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2016 Press Releases

UCC receives 30% of new SFI research fund

12 Jan 2016
Photo from left: Professor Geraldine Boylan,INFANT; Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills,Mr Damien English TD; Professor John Wenger, UCC Department of Chemistry; Professor Mark Ferguson, DG of SFI; Minister for Jobs, Mr Richard Bruton TD; Professor Paul Callanan, UCC Department of Physics and Dr Siobhán Cusack, UCC Office for Research and Innovation

University College Cork received €8,682,332 or 30% of the €28.8m for funding research infrastructure as announced by Ministers Bruton and English and the SFI today (Tuesday 12 Jan).  UCC researchers are leading or involved in eight of the 21 chosen projects.

The Minister for Jobs, Richard Burton, TD together with the Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills, Damien English, TD today released details in Birr, Co Offaly of the €28 million investment in research equipment and facilities through Science Foundation Ireland. 

The funding will create research supports to enhance research and jobs in a variety of Research Centres and academic units in the University which include: the Infant Centre, the APC Microbiome Institute, the Tyndall National Institute, IPIC, the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, the Marine Renewables Infrastructure Network, and the  Irish Atmospheric Simulation Chamber (IASC) Facility.

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

“We are delighted with the funding 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.”

This infrastructure funding was awarded competitively following rigorous international review to research groups where the research equipment and facilities are required to address major research opportunities and challenges; including partnerships with industry and /or international funders.  This new infrastructure will ensure that Irish researchers continue to be internationally competitive, with access to modern equipment and facilities which will enable them to be successful in securing future funding from leading companies and Europe, including Horizon 2020. 

This investment is made by the Department of Jobs through Science Foundation Ireland.

 The 21 infrastructure projects funded were in a range of strategically important sectors as follows:

Animal & Human Health: Human motion analysis system to facilitate the development of personal sensing connected health technologies for patients and athletes; an early life lab to monitor how the brain grows, develops and repairs in young children; a biobank of 4 million samples to facilitate the discovery and development of new treatments in personalised medicine and nutrition to improve outcomes for mothers and babies; a human performance sensing suite to discover and develop new therapeutic strategies for metabolic and neuromuscular disease; animal and pathogen genomics analysis system to support emergent agri-food research areas such as next generation biomarkers, multiplex diagnostics, and genomic selection breeding programmes;

Big Data Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and Networks: Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR) gathering radio images of astronomical objects using advanced image processing and data analytics techniques; a new Ireland-wide wireless network testbed to support new IoT concepts, business models and devices to be developed and tested; a radio testbed for the development and testing of new radio technologies for IoT;  a 400+ Gigabit-per-second communications testbed to enable the development of the next generation core network and datacentre technologies;

Manufacturing: additive manufacturing nanomaterial infrastructure for the development of innovative printable materials such as 3D hip and knee implants; a state-of-the-art advanced analysis facility, allowing real-time direct observation of pharmaceutical process reactions as they occur thus supporting drug manufacturing; a crystallization, isolation and drying technology testbed for pharmaceutical manufacturing; splutter disposition tool capable of growing complex, device-quality stacks of metal and oxide thin films for applications such as integrated photonics; infrastructure to support the packaging and assembly of a wide range of miniaturised photonic devices used in data-communications, sensing and point-of-care medical diagnostics.

Natural Resources & Hazards: sensing/early-warning system for offshore earthquake and offshore storms, including the quantification of offshore natural resources; electron microscope to determine the microscopic composition of rocks to identify valuable minerals; state of the art X-ray CT scanner to enable the analysis of botanical, geophysical and natural resources; an atmospheric chamber to enable innovative studies on air pollution and climate change.

Marine: an Open Ocean Emulator to accurately replicate real ocean wave conditions in a laboratory setting to accelerate growth of the offshore renewable energy industry in Ireland; a remotely operated vehicle to enable the deployment, repair and maintenance of wave and tidal energy devices in the challenging off shore conditions.

