and disks produced by planetary collisions surrounding nearby stars. Here we propose to build a highly sensitive, prototype optical/near-infrared detector array using a novel method to address and read out individual pixels. This technology, using superconducting resonators on a chip, offers the prospect of ultimately building large format arrays, akin to those already available at optical wavelengths (known as CCDs) but with the ability to instantaneously detect the spectrum of the object without the need for filters.


Principal Investigator (PI): Jonathan Yearsley

Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Biodiversity, resilience and food security: understanding the role of biodiversity in maintaining food production

Award Amount**: €568,131

Summary: Agriculture and the environment is of great economic and cultural importance to the people of Ireland. In particular, sustained economic growth and food security both require agricultural production that is resilient to dramatic environmental changes. This project focuses on grassland productivity to investigate if the biodiversity surrounding farm-grasslands promote resilient agricultural productivity. We will use information from satellite images, unmanned aerial drones and experimental plots. We will then produce maps of Ireland that look into the near-future, showing areas where production is riskier when faced with extreme events, such as the conditions that created the fodder crisis of 2012-13.


Science Foundation Ireland’s Investigators Programme 2016 – Reserve List


Principal Investigator (PI): Emanuele Pelucchi

Research Body: Tyndall National Institute, UCC

Award Title: Quantum control of nanostructures for quantum networking

Award Amount**: €1,501,971

Summary: Communication and computation are key human activities. Extraordinary technological efforts have been essential in the definition of the current digital era. Yet, we are on the brink of a potential redefinition of ICT standards. Resources such us quantum correlations offer unmatchable opportunities for fast transmission and manipulation of information, potentially making current technologies obsolete. QuNaNet exploits such exciting premises to lay down the fundamental steps for the demonstration of a scalable network for “quantum” information processing based on semiconductor “artificial” atom technology and integrated photonics, putting together two across-the-border excellences working in synergy towards an ambitious and potentially high-gain goal.


Principal Investigator (PI): Max Ammann

Research Body: DIT

Award Title: Antenna Systems for Minimally Invasive Implanted Medical Sensors

Award Amount**: €744,961

Summary: This proposal seeks to research improved ways of making smaller antennas for radio devices that will report from implanted sensors in the human body. Once inside a person, the radio links become impacted by the body tissues and require optimised antennas both in the body and on the body to transmit the medical information to doctors. The multi-disciplinary team will combine their engineering and bio-health skills to push beyond the current state-of-the-art in wireless medical implants to improve performance in order to broaden their use in new monitoring applications and treatments.


Principal Investigator (PI): John Donegan

Research Body: TCD

Award Title: Athermal semiconductor lasers for applications in information and communications technologies

Award Amount**: €1,435,616

Summary: The world as we know it depends critically on the wired internet for communications. Each day, billions of e-mail and webpages traverse the net bringing data and information from one location to another. The growth of this wired internet continues at a very rapid pace and there is a substantial cost in operating this network. A major impediment to growth in the future is the electrical power required to operate the net. In this project, we will investigate a range of new laser structures that operate with much improved efficiency. This work will have a major impact on optical communications.


Principal Investigator (PI): Damian Flynn

Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Energy storage and demand-side flexibility within future electricity markets

Award Amount**: €783,213

Summary: Against a background of climate change concerns, power systems are seeing growing renewable energy penetration (particularly wind and solar), increased heat and transport electrification (heat pumps, storage heaters, electric vehicles) and new forms of cost-effective energy storage and demand-side response supported by smart communications innovation. Future technologies may also include commercially viable wave and tidal energy, carbon capture and sequestration, and as yet unseen technology shocks. The project aims at policy guidance, supported by technical analysis, for 2020, 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets, and ultimately signposting pathway options for a sustainable, efficient, secure electricity


Principal Investigator (PI): Trevor Hodkinson

Research Body: TCD

Award Title: EndoGrass: manipulating the microbiome to improve forage crops

Award Amount**: €1,518,585

Summary: Ireland contains the greatest proportion of natural and semi-natural grasslands in Europe, and these represent important resources. Fungal microorganisms inside grass plants known as endophytes can improve yields of cereals and forage species and they have a high potential value for sustainable agriculture. However, very little is known about these endophytes and how they influence growth and survival. We aim to describe the micro-organisms in order to understand their biodiversity, test their impact on forage grass growth and stress tolerance and manipulate them to increase forage productivity. The impacts of the research lie in biodiversity, ecology and sustainable agriculture.


Principal Investigator (PI): Gil U Lee

Research Body: UCD

Award Title: Nanotechnology Enabled Biopharmaceutical Downstream Processing (NanoBiopharm)

Award Amount**: €885,947

Summary: Biopharmaceuticals are of strategic importance to Ireland’s pharmaceutical industry, which accounts for 28% of our export revenues and employs 25,000 people. Downstream processing (DSP) is a key enabling technology to this industry because of strict purity requirements and it accounts for half the cost of production of antibodies. This proposal will apply advances in bionanotechnology to decrease the cost and processing time of antibody DSP and enable to scalable production of clinical grade stem cells. This will increase Irish competitiveness in this rapidly changing industry and form the basis for the creation of a new Irish biotechnology company.


Principal Investigator (PI): John Lowry

Research Body: NUIM

Award Title: The development and characterisation of microelectrochemical sensors and biosensors for real-time neurochemical monitoring of brain energy metabolism

Award Amount**: €1,214,271

Summary: Our behaviour, feelings, and thoughts reflect the complex interplay of the brain’s electrical and chemical pathways. These functions are maintained at a high energy cost - 20% of the oxygen and 25% of the glucose consumed by the human body is dedicated to cerebral functions. Brain energy metabolism has evolved from a view which primarily focused on neurons into a more integrated one in which cooperation between cells appears to play a central role. This project will develop technology for real-time monitoring of chemical events in order to understanding this integration which is critically important for brain function.


Principal Investigator (PI): Mani Ramaswami

Research Body: TCD

Award Title: Conformational Triggers, Mechanisms and Pathways for Neurodegenerative Disease

Award Amount**: €2,134,094

Summary: The goal of this proposal is to identify genes that determine cognitive or motor decline, which is caused by the death of cells in the nervous system. The hope is that understanding genes that prevent degeneration will allow the design of drugs with the same effect and identifying genes that predict neurodegeneration will allow early predictive genetic diagnoses. In an inexpensive model organism, Drosophila, we will identify such genes and their function in the brain. We will determine whether similar genes in humans have conserved functions by collaboratively interrogating a human database created by the Icelandic company deCODE Genetics.


Principal Investigator (PI): Cathal Seoighe

Research Body: NUI Galway

Award Title: Deconvolution and analysis of genetic variation in the human epigenome

Award Amount**: €1,048,421

Summary: Biological samples are mixtures. For example, a tumour biopsy may consist of tumour cells mixed with multiple normal cells of various kinds. If you compare groups of samples, (e.g. biopsies from two subtypes of cancer), results you get can either reflect differences in what is happening within the cells (usually of most interest) or differences in the composition of the samples. We have developed software to estimate the composition of biological samples and here propose new models and computational techniques to extend these methods when multiple different kinds of genomics data are available from heterogeneous samples.




*If relevant, the identity of Co-PI’s based in Northern Ireland will be announced at a later date.

** Inclusive of approx. 30% overhead payment to Research Body


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