Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI welcomes €47.4million SFI Investment in Research Equipment and Facilities

13 February 2017

Ministers Mitchell-O'Connor and Halligan announce details of SFI Research Infrastructure Programme

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, TD together with Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan, TD have announced a new investment by Science Foundation Ireland of €47.4 million in 36 research infrastructure and facilities projects. Two RCSI projects, led by Professor Jochen Prehn and Professor Donal O'Shea, are among those who have been successfully funded as part of the programme.

Professor Jochen Prehn, Professor of Physiology & Director, Centre for Systems Medicine, Physiology & Medical Physics Dept, RCSI has been awarded €480,605 for a "Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscope (LSFM) for imaging of live and optically cleared biological samples". The new microscope will allow Professor Prehn and his team to look more closely ‘inside' organs and tissues, with unprecedented speed and resolution. It will help answer important questions, particularly how drugs and sensors distribute within the human body, so that, jointly with industry, new drugs and sensors can be developed that better reach their designated targets. Dr Heiko Duessmann, Director of Molecular Imaging, RCSI was coordinator of the equipment grant.

Professor Donal O'Shea, Head of Department of Pharmaceutical & Medicinal Chemistry, RCSI, in collaboration with colleagues Professors Marc Devocelle and Andreas Heise, has been awarded €345,389 for an "Automated Biopolymer and Biomaterial Synthesis Facility". This project aims to develop a unique facility in Ireland for the automated synthesis of functional biopolymers, which can meet the needs for synthetic peptides and polymers for medical materials and devices, across several third-Level Institutions and industry partners. It builds on existing expertise in peptide and polymer synthesis and technology platforms which has demonstrated successful involvement nationally, sustainability and measurable research outcomes.

Director of Research and Innovation at RCSI, Professor Ray Stallings, welcomed the announcement saying: "RCSI's success in the SFI Research Infrastructure Programme is recognition of the high quality, impactful and innovative research taking place at RCSI. This funding with enable Professors Jochen Prehn and Donal O'Shea and others in RCSI to carry out research that will ultimately lead to new and innovative treatments for a range of diseases."

Pictured (l-r) Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation, Mr John Halligan, TD;  Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Prof Mark Ferguson; and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Ms Mary Mitchell O'Connor, TD 

Announcing the awards, Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, said; "This investment in infrastructure by Science Foundation Ireland is an investment in the future of research and development in Ireland. It forms a key part of implementing our science and technology strategy - Innovation 2020. Top quality infrastructure combined with our talented workforce further increases Ireland's appeal in the global market. Industry partners will directly benefit from the enhanced infrastructure through opportunities such as international partnerships and collaborations facilitated by Science Foundation Ireland researchers in our Higher Education Institutions."

Commenting on the awards, Minister John Halligan, said; "This investment by Science Foundation Ireland will support the installation of world-class research infrastructure at both a national and regional level. Such top-class facilities and equipment are essential for Ireland to attract investment and talent to our regions, and to train a highly skilled and innovative workforce."

The SFI Research Infrastructure Programme provides research groups with necessary equipment and facilities for the performance of high quality, impactful and innovative research. The programme ensures Irish researchers have the capacity to apply for international funding opportunities including the Horizon 2020 funding calls. Additionally, the programme enables Higher Education Institutes to purchase smaller infrastructure through a value-for-money incentive, including auctions and vendor

Commenting on the investment, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland explained, "Continuous investment and improvement of research infrastructure is vital to ensure Ireland remains at the forefront of scientific research and development. Providing researchers with access to the best tools and facilities contributes to the high standard of research which can be performed here. Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support Irish researchers by providing them with facilities and equipment which enable them to keep exploring the frontiers of STEM research, and to progress their discoveries towards practical implementation."

Collaboration is a key focus of the Infrastructure Programme. Over 40 companies will avail of the awarded infrastructure through collaborations with the research groups involved. With an emphasis on solidifying connections with researchers in Northern Ireland, 12 projects have identified links to researchers in Northern Ireland, including those at Queens University Belfast and Ulster University.

Ten research bodies received funding as follows: University of Limerick (6 awards), Dublin City University (5 awards), University College Dublin (4 awards), Tyndall National Institute (2 awards), Trinity College Dublin (4 awards), NUI Maynooth (3 awards), NUI Galway (5 awards), Waterford Institute of Technology (2 awards), Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (2 awards), and Teagasc (2 awards). 29 awards were made for research infrastructure with a national priority (see table below with summary details) and a further 7 awards were made to research bodies for opportunistic funding.