Fourteen UCD projects awarded funding under €37m North-South research call

Posted 4 March, 2022

Fourteen UCD projects have received financial backing as part of a €37.3million funding round between academics and institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland under the North-South Research Programme.

The funding awarded under the collaborative scheme range in value from €200,000 to €4m over two to four years, and in total 62 funded projects were announced by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD.

“These awards will support the Government’s Shared Island vision by bringing researchers from all corners of the island together to work on pioneering projects over the next four years, and is not only strengthening existing relationships, but is fostering new research partnerships,” said Taoiseach Martin.

Funding under the North-South Research Programme is provide under three strands – Strand I: Bilateral Researcher-Researcher Projects; Strand II: Emerging Hubs of Excellence; and Strand III: Partnerships of Scale, with these two later strands receiving awards up to €4m.

UCD is leading 14 of the 62 projects funded, including one of the two Partnerships of Scale, and one of the five Hubs of Excellence.

Under Strand III: ‘A Foundation Stone for the All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI) - Building Critical Mass in Precision Cancer Medicine,’ funding will be provided to establish an all-island doctoral and post-doctoral research training programme in precision cancer medicine (AICRIstart), in a partnership of ten academic institutions with UCD as administrative lead.

UCD Professor Willliam GallagherUCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and AICRI co-lead, said: “This crucial funding provides the foundation stone for All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI), which I have been working with my colleagues across the island of Ireland to establish over the last two years.

“Our main goal within AICRI is to help cancer patients live longer and better after their diagnosis, by harnessing the various skills and expertise of our cancer research community and other stakeholders.

“While one-in-two people on this island are expected to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, research can change the goalposts in terms of earlier detection, improved treatment and survivorship. With this key initial funding, we can now embark on creating and embedding a fully integrated framework for cancer research on these shores.”

Through its broader work, AICRI will contribute to policy development relevant to the Shared Island initiative, particularly in terms of building a healthier island.

Under Strand II, the Hub of Excellence: ‘All-island Vaccine Research and Training Alliance (AVACTA),’ UCD will lead a collaborative effort between UCC, TCD, QUB and itself to develop better vaccines to prevent difficulty in treating bacterial infections.

“We will also develop interventions to address low vaccine uptake in identified communities across our shared island. As the recent pandemic demonstrated, infections don’t recognise borders and a shared island approach to vaccine deployment is important,” said Associate Professor Siobhán McClean, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, and Fellow of UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

“We will examine concerns that people have which might reduce their confidence in vaccines and develop guidelines to improve people’s willingness to be protected by vaccination on the island.

“This funding will give us the opportunity to train 15 researchers to provide the next generation of vaccine experts who will support the growing vaccine industry and public health policy on the island.”

The other 12 UCD awardees under the North-South Research Programme:

NameUCD SchoolProject Title / Project AreaPartner
Dr Carla O'Neill Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems Family-Centred Cancer Care End of Life Education (FCCC-EoLEd) Ulster
Assoc Prof Charles Ivar McGrath History Our Shared Built Military Heritage: The online mapping, inventorying and recording of the Army Barracks of Ireland, 1690-1921 (OSBMH) Open University 
Prof David Brayden Veterinary Medicine RALA nanocomplexes as a platform to mediate oral delivery of peptides using insulin as a prototype (PEPDELIVER) QUB/DCU
Dr Fiona Lalor Agriculture and Food Science A study on the perceived exposure of the food and drink industry to food fraud in Northern Ireland versus the Republic of Ireland. Does BREXIT have any impact: industry, regulatory and consumer perspectives Ulster
Dr Heidi Riley Politics and International Relations Transformative mediation as a mechanism for inclusive dialogue and peacebuilding on the island of Ireland (Talk4Peace) QUB
Dr Kieran Meade Agriculture and Food Science Characterizing the role of vitamin D insufficiency on host immunity and recurrence of bovine tuberculosis on problem farms QUB/AFBI
Assoc Prof Marie Keenan Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice Transforming Justice: An All-Island Examination of Justice Responses to Historical Institutional Abuse North and South QUB/DCU
Dr Sinead Holden School of Medicine Understanding Risk and IDentification of musculoskeletal injury in adolescent team sports (RID Injury) Ulster
Assoc Prof Susan Quinn Chemistry TaRgeted gold (Au) nanocomposites as Cancer radiosensitisERs (TRACER) QUB
Dr Susanne Schilling Biology and Environmental Sciences ÉIREhemp: An all-island approach to sustainable high-value functional polysaccharides from low-value agricultural hemp waste products QUB 
Dr Tomás Russell Agriculture and Food Science The role of virtual fencing in sustainable agricultural management. QUB/AFBI
Dr Victoria Durrer Art History and Cultural Policy Youth Dance Matters: an interdisciplinary, mixed-methods project combining dance and social science research in a cross-border investigation of the shared value and capacity of youth dance on the island of Ireland. QUB

Commenting on the announcement, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact Professor Orla Feely said:

“We are delighted to see so many successful UCD-led projects under this call, transecting Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and STEM research areas,” said UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact Professor Orla Feely.

“The results are a testament to the talent and strong collaborative relationships between the universities and research organisations across the island of Ireland.

“These researchers are working together to make a positive impact in people's lives, in areas including food safety and sustainable agriculture, healthcare, social justice and the bioeconomy.

“I'd like to offer special congratulations to our Strand II and III programmes, the All-island Vaccine Research and Training Alliance, led by Associate Professor Siobhán McClean, and the All-Island Cancer Research Institute, co-led by Professor William Gallagher, which will build critical mass in vaccine development and deployment and precision cancer medicine, through these vital institutional networks across our shared island.”

The North-South Research Programme is a collaborative scheme funded through the Government’s Shared Island Fund.

It is administered by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations (with materials from Caroline Byrne, UCD Research and Innovation)