UCC and Tyndall teams set to compete for €1m research prize

4 Jun 2019
The shortlisted teams from UCC and Tyndall National Institute are led by Professor Barry O'Sullivan and Dr Eric Moore.

Two teams from UCC and Tyndall National Institute have been selected as finalists for the SFI Future Innovator Prize, with each of the teams vying for €1 million in research funding.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, today announced the six finalists selected following a highly competitive process overseen by an international expert review panel.

The winning team will be announced in December and receive a prize award of €1 million, providing the opportunity to deploy an innovative solution with the potential to deliver significant impact to Irish society.

The six teams aim to address societal challenges through the development of novel, potentially disruptive, technologies. Each competing team is led by academic researchers and a Societal Impact Champion, tasked with a providing a strong societal perspective for the team as they develop their solution.

Competing teams come from University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), NUI Galway (NUI Galway), University College Cork (UCC), and Tyndall National Institute (TNI), with the involvement of national agencies, hospitals and world-leading SFI Research Centres.

Minimising Hospital Waiting Lists and Optimising Healthcare Capacity

Professor Barry O'Sullivan and Helmut Simonis, School of Computer Science and Insight Centre for Data Analytics, UCC; Dr Jane Bourke, Economics, Technology Adoption and Health Care Innovation, UCC; and Prof Martin Curley, Director, HSE Digital Academy.

The team is developing an artificial intelligence and data analytics system to minimise hospital waiting lists and optimise healthcare capacity in Ireland.

Enabling Better Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Dr Eric Moore, Analytical Chemistry, Tyndall National Institute/ UCC; Martin O'Sullivan, Lead Surgeon, BreastCheck Southern Unit and UCC, and Liosa O'Sullivan, Patient Advocate.

The SmartProbe project team is developing a technology for clinicians to improve the breast cancer diagnostic pathway through real-time point of care detection of breast disease.  

Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation at UCC, said she is “delighted to see the innovative research from the teams led by Barry O’Sullivan in UCC and Eric Moore in Tyndall has been recognised at this stage in the competition. Best of luck to both teams in the final.”

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said the initiative was launched last year to "encourage bright minds across the country to work together to identify major challenges facing Ireland’s society and to propose creative solutions. It is very exciting to see so many innovative ideas coming through and I look forward to seeing their ideas develop further over the coming months.”

The challenge areas and issues to be addressed by the other finalists are:

Reducing the Burden of Sepsis

Dr Elaine Spain (Analytical Chemistry, DCU); Dr Kellie Adamson (Diagnostics and Therapeutics and Biomaterials Science, DCU); Prof Gerald Curley, (Sepsis Lead, RCSI Network of Hospitals, Beaumont Hospital)

Project: SepTec: Improving Outcomes for Sepsis Patients

Harnessing Gene Editing to Treat Rare Diseases such as Epidermolysis bullosa (EB)

Prof Wenxin Wang, Dr Irene-Lara Sáez and Mr Jonathan O’Keeffe-Ahern (Charles Institute of Dermatology, UCD); Dr Nan Zhang (Mechanical and Materials Engineering, UCD); Dr Sinead Hickey (Research Manager, DEBRA Ireland)

Project: A disruptive, non‐viral gene-editing platform technology for treating genetic conditions

Enabling Next Generation Biological Imaging

Prof Dominic Zerulla (Physics and Plasmonics, UCD); Dr Dimitri Scholz (Biology and Director of the Conway Imaging facilities, UCD); Peter Doyle (consulting the European Commission with the Brussels Photonics Team on strategic innovation and business development)

Project: Real‐time imaging of nanoscale biological processes via plasmonically enabled nanopixel arrays

Reducing the Burden of Chronic Pain

Dr Alison Liddy (Biomedical Engineer and Chemist, NUI Galway); Dr Martin O'Halloran (Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics, NUI Galway); Dr Chris Maharaj (Consultant Anaesthetist & Pain Specialist, University Hospital Galway)

Project: A novel hydrogel to address chronic pain in Irish patients

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Proceeding to this phase of the programme is a great achievement, and the motivation of the teams demonstrates the appetite and capacity of the Irish research community to help contribute to solving major national and global challenges. Congratulations to each team on their hard work and dedication.”

The SFI Future Innovator Prize, funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland, is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland.


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