UCD leads the field in Science Foundation Ireland research investment

With seven UCD research projects among 24 to receive funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the Investigators Programme announced today, UCD once again leads the field with the highest number of projects funded.

With awards ranging from €500,000 to €2.7 million over four to five year periods, projects funded will support over 200 researchers. Funding provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation was awarded through eight research bodies: University College Dublin (7), 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) and University College Cork (1).

Prof Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said: “UCD is delighted to receive the highest number of awards under the Investigators Programme. We continue to build on our commitment to excellence in research and innovation and to having a profound impact on our society, locally and globally. We will continue to support our researchers in delivering on their ambitions. The 24 research projects funded are in a range of strategically important sectors, and UCD has the creativity and energy to deliver a significant impact.”

Pictured above (l-r): Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, SFI; Prof Eoin Casey, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering; Dr Rachel McLoughlin, Trinity College; and Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD.

Announcing the nearly €40 million research investment, the 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.”

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.”

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).

The UCD Principal Investigators whose research projects are to receive funding include:

Health and Medical

  • Development of a clinical test to predict whether breast and prostate cancer tumours are likely to return after surgery;
    Co-PIs: Prof William Gallagher, UCD School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science and Prof William Watson, UCD School of Medicine
  • Development of a one-step germ-detection device for use on foods and solid surfaces;
    Co-PIs: Assoc Prof Aoife Gowen, UCD School of Biosystems & Food Engineering and Dr Amalia Scannell, UCD School of Agriculture & Food Science
  • Creation of technology for bacterial biofilm disruption and removal with downstream benefits in the areas of drug delivery and water purification;
    PI: Prof Eoin Casey, UCD School of Chemical & Bioprocess Engineering
  • Identification of biomarkers for personalized, cost-effective treatment of chronic kidney disease;
    PI: Prof Catherine Godson, UCD School of Medicine

Food and Marine

  • Development of biosensors for TB diagnosis in cattle and identification of way to breed healthier, disease-resistant animals;
    Co-PIs: Prof David MacHugh, UCD School of Agriculture & Food Science and Prof Stephen Gordon, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine
  • Investigation of the impact of the biodiversity of farm grassland on productivity and resilience to future extreme environmental events;
    PI: Dr Jonathan Yearsley, UCD School of Biology & Environmental Science

Energy and Environment

  • Design of new software and computer-based models to produce more secure power systems;
    PI: Dr Federico Milano, UCD School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering

According to Professor Mark Ferguson, the quality of projects and calibre of PIs in this round of awards was such that for the first time, the SFI has created a “reserve list” of ten projects who were deemed scientifically excellent and impactful of the international review panel and will be funded, if budgets permit, later in the year. Two UCD projects are on this reserve list: 

  • Assoc Professor, Damian Flynn, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering:  project on energy storage
  • Prof Prof Gil Lee, UCD School of Chemistry: project on nanotechnology enabled biopharmaceutical downstream processing.