Speaking at the announcement  Minister Bruton said: “At the heart of our Action Plan for jobs is driving employment growth in every region of the country. We have now put in place individual jobs plans for 7 out of the 8 regions in the country, and what has repeatedly become clear is that research and innovation must be accelerated right across the country if we are to deliver the jobs growth we need. Today’s announcement by Science Foundation Ireland is an important part of this.  By investing in world-class R&D infrastructure, both at a regional and national level, this will ensure that we can compete at the highest levels internationally and continue to turn more good ideas into good jobs”.
Commenting on today’s announcements, Minister English said “Today’s investment will advance the implementation of the government’s new science strategy – Innovation 2020. The 21 projects will enable globally compelling research to be undertaken across the country; facilitating greater industry and international collaboration; supporting the training of researchers and demonstrating to an international audience that Ireland on an all island basis, is business friendly and bullish in its pursuit of, and participation in, excellent research.”

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, added, “Ireland is increasingly becoming the location of choice for multinational companies to develop and test tomorrow’s technologies and this investment demonstrates our commitment and expanded ability to engage, discover and collaborate at all levels.  Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support and drive Ireland’s science strategy, Innovation 2020, with the addition of key infrastructure to propel important research projects. Ultimately, this is about providing Irish researchers in strategic areas with the tools to be world leading.”


List of SFI Research Infrastructure Awards 

A total of 21 projects were approved for funding with a total amount of €28.8m.



Lead Applicant

Research Body/SFI Research Centre

SFI Funding

Infrastructure Title


Animal & Human Health

Madeleine Lowery



Human Performance Monitoring Suite

The Human Performance Sensing Suite will enable measurement and assessment of human performance data within and outside of the research laboratory.  It represents the state-of-the-art for monitoring metabolic, electrophysiological and movement data within the laboratory, and for monitoring physiological data within the home.  This will enable new research to better understand metabolic and neuromuscular diseases, and the development of new therapeutic strategies. It will enable us to identify new biomarkers for diseases, and to assess the effect of interventions, such as training, robotics or exercise programmes, supporting the design of new systems for monitoring health and exercise-based treatments using wearable-sensors.  

Animal & Human Health

Stephen Gordon



High throughput transcriptomics for animal disease and zoonoses

The NanoString nCounter system allows the expression of hundreds of genes across multiple samples to be assessed in parallel, providing a powerful approach to extend findings from transcriptome studies to biomarker validation. This platform will support major on-going projects in the agri-food area funded by SFI, DAFM and EU, and allow researchers to translate advances in animal and pathogen genomics to emergent research areas such as next generation biomarkers, multiplex diagnostics, and genomic selection breeding programmes. As such the NanoString nCounter system will significantly strengthen Irish veterinary and animal science research.

Animal & Human Health

Louise Kenny



INFANT Biobank

The new progressive INFANT Biobank facilityunder development will enable improved curation and protection of precious human biological samples. The facility will enhance INFANT’s research in biomarker discovery and validation, personalised medicine, and nutrition to improve outcomes for mothers and babies. In the coming months, capacity will be expanded by 4 million samples. The biobank will surpass existing international biobanking guidelines and continue to contribute to standards development. This will position INFANT, and Ireland, at the forefront of biobanking internationally. It will increase attractiveness for multi-institutional international collaborations and be a test-bed for research and development in perinatal medicine.

Animal & Human Health

Geraldine Boylan



INFANT Discovery Platform

The INFANT Discovery Platform will combine a next-generation Early Life Lab with an integrated Data Hub. The Early Life Lab will enable INFANT to learn more about how the brain grows, develops and repairs itself in young children following early brain injury. INFANT will assess children at high risk of neurodevelopmental issues both physiologically and cognitively. The Data Hub will allow this monitoring to be combined with clinical assessments. It will support regulatory-compliant storage and curation of data. This work will help position Ireland as a test-bed for industry R&D in perinatal medicine and deliver health, social and economic impacts.

