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Posted 12 June 2012

Three out of five ‘Ireland’s Champions of EU Research’ awards go to UCD researchers

UCD researchers received three of the five special awards presented by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins to academic researchers in recognition of their projects which were ranked 1st in Europe in their research areas.

Pictured far right: President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins at the award ceremony

The UCD recipients of ‘Ireland’s Champions of EU Research’ awards were:

  • Dr Louise Dunne, UCD School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, for her leadership of the TURaS project on “Transitioning towards Urban Resilience and Sustainability”, ranked 1st in Sustainable and Resilient Green Cities in the Environment area.

    This research project addresses the challenges faced by urban planners in the design of the cities of our future. By 2050 about 70% of people are likely to be city dwellers. Coupled with climate change, this poses huge environmental challenges.  The project involves researchers, local authorities and business partners from 16 cities in 11 different countries working as a team.

  • Professor James Heckman, UCD Geary Institute, for his leadership of the DEVHEALTH project on “Understanding Health across the Lifecourse: An Integrated Developmental Approach”, ranked 1st in European Research Council Advanced Grant in the Ideas area.

    Nobel Laureate (2000) James Heckman, UCD Professor of Science and Society studies the origins and the evolution of health inequalities over the course of life and across generations, and the role played by cognition, personality, genes, and environments. This research project focuses on the importance of early-life conditions in explaining the existence of health disparities throughout life.

  • Dr Jennifer Claire McElwain, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, for her leadership of the OXYEVOL project on “Atmospheric oxygen as a driver of plant evolution over the past 400 million years”, ranked 1st in the European Research Council Starter Grant in the Ideas area.

    While critical events in animal evolutionary history have been linked with shifts in atmospheric O2, the potential role of O2 as a driver of plant evolution has been almost completely overlooked; a knowledge gap addressed by this research project.

The ‘Ireland’s Champions of EU Research’ awards acknowledge the immense contribution of the winners, and of the additional 275 research project leaders from across Ireland (including 48 from UCD), to our national success in the €50 billion EU research fund known as the Seventh EU Framework Programme for Research (FP7).

“UCD researchers have been awarded nearly €50m by the EU during the lifetime of the current Framework, placing UCD within the top 100 of institutions in Europe. This is a remarkable achievement,” said Professor Des Fitzgerald, Vice-President for Research at UCD.

The ‘Ireland’s Champions of EU Research’ awards event took place in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Friday 08 June 2012. It was hosted by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of Ireland’s National Support Network for FP7.

“Tackling societal challenges concerning our health, the sanctity of our environment, increasing energy and transport demands, these project leaders are living proof of the world-class research that is ongoing in Ireland and testament to the robust research infrastructure that has been built in Ireland in recent years,” said Dr Imelda Lambkin, National Director of FP7 Ireland, speaking at the event.

Awards were also presented to companies who have reached the pinnacle of European research.

Award winners Opsona Therapeutics Ltd and Wavebob are two of the 104 Irish SMEs that between them have won close to €70 million in EU research funding for Ireland since the programme began in 2007. UCD’s spin-out company OncoMark Ltd., led by Professor William Gallagher, was second only to Intel in the number of successful applications.

A key performance indicator shows that Ireland is ranked 1st in Europe for having the highest degree of SME participation of the 27 EU member states with 104 SMEs participating to date, followed by Belgium (95), Austria (80), and Estonia (76)*.

Since the EU programme commenced in 2007 over 1,200 applicants from Ireland have won €384 million in FP7 funding, the equivalent of €1.5 million per week. The national target is to secure €600 million by the end of 2013. The final call for applications which will open in July 2012 has the largest budget to date at an estimated €9 billion.

According to Dr. Lambkin, “The European Commission has proposed a budget of €80 billion for Horizon 2020 to boost research, innovation and competitiveness across member states.  Led by Enterprise Ireland, the members of Ireland’s National Support Network for FP7 are determined to ensure Ireland takes advantage of the huge opportunities presented to both companies and academic researchers in Ireland by the EU funding for research”.

* Indicator: "Number of participating SME per country divided by the total SME population of that country, multiplied by 100.000"; i.e. the "Number of SMEs participating in FP7-Themes per 100.000 SMEs".Source, Fourth FP7 Monitoring Report 2011, EU Commission.

Panel members:

  • Professor Martin Curley, Vice President at Intel Corporation and director of Intel Labs Europe
  • Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, MD, PhD, Director of the Health Directorate at the Research DG of the European Commission click here for
  • Ms Barbara Nolan, Head of EU representation in Ireland
  • Mr Martin Shanagher, Assistant Secretary, Innovation and Investment Division, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
  • Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute 

Ireland’s National Support Network for FP7:
FP7 Ireland is a national support network set up to increase participation by Irish companies and academic institutions in the EU’s main instrument for funding research in Europe. Led by Enterprise Ireland, the national support network for FP7 has 11 member organisations; the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Enterprise Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Higher Education Authority, the Health Research Board, the Irish Research Council, the Irish Universities Association, the Marine Institute, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.   The Director of the National Support Network for FP7 in Ireland is Dr. Imelda Lambkin, Enterprise Ireland.

For more information visit

(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins at the award ceremony
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