Six NUI Galway researchers supported by inaugural Irish Research Council Laureate Awards - investment of almost €3 milli

Mar 23 2018 Posted: 16:16 GMT

Friday, 23 March 2018: Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education and Skills, and John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation and Research and Development, have announced almost €3 million investment by the Irish Research Council in ‘frontier research’ projects at NUI Galway. 

Six NUI Galway researchers will receive funding under the Irish Research Council’s new Laureate Awards to conduct ground-breaking research in the Biomedical Science and Engineering, and the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Announcing the awards, Minister Bruton said: “Frontier basic research is very much at the cutting edge of new knowledge.  It is research that is daring, that pushes boundaries, and that moves beyond the frontiers of our current understanding.

“Innovation 2020, Ireland’s five-year strategy for science and technology, research and development, identified a significant gap in the Irish research and innovation landscape in the area of frontier basic research. The Laureate Awards scheme was designed specifically to address this gap, and the Irish Research Council has, through the programme, identified a wealth of clearly talented researchers with brilliant ideas. Investing in cutting-edge, world-class research will strengthen our knowledge base and enhance Ireland’s international reputation, taking us further along our journey to becoming the best education and training service in Europe by 2026”

Minister Halligan said: “Frontier research is key to understanding the world around us and developing the bedrock of knowledge necessary for social, technological and environmental progress. We would not have devices like mobile phones, or indeed the internet, without frontier basic research.  Innovation 2020 targets Ireland to become an Innovation Leader, and the investment being announced today by the Department is a very positive step on the way to achieving this.”

Researchers who will be funded by these Laureate Awards at NUI Galway include:

  • Dr Jacopo Bisagni, who is researching intellectual exchanges between Ireland, Brittany and Francia in domains such as astronomy, cosmology and biblical exegesis during the Carolingian age (c. AD 750-1000), namely the period that laid the foundations of Europe as we know it.
  • Dr Álvaro Llorente-Berzal will research the implication of the endocannabinoid system in sex differences in chronic neuropathic pain.
  • Professor Laoise McNamara is developing experimental models to mimic the complex multicellular and mechanical environment of bone metastases for investigating potential therapies
  • Dr Rióna Ní Fhrighil is researching Human Rights and Modern Irish Poetry.
  • Dr Ted Vaughan is researching the multiscale mechanics of bone fragility in Type-2 Diabetes.
  • Dr Katarzyna Whysall is researching potential microRNA-based therapeutics for muscle wasting.

“I welcome the government’s support and commitment to frontiers research, and the IRC’s leadership in supporting some of the greatest research minds working in Ireland today”, said Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway. “There is incredible talent in this country, and supporting the unknown potential of basic research is key to underpinning the research and innovation prowess of Ireland. The Laureate Awards recognise and support this, and I would like to congratulate the six exceptional individuals at NUI Galway who are part of this announcement today.”

Funding for Laureate Awards

Two streams of funding announced:

  1. ‘Starting’ Laureate Awards, which are aimed at supporting excellent early-career researchers to establish their own independent research programme. Eighteen awards – totalling €7 million – were announced today, three of which were secured by NUI Galway.
  1. ‘Consolidator’ Laureate Awards, which provide funding for excellent mid-career researchers with an established track record to progress to the next level. €10.6 million in funding was announced for the Consolidator Laureate Awards, to fund a further eighteen new Laureates, three of which were secured by NUI Galway.

In addition to the investment in the first round of awards, the Department of Education and Skills also announced today a further investment of €12 million for a series of Advanced Grants under the Laureate programme. Senior researchers in Ireland’s higher education and research institutions will have the opportunity to compete for an Advanced Laureate grant with a value of up to €1 million over four years. The Advanced Grant call will be opened by the Irish Research Council in the coming weeks.

Welcoming the announcements, Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “Supporting research that pushes out the frontiers of knowledge is a key priority of the Irish Research Council. With the establishment of the Laureate Awards we are taking steps to ensure that exceptional individual researchers are supported to achieve world-class standing in their respective areas of expertise.

“The independent international panels that assessed applications for the Laureate Awards were extremely impressed with the quality of individual researchers in the Irish research system. With continued investment in frontier research across all disciplines, Ireland will reap benefits for the long-term and will leverage greater success in European research programmes, in particular the European Research Council.”


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