Animal & Human Health

Paul Cotter

Teagasc /APC


NextSeq DNA sequencing platform

DNA sequencing is now an essential component of all fields of biological science. As it is not feasible for all research institutes to purchase/operate a suite of state-of-the-art sequencing platforms, the international model has been to develop centralised Centres to provide low cost services to researchers. This provides key competitive advantages with respect to carrying out high quality research, joint programming and securing international funding. The further expansion of the existing APC Microbiome Institute/Teagasc (Moorepark) facility to become a centralised Irish Sequencing Centre, through purchase of an Illumina NextSeq, will considerably benefit Irish research institutes and industry.

Animal & Human Health

Kieran Moran



Indoors and Outdoors Motion Analysis System

Movement is fundamental to life, health and sport. Understanding how it is controlled is central to many scientific disciplines: exercise science, clinical gait, musculoskeletal medicine, sports biomechanics, gerontology, neuroscience, human computer interactions, and ergonomics. The state-of-the-art motion-analysis system will drive research in these areas by accurately quantifying movements (<2mm) and the muscular forces that produce them. It also provides real-time augmented feedback to help patients/athletes optimise movement effectiveness. Finally, the system will be used as a gold standard in developing novel low-cost motion-analysis technologies for use at home and outside the laboratory in areas of Connected Health and Personal Sensing.

Big Data, IoT and Networks

Peter Gallagher



iLOFAR: Connecting Ireland to the International Low Frequency Array (LOFAR)

The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) is a €150 million network of radio telescopes that is being deployed across Europe, with stations in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, France, Poland and the UK. LOFAR is revolutionising our understanding of the Universe, attracting students into careers in science and technology, and driving innovations in information and communications technologies. An All-Ireland consortium of Universities and Institutes of Technologies will build a LOFAR telescope in Birr Castle in 2016, which will connect Ireland to the World’s largest radio telescope, open a new frontier in Irish scientific and ICT research, and re-ignite Ireland’s global reputation for astronomical research at Birr.

Big Data, IoT and Networks

Linda Doyle



Pervasive Nation: an Ireland-wide, wireless network infrastructure to support Open IoT(Internet of Things)

The Internet-of-Things connects everyday objects to the Internet allowing useful information to be communicated to other objects, machines or humans. Pervasive Nation is a new, Ireland-wide, wireless network which will support Internet-of-Things (IoT) research and innovation. Designed and managed by the CONNECT Centre, Pervasive Nation will allow new IoT concepts, business models and devices to be developed and tested. The network will initially be rolled out across ten third-level campuses, and will eventually cover urban, suburban and rural environments, making Ireland the first country in the world with full, IoT network coverage. Pervasive Nation will enable world-leading IoT research, seed innovation in indigenous enterprises, and help to attract foreign direct investment by making Ireland the definitive place to test the future.

Big Data, IoT and Networks

Paul Townsend



400 Gigabit-per-second and Beyond Advanced Modulation Coherent Communications Testbed

As the Internet continues to grow, the underlying global optical-fibre-based communication infrastructure is under increasing strain, requiring more information to be carried on each wavelength channel by employing advanced data-encoding techniques that pack multiple bits of information into each data symbol. This world-class testbed - the first of its kind in any European university - will enable the development and demonstration of the next generation core network and datacentre technologies that will underpin the future Internet. Critically, it will enable Irish researchers to continue to compete in Horizon2020 communications programmes and to attract collaborations with the world’s leading communication companies.

