Minister English announces over €30 million SFI investment in scientific research

Dr Laoise McNamara's project on osteoporosis was one three NUI Galway projects funded, with the University collaborating on a fourth project.
Apr 27 2015 Posted: 11:20 IST

Government funding will support 100 research positions working on 23 research projects involving 40 companies

NUI Galway will lead three of the proposed projects and collaborate on a fourth

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD today announced over €30 million of research funding for 23 major research projects. The funding will be delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Investigators Programme. The Programme will provide funding over a four to five year period, for 23 research projects involving over 100 researchers. Funding for each project will range from €500,000 to €2.3 million.

Three of the projects are led by NUI Galway researchers, and in partnership with University of Limerick, are significantly involved in a fourth project. According to the NUI Galway’s Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi: ‘Research aimed at understanding osteoporosis, reducing the cost of drugs, treating wastewater and creating new modelling tools for industry will undoubtedly yield societal and economic benefits. The excellent performance of NUI Galway researchers in the Investigators Programme is to be applauded and testifies to the scientific excellence and relevance of on-going innovative research at NUI Galway.”

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English T.D., said: “This funding provides assistance to individual researchers to advance their investigations and address key research questions in sectors such as energy, medicine, food and nutrition, technology and agriculture. It allows researchers to further their careers and build partnerships with leading industry partners who also benefit from access to some of the leading academic talent on this island. The Investigators Programme is an important contributor to Ireland’s credentials as a research leader in a number of sectors.”

The NUI Galway projects include:

  • Dr Laoise McNamara, NUI Galway - This research project will advance understanding of mechanobiology to develop treatment approaches for bone pathologies. Tissues of the human body can adapt in response to mechanical forces by a cellular process known as mechanobiology. Although mechanobiological processes are fundamental to normal bone physiology and may play an important role in the development of osteoporosis, the role of mechanobiology in bone development and changes occurring during ageing are not yet fully understood. Moreover mechanobiological responses have not been targeted as treatments for osteoporosis, nor have they been sufficiently exploited to develop novel regenerative tissue strategies.
  • Dr Alan Ryder, NUI Galway - Many drugs for human health are complex biological molecules like proteins which are made in living cells on an industrial scale. Both the cell food (media) and the protein products have to be carefully analysed to make sure that they are good and safe. Both media and proteins are very complex mixtures that are difficult to analyse. Here we will build a faster, cheaper, and non-contact way of testing using light to generate chemical information from these mixtures. This information will then be analysed using advanced statistical methods (chemometrics) and the results used to improve manufacturing, and reduce drug costs.
  • Professor Vincent O'Flaherty, NUI Galway - This research targets new technologies for treatment of wastewaters from industry (food production) and households (sewage). The output will be a system for simultaneous purification of wastewater, production of renewable energy and recovery/recycling of valuable nutrient resources (phosphorus). The proposed system relies on microorganisms, which transform wastewater pollutants into a readily usable fuel (methane/natural gas) by digestion of organic matter. Methane provides a competitive low-carbon fuel source, which can be used for transport, home heating and electricity production. The proposed research will have positive impacts towards more sustainable food production, economic competitiveness and innovation, environmental protection and climate change.
  • Professor Sean Leen of NUI Galway, in conjunction with Professor Noel O’Dowd University of Limerick – This project aims to develop new modelling tools for Irish industry for more accurate design and assessment of materials and structures. The focus will be on welds, which are the most common location of failure in engineering components. The tools will be used to provide tailored combinations of welding and heat treatment parameters, to design material structures at the nano-, micro- and macro-scale. Specific applications are the design for optimum grain size in power-plant steels and improved designs for steel pipelines used in oil and gas offshore platforms.

The SFI Investigators Programme supports excellent scientific research that has the potential to impact Ireland’s society and economy. The 23 projects were selected by competitive peer review involving 400 international scientists after a call for proposals across a number of thematic areas of national and international importance. The awards include research in areas such as materials science, data management, medicine and pharmaceuticals, food and nutrition, agriculture and veterinary research and have links to 40 companies.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, added: “The SFI Investigators Programme provides important support to researchers in Ireland, creating employment opportunities and allowing them to leverage State funding to access additional funding streams, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. Their research focuses on areas such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, animal breeding and disease prevention, ICT and data storage, as well as bioenergy among other topics. These are areas that will make a difference to both Ireland’s economy and society.  All of the successful projects have been peer reviewed by international experts to ensure scientific excellence and we have funded every project deemed to be of the highest standard internationally.”


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