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Minister Devins announces €23million for ‘Research Frontiers’ at launch of Science Foundation Ireland Annual Report 2007

Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Jimmy Devins T.D., today (July 24th, 2008) launched on behalf of Science Foundation Ireland its Annual Report 2007 and announced new funding of over €23 million for 143 projects, under the SFI Research Frontiers Programme (RFP) for 2008.

Launching the SFI Annual Report at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, Minister Devins said “Investment in research is at the core of the Government’s strategy to ensure the development of Ireland as a knowledge-based economy.

The Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) 2006-2013 and the allocation of €8.2 billion under the National Development Plan provides the framework necessary to build a world-class research system in Ireland, and SFI is a key player in achieving this objective.“

Minister Devins added “that the SFI 2007 Annual Report illustrates clearly that this investment in new and innovative research programmes in science and engineering is now clearly resulting in the attraction and retention of high quality researchers, increased numbers of highly skilled PhD students graduating from SFI supported research teams, and new substantial collaborations with industry. The annual report demonstrates how SFI is supporting and increasing Ireland’s key resource – talented people.”

Commenting on the Annual Report, SFI Chairperson, Prof. Patrick Fottrell, said “that the Annual Report for 2007 shows SFI is delivering on its SSTI targets and is on target in the recruitment and retention of top-class researchers, as it continues to build a high-quality research environment in this country. Through the new SFI Strategic Research Cluster (SRC) Programme, key partnerships have been forged with 43 distinct companies, while the establishment of a new SFI Centre for Science Engineering and Technology (CSET) in the software sector led by Dublin City University, has brought together researchers in partnership with IBM, Microsoft, Symantec and others. SFI continues to work together with the other Governments agencies implementing SSTI, in particular IDA and Enterprise Ireland to foster stronger collaboration between SFI researchers and industry.”

In announcing the Annual Report and new funding of over €23million under the SFI Research Frontiers Programme (RFP) 2008, Minister Devins said “Today is both a reflection on the year past, and, with this major new investment, very much a statement of intent for the future. The funding of these 143 research projects is spread across 13 different and exciting areas encompassing health, engineering, energy, ecology, medicine, mathematics, genetics and related fields. Significantly, this funding will allow for the provision of high quality training and jobs for 180 scientists”

Welcoming today’s Research Frontiers announcement, Director General of SFI, Prof. Frank Gannon, said “Ireland has genuine potential to be a hub for world-class scientific research, and SFI is spearheading this through a number of highly-competitive award schemes. 2007 was a very significant and successful year for SFI as judged by the achievements of all of those funded under the different award programmes. The 143 new awards announced today under the Research Frontiers Programme support novel exploratory research in the third-level sector and were chosen by competitive review from over 750 submissions. The range and level of expertise, as evidenced in this year’s submissions, is a clear illustration of the progress Ireland is making in this field.”

The 10 research bodies receiving funding under the 2008 RFP are Trinity College Dublin; University College Dublin; University College Cork; National University of Ireland Galway; National University of Ireland Maynooth; Dublin City University; Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; University of Limerick; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; and the Tyndall National Institute (UCC) .

Examples of research projects supported include:

1. Dr. Geraldine Boylan, University College Cork
'Telemonitoring' system for sick newborn babies in neonatal intensive care units.

This award will allow the research team to develop a 'telemonitoring' system for sick newborn babies in neonatal intensive care units. Seizures and other neurological problems in babies are diagnosed using a test called the EEG, which monitors the electrical activity of the brain. The EEG can be recorded relatively easily using specific monitoring equipment that is available in most hospitals. However, analysing the resulting data requires specialised knowledge that is available in only a few centres of excellence. Presently, centres without this specialist knowledge must send EEG data via post or courier to specialist centres for analysis. This process introduces delays in diagnosis that could affect patient outcome. More worryingly, in some cases sick ventilated babies are transported to the specialist centres. The work proposed for this research will allow improved access to neurological monitoring for all babies and eliminate delays in generating reports by allowing specialists to access EEG data remotely, both retrospectively and in real-time.

2. Prof. Han Vos, Dublin City University

The aim of this project is to generate hydrogen from water using solar energy.
Global climate change and security of energy supply are increasingly perceived as the most serious threats facing the world’s medium and long-term future.
A hydrogen-based economy is widely seen as an ideal solution to these problems however at present no sustainable and methods exist for hydrogen production.

In this project we propose a new environmentally friendly approach of using sunlight for the production of useful fuels. The system to be developed will produce hydrogen from sunlight and water. This approach will not only reduce our need for fossil fuels but also contribute to reduced CO2 emissions.

3. Prof. Carmel Breslin, NUI Maynooth
The aim of this research is to develop new environmentally acceptable protective coatings for metals.

Many of the materials that we use on a daily basis are metallic. We are surrounded by light-weight metals when we fly, our computers have metallic components and even some of our food is packaged in metallic cans. All metals and alloys are prone to a naturally occurring phenomenon of corrosion, which ultimately leads to failure of the component, and depending on the application this can lead to serious environmental and safety concerns. The aim of this research is to develop new environmentally acceptable protective coatings. The coatings will consist of polymers, which are modified with large macrocyclic cages. These cages will be designed so that they can repel the species that cause corrosion. In addition, the cages will be loaded with corrosion inhibitors to give a new smart protective coating system that will be able to release an inhibitor to the corroding site and halt the corrosion reaction.

Alva O'Cleirigh | alfa
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