Big Data, IoT and Networks

Ronan Farrell



RadioSpace: An experimental Radio Testbed for 5G and the Internet of Things

Radiospace will be at the heart of a national facility for the development and testing of new radio technologies for the Internet of Things.  Radiospace is a large shielded facility that will provide Irish universities and companies access to a unique testbed in terms of size, capabilities and the radio frequencies supported, enabling Irish companies and universities to develop the next generation of products and technologies.   As part of the SFI Connect Centre, Radiospace will build a common space for universities and industry, accelerating the flow of innovation from universities researchers to prototypes and finally early stage product development


Peter O'Brien



High Accuracy Photonic Device Flipchip Packaging and Assembly System

The precision flipchip bonding equipment will enable the Photonics Packaging Group at the Tyndall Institute to further enhance its capabilities to develop advanced integrated photonic sub-systems and prototypes. The equipment will provide the capability to package a wide range of minaturised photonic devices, such as semiconductor lasers, photo-detectors, micro-optics and microelectronic devices, with submicron placement accuracy, under manual and full automatic process control. Such precision is required when aligning photonic devices to the integrated optical waveguides which are commonly used in a range of applications, including data-communications, sensing and point-of-care medical diagnostics.


Stefano Sanvito



Additive Manufacturing Nano-Materials Facility (3DAMN)

Additive Manufacturing (AM) provides a method to prototype and customise products quickly and at low cost. AMBER does this with a range of industry partners. The new infrastructure includes plastic, metal and ceramic 3D printing, ink-jet printing and polymer processing equipment. It will allow AMBER researchers to develop innovative 'printable materials' such as 3D hip and knee implants, energy storage technologies such as supercapacitors, nanocomposites for medical devices and novel nanosheets for the ICT sector. This will significantly strengthen the Centre’s ability to quickly deliver innovative solutions to industry partners and address issues of global societal and economic importance.


Anita Maguire



Process Flow Spectroscopy Facility (ProSpect)

ProSpect is a state-of-the-art advanced analysis facility, allowing real-time direct observation of pharmaceutical process reactions as they occur – the first of its kind within the EU. The facility will consist of a suite of integrated analytical instrumentation including MRI technology, which will provide unprecedented mechanistic insight into pharmaceutical reactions, thus leading to safer drugs at reduced cost for both the manufacturer and the patient. Operating within the SSPC, ProSpect will offer researchers and the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland a unique competitive technical advantage, thereby enhancing Ireland’s reputation as a leading location for state-of-the-art pharmaceutical process chemistry.


Kieran Hodnett



Crystallisation Isolation and Drying Technology Test Bed (CIDT2)

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is moving away from batch and towards continuous methods which offer improved quality and lower costs. Crystallization, isolation and drying are key steps in the manufacturing process. The Crystallization, Isolation and Drying Technology Test-Bed (CIDT2) will establish a state-of-the-art national research test-bed based on continuous manufacturing methods and enable researchers to combine all  three separate unit operations for the first time globally.  National and international academic and industry users can expect access to a range of equipment options to undertake integrated research at industrially relevant scales, supported by an in-line process analytics suite for in-situ process monitoring and control.


Plamen Stamenov



Trifolium Dubium – A Flexible Deposition Tool for Complex Thin-film Stacks of Metallic and Dielectric Materials

Trifolium Dubium will be a sputter-deposition tool capable of growing complex, device-quality stacks of metal and oxide thin films with as many as ten different materials with state-of-the art control over the deposition conditions in a fully automated process. The tool will be the centrepiece of a unique National Thin-Film Facility at TCD, serving academia and industry across Ireland. The development will focus on a great range of novel materials that can be patterned into functional nanoscale devices for basic and applied research in areas such as spintronics and integrated photonics. Trifolium Dublium will enable physicists, chemists and material scientists to compete internationally for research and technology funding, partnering productively with the IT and Energy sectors in the Country.


Daniel Toal



Marine Renewable Energy Remote Operation Vehicle  for Challenging (Wave, Tidal, Wind) Conditions

MRE-ROV: Marine Renewable Energy Remotely Operated Vehicle.    There is significant RnD in MRE across Europe with a particularly strong commitment in Ireland.  SFI Centre – MaREI is focused on Ireland taking a pivotal and leading role in the development of Utility Scale MRE.  The MRE-ROV, an all electric vehicle with advanced dynamic positioning and control capabilities, is a key piece of support infrastructure for the development and testing of wave and tidal energy converters and for research and development of technologies for inspection, repair and maintenance of MRE infrastructure in the challenging high energy off shore prevailing conditions at MRE farms.


