Shared Island exploratory funding awarded for cancer initiative


Professor William Gallagher, Professor of Cancer Biology, Deputy Director of Precision Oncology Ireland and Fellow of UCD Conway Institute, has received funding under the Irish Research Council (IRC)’s New Foundations programme, in partnership with the Shared Island unit in the Department of An Taoiseach.

He will lead a project exploring how an All-Island Cancer Research Institute can deepen North-South collaboration, enhance cancer outcomes, and help to strengthen social, economic, and political links on the island - in collaboration with Queen's University Belfast.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, announced 11 awardees under this programme on 10 December 2021.

The projects will bring researchers together to explore the political, socio-economic and cultural considerations of a shared future on the island. Exploring the benefits of an All-Island Cancer Research Institute, realising an all-island circular economy, improving inter-group relations through shared goals, and learning from what works in entrepreneurship education North and South are some of the areas included among the awards.

The funding for the top-ranked proposals will cultivate research, networking and collaboration in support of implementation and development of the Government’s Shared Island initiative. The awards will bring new insights and perspectives from researchers on the key challenges and opportunities facing the island.

This year, Professor Gallagher led the launch of AICRI, the All-Island Cancer Research Institute consortium, to provide an overarching framework for cancer research across the island of Ireland, from discovery to implementation, for the benefit of cancer patients and wider society. The virtual institute brings together the combined strengths of cancer researchers on this island, linking with US and other international colleagues, to tackle the challenges of cancer.

Commenting on the Shared Island award, Professor Gallagher, who is co-lead of AICRI, said: “This key funding provides a critical foundation stone for the emerging All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI), which now has representation from 10 academic institutions from North and South, along with Cancer Trials Ireland, the National Cancer Control Programme, the cancer charity sector and patient advocates.

We are excited about the prospect of building an overarching framework for cancer research across the entire island of Ireland, which covers cancer prevention, diagnostics, treatment and survivorship/quality of life. The New Foundations programme will provide a catalyst for these activities, bringing various stakeholders together to advance our vision for AICRI."

Welcoming the awards, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD said: “I am very pleased to announce the 11 projects funded under this new partnership between the Shared Island unit in my Department and the Irish Research Council. The Shared Island initiative is an exciting and ambitious cross-Government programme aimed at bringing people from all communities and traditions together to build a better future for everyone on this island.

I’m delighted to see such an interesting and diverse range of projects being supported with funding from the Shared Island unit. The outputs from these new North/South research partnerships will play an important role in shaping and developing our understanding of a shared island.”

Minister Simon Harris, TD said: “Research can play a significant role in building links between communities by finding solutions to common problems and this programme will tap into the expertise and talent in the research systems of this island – north and south – for the benefit of Shared Island goals.

The funded projects will see researchers from across the island form partnerships including to develop the circular economy, improve cancer treatment, and foster recovery in the performing arts industry. My Department is proud to support this initiative through the work of the Irish Research Council.”

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, added: “The Irish Research Council is delighted to partner with the Shared Island unit of the Department of the Taoiseach. A central focus of the Irish Research Council is to foster connections between researchers and wider stakeholders to co-create new evidence and knowledge that benefits society, including our shared, diverse society and traditions on the island of Ireland.

The Council’s programmes continue to provide excellent opportunities for research partnerships with Government departments and agencies, civil society and enterprise and we are delighted to be leveraging the expertise of the research community across different disciplines in the important project that is the Shared Island initiative.”