Last Wednesday John Power Director General and I travelled to Galway to visit the Research Institutes in NUIG and the Marine Institute in Oranmore.
This was the first of a number of planned visits to Research Institutes around Ireland to experience at first hand Research, Innovation and the Job Creation possibilities emanating from these relatively new Centres of Learning in Third Level Education. We also wanted to concentrate our visits outside of Dublin to show support for balanced regional development.
Both visits turned out to be fascinating and very worthwhile, not only in seeing what Research is happening in Third Level Institutes but also to see the appreciation of the engineers and scientists working there at our efforts to reach out to them.
From the Forfas Research Forum in Dublin the previous day I can see that there is now a 'steady hand on the tiller' nationally coordinating the research efforts to target areas of potential strategic and economic advantage for Ireland. This was one of the recommendations of the Innovation Task Force Report of March 2010 one of whose members was Chris Horn President of Engineers Ireland in 2009-2010.
Both visits were kindly organised by Prof Padraic O'Donoghue of Civil and Environmental Engineering NUIG who is also Chairman of our West Region and member of our Executive Board.
Much of what we saw in NUIG was truly impressive. In terms of Biomedical Science and Engineering there appears to have been a historical collaboration with local industry clusters commencing with Boston Scientific going back many years and more recently with Creganna and Crospon (of which our Vice President John O'Dea is CEO).
There was also a succession of visionary NUIG Presidents, starting with Prof Pat Fortrell, who had the good sense to acquire an enviable land bank along the banks of the Corrib from the Newcastle Road to well beyond the Quincentenary Bridge that enabled the new Engineering Building, the Ryan Institute and DERI. To have all of this research endeavour on a single campus including also the Institute for Business Social Science and Public Policy was also a success factor.
The DERI fascination was with newly developed 'search engine' software that is more powerful than Google!
We then travelled to the Marine Institute in Oranmore where we were met by Dr Barbara Fogarty National Coordinator of the Marine Technology Programme and her colleagues Glenn Nolan, Eoin O'Grady and Paul Gaughan, who are Section Managers in Oceanographic Services, IS&D and the SmartBay Project Coordinator respectively. The Marine Institute set up in Galway in 2006 is the national agency for Marine Research, Technology, Development and Innovation. The research carried out here is central to the future development of our Ocean Resources in terms of Shipping, Oil/Gas, Renewables, Sea Fisheries and Marine Leisure/Tourism.
The Institute is made up of 7 Service Areas, inc Strategic Planning, Marine Environment and Marine Food Safety. We toured the Institute's marine laboratories, which are quite extensive.
Afterwards we attended an excellent lecture jointly organised by the West and Thomond Regions in the Marine Institute given by Barbara Fogarty and Eugene McKeown of Biospheric Ltd in Galway on the SmartBay Project in Galway Bay. This is a Research Test and Demonstration Facility for Marine Information and Communications, Technologies, ICT, inc wireless and subsea sensor networks. This monitoring infrastructure was jointly established by the Marine Institute and the EPA in 2008.
John and I returned to Dublin that night with a real sense that we had been at the coalface of national engineering innovation across a wide spectrum of specialisations in Galway, both land-based and marine and all endeavours concentrated on just two highly planned and well chosen sites both east and west of Galway city. Our thanks again to Prof Padraic O'Donoghue for organising these most interesting and worthwhile visits.