Jimmy Murphy



Open Ocean Emulator for Grid Integrated next generation Marine Renewable Energy systems

The Open Ocean Emulator (OOE) integrates test tank developments, state-of-the-art instrumentation and electrical infrastructure such that to create the most advanced small scale model testing capability worldwide.  It will complement existing facilities at Lir-NOTF, UCC and enhance Irelands R&D capacity, particularly at the MaREI Centre.  The OOE will accurately replicate real ocean wave conditions in a laboratory setting and in combination with the use of advanced instrumentation will improve our understanding on how marine structures, such as wave energy convertors, floating wind turbines and tidal energy devices, behave.  This advanced testing capability will accelerate the path from technology design to real-world applications and contribute to the growth and sustainability of the offshore renewable energy industry in Ireland.  

Natural Resources & Hazards

Balz Kamber



Geosciences Electron Beam Mineral Analyser - GeoRise

The GeoRise is a special type of scanning electron microscope, which geoscientists will use to investigate real-world sized rocks at sub-microscopic scale. This cutting edge analytical instrument will have a wide array of detectors that allow the simultaneous determination of many properties, such as composition, luminescence and atomic arrangement. The GeoRise also has software that can automatically recognise groups of minerals within a rock and map their mutual relationships. Most importantly, the GeoRise can quantify the content of valuable metals in rocks in unprecedented detail. It will thus be used to develop new approaches to resource and energy efficiency.

Natural Resources & Hazards

Christopher Bean



Insitu Marine Laboratory for Geosystems Research (iMARL).

Ireland has an ocean territory ten times larger than its terrestrial landmass. Geological, oceanographic and biological processes mutually interact on a daily basis in this vast territory. Continuously recording offshore sensors are required to monitor this activity. Here we establish the Insitu Marine Laboratory for Geosystems Research (iMARL) comprising Ocean Bottom Seismographs (OBSs), Temperature and Acoustic Recorders. Strapped to sea-bed landers and deployed on the sea floor this equipment will allow for the detections of offshore earthquakes and offshore storms, as well as noise in the ocean and biologically generated  acoustic signals (e.g. from whales). Impacts include: natural resources quantification, natural hazard estimation, environmental and baseline climate related insitu ocean monitoring.  A pilot tsunami detection system will also be installed as part of the network.

Natural Resources & Hazards

John Wenger



Irish Atmospheric Simulation Chamber (IASC) Facility

The Irish Atmospheric Simulation Chamber (IASC) is a new national facility specially designed to support world-leading research activities in the key strategic areas of atmospheric and materials science. Based at University College Cork (UCC), the IASC Facility will consist of a large custom-built chamber equipped with cutting-edge instrumentation to enable innovative studies on air pollution and climate change. It will also serve as an advanced testbed for novel atmospheric monitoring techniques, emerging sensor technologies and depolluting materials. The facility will promote new research synergies, increase Irish competitiveness in the European Research Area, while also impacting strongly on environment, health and the economy in Irish society.

Natural Resources & Hazards

Jennifer McElwain



Integrated Plant Phenomics & Future Experimental Climate Platform

The Integrated Plant Phenomics & Future Experimental Climate Platform consists of a state-of-the-art X-Ray CT scanner and six high spec. controlled climate chambers. This unique facility will facilitate industry-academia collaboration and enable users to visualize and research three dimensional structures of biological and inert samples that are usually hidden from the naked eye and conventional microscopy techniques; from the 3D structure of asphalt road surfaces to improve safety to the 3D structures of roots and how they interact with soils to improve future crop performance in a rapidly changing global climate.



University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF