Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD and Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock TD, have announced funding totalling €60m dedicated to 85 pioneering research initiatives. These awards, administered via Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Investigator Programme, include three major awards to support Irish marine science research.
Speaking of the announcement, Minister Sean Sherlock said that over the past decade, Ireland had invested heavily in R&D and that the rewards were clearly visible. “What is particularly heartening about the announcement is that much of this excellent research, which was selected competitively following international peer review, and is being done in collaboration with companies that are seeking to find new products and services, including IBM Ireland, Intel Ireland, HP, EMC and Bord Gáis.”
Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute congratulated Dr Dagmar Stengel of the National University of Ireland-Galway, Dr Jens Carlsson of University College Cork and Dr Nicolas Touzet of IT Sligo for their “excellent performance” in securing research funds from this highly competitive SFI scheme.
“The three marine-based projects are recognition of the internationally-ranked quality of these Irish marine research scientists and the relevance of their work to Irish industry. These projects are particularly relevant to firms that seek to develop value-added products based on marine biological resources and are a boost for Ireland’s marine research community. ”
Dr Heffernan also highlighted the significance of these awards to Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, saying “Each project will deliver new knowledge that supports the plan’s goals for a thriving maritime economy and healthy ecosystems.”
Two of the researchers had previously been funded by the Marine Institute. Dr Carlsson worked on the Fish Population Genetics project supported by the Beaufort Marine Science Award, and a project led by Dr Stengel, Phlorotannins in Irish Brown Seaweed - Investigations of their UV-protective - Effects and Potential as Natural Sunscreens was funded under the NDP awards 2000-2006. Dr Stengel is currently a Principal Investigator on the MI/DAFM co-funded NutraMara marine functional foods project.
The SFI award to Dr. Carlsson of €194,498 will support the project, Taxonomy and connectivity of animal species at the Moytirra hydrothermal vent field: developing methods for assessing ecological impacts of mineral extraction in the deep-sea. This builds on the VENTuRE expedition — led by University College Cork, funded by the Marine Institute and involving RV Celtic Explorer — which discovered the Moytirra hydrothermal vent field in July 2011.
Dr Stengel received an award of €244,782 to support her project, Iodine in commercially valuable Irish seaweeds: variability, pathways, and implications for industrial applications.
Dr. Nicolas Touzet received an award of €380,000 for the METALGAE project, which will focus on investigating the diversity of microalgae from marine, estuarine and freshwater environments in western Ireland to identify and culture, under controlled conditions, the species with high potential for market-targeted biotechnological applications.