Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) is to benefit from two Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Infrastructure Awards that form a key part of implementing the country’s science and technology strategy – Innovation 2020.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD together with Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan, TD announced the investment by Science Foundation Ireland.
Commenting on WIT’s two awards of €904,985 and €248,290, Minister John Halligan said: “WIT is the only institute of technology in the country to receive funding under this Science Foundation Ireland investment programme. Today’s announcement will support the installation of world-class research infrastructure at WIT, which is essential for Waterford and the south east to attract investment and talent to our region 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.
WIT’s VP for research, Dr Peter McLoughlin welcomed the research infrastructure awards. “The funding will facilitate the development of our research in areas such as smart sensor technologies and molecular ecology. This state of the art infrastructure will enable our researchers to develop the next generation of drug delivery devices as well as novel sensors with applications in smart agriculture and biomedical diagnostics. The availability of such world class infrastructure plays a critical role in supporting our industry partners and attracting high quality research talent into the region.”
The smart sensing systems development platform will be acquired with close to €1m in funding. Dr Joseph O’Mahony academic researcher explains that new infrastructure will be integrated with the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre’s (PMBRC) state of the art scanning probe microscope laboratory to create a new research facility. This national facility will further develop the PMBRC’s collaborative research actions with Irish and European academics and industries.
“The new facility will facilitate world class research in the areas of large area organic electronics and printable sensor technologies, enabling the further development of novel technologies for biomedical diagnostics, drug delivery, smart agriculture, smart marine and smart packaging. The new facility will attract a broad range of leading research talent to work in Waterford, further developing the regional knowledge base thereby attracting future economic investment in the economy of the South East,” he said.
Dr Niall O’Reilly, PMBRC centre manager explains: "This is a really exciting development for the PMBRC. The new infrastructure will allow us to integrate a range of technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, microfluidics and ICT into single miniaturised systems. This in turn will be used to drive our research in next generation biomedical diagnostics, drug delivery, energy harvesting and sensor development. There is significant commercial interest in these areas and we hope to collaborate with industry partners as we develop this research further.
The second lot of funding (€248,000) announced for WIT will benefit researchers in the Molecular Ecology Research Group and other researchers in the PMBRC and Eco-Innovation Research Centre who will use the equipment for a variety of pharmaceutical, health and environmental applications.
Dr Denise O’Meara explains how it will expand her wildlife research. "I study wildlife like pine marten and otters using traces of DNA from their hair and droppings. The funding from SFI will allow me to purchase a DNA sequencer that will analyse the DNA and provide information about the number of animals living in an area and insights into their genetic health and relatedness to one another.”