Research News

15 UCD researchers awarded under IRC Enterprise Programmes

  • 25 August, 2021


Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today announced a total investment of €7.9 million in 80 research projects, including 15 University College Dublin (UCD) projects, under the Irish Research Council’s (IRC) enterprise programmes. The funding includes partner co-funding under the IRC’s Enterprise Partnership Scheme.


Each year, the IRC partners with around 70 organisations, ranging from multinational corporations to SMEs, public-sector agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), under its Employment-Based Postgraduate (EBP) Programme and Enterprise Partnership Schemes (EPS).


Through these co-funded programmes, postgraduate or postdoctoral researchers develop new, advanced knowledge and skills linked with industry and employer needs. The programmes train early-career researchers for the diversity of employment opportunities in industry, the public sector and the non-government sectors. For enterprise and employers, the schemes provide a low-risk, flexible route to research collaboration and identifying new talent for innovation.


The EBP Programme supports researchers to undertake research based in and employed by their employment partner while the EPS provides researchers with the opportunity to pursue research in collaboration with enterprise while based at a higher education institution.


Of the 15 UCD-funded projects, 7 are under the EBP programme and 8 are under the EPS. Three UCD spin-out companies (Bioplastech, MiNAN Technologies, SiriusXT) and two UCD spin-in companies (Blafar and Innovation Zed), all five supported by NovaUCD, are among the successful enterprise partners.


Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, said, “Talent and innovation are key priorities of my department and will be increasingly important to build a sustainable 21st century economy. This investment will further boost the skills and knowledge pipeline for innovation in industry and employers.”


He added, “I am delighted to see both multinational companies and indigenous industry reflected in this year’s enterprise awards. I want to acknowledge the co-funding that partners are bringing to the awards, indeed the public-private partnership dimension to the programmes brings higher education institutions, industry and employers together and cultivates longer-term collaborations of benefit to all.”


The UCD researchers awarded funding under the EBP programme are;

  • Si Hwa Heng, will be based at MJHSE, and will be working on a research project focused on advancing the structural safety and efficiency of modular construction connections under normal and extreme loading conditions.
  • Douglas Carton, will be based at MíNAN Technologies, a UCD spin-out company, and will be working on a research project focused on the development of a microfluidic nanoparticle synthesis device with on-line characterisation and quality control.
  • Khalil Moran, will be based at the Wicklow Democratic School, and will be working on a research project focused on community wealth building in Ireland: the potential of utilising alternative economic models to address societal inequalities.
  • James Britton, will be based at Bioplastech Ltd, a UCD spin-out company, and will be working on a research projects focused on an investigation of tyrosinase expression and activity for biocatalysis.
  • Cameron Milne, will be based at Blafar Ltd, a UCD spin-in company based at NovaUCD, and will be working on a research project focused on injectable and tuneable hybrid hydrogels based on thiolated hyaluronic acid and dopamine functionalised poly(beta-amino ester) for wound closure.
  • Alison Coyne, will be based at Deonach Tallaght Probation Project, and will be working on a research project entitled custodial transitions: are the needs of young adults, who transition from the Irish Youth Justice Service to custodial and non-custodial settings, being met in Ireland ?.
  • Teodora Karneva, who will be based at Dermot Foley Landscape Architects Ltd , and will be working on a research project focused on how can landscape architecture influence Irish legislation and policy on re-use of construction and demolition waste to encourage more sustainable construction practices.

The UCD researchers awarded funding under the EPS are;

  • Carla Maria Kayanan will be working on a research project entitled reconfiguring intra-regional dynamics and inter-metropolitan relationships: addressing the challenge of traditional urban and regional governance and perceptions of 'left-behindness' in Ireland, supported by the Southern Reginal Assembly.
  • Colin Keogh will be working on a research project focused on open-source hardware mobilisation: building a expert focused open source reaction mechanism, supported by the Be Earth Foundation.
  • Rui Wu will be working on a research project focused on non-invasive multi-sensor wearable system to estimate acute changes in glucose level in type 1 diabetes, supported by Innovation Zed, a UCD spin-in company based at NovaUCD.
  • Donnchadh O'Mahony will be working on a research project focused on optical modelling of laboratory soft X-ray beamlines and applications, supported by SiriusXT, a UCD spin-in company.
  • Asia Jordan will be working on a research project focused on improving the early detection of ovarian cancer via non-invasive epigenetic biomarkers, supported by Breakthrough Cancer Research.
  • Andrew Grannell will be working on a research project focused on preventing muscle loss during substantial intentional weight loss, supported by Medfit Proactive Healthcare.
  • Ailbhe Mc Gurrin will be working on a research project focused on a zero waste biorefinery approach to commercial extraction and characterisation of bioactive compounds from Irish seaweeds, with antimicrobial and functional food applications, supported by Bantry Marine Research Station.
  • Seamus Nolan will be working on a research project focused on modalities of participation and spectatorship: a practice-based enquiry into discourses and methodologies of participation and spectatorship in contemporary visual art museums, supported by the Irish Museum of Modern Art.


Peter Brown, Director, IRC, said, “Ensuring the benefits of new knowledge and talent, across all disciplines, are shared as widely as possible is a key part of our mandate, and our enterprise programmes have always been a key part of our funding portfolio. Whether supporting the expansion of R&D in large-scale industry, boosting SMEs or helping to drive social or cultural innovation, the schemes provide a range of benefits for all participants.”


He added, “The contexts for researchers to make new discoveries and apply state-of-the-art knowledge go well beyond academia, and the diversity of organisational partners in this year’s cohort of awards is testament to the opportunities that are being grasped by enterprise, employers, the awardees and their host institutions.”


A survey conducted by the IRC of past and current partners (61 partners participated in the survey) confirmed the key benefits of these funding programmes for enterprise and employers.


The most cited reason for engaging with the IRC’s enterprise programmes among survey respondents was to “facilitate research relevant to business and operation needs”, with the second most cited reason being because they “offer excellent value for money, maximising shared benefits.”


The survey findings point to significant benefits for the early-career researchers as well as their enterprise/employment partners. Over two-thirds of respondents said they were likely to employ the researcher they worked with following completion of an IRC programme, while over 93% were likely to recommend the researcher to future employers.


Additional key findings from the IRC’s survey include:

  • 97% of enterprises/employers say their organisation’s involvement with IRC programmes strengthened their relationships with higher education and research institutions and/or created further opportunities for collaborative research.
  • Over 70% of enterprises/employers intend to pursue new opportunities via research and innovation in the coming three years.
  • 72% of respondents are interested in interdisciplinary research.