Monday, 21 November 2011

Science & Industry - Working Together for Economic Recovery

On October 10th last, I attended a Business Breakfast by Science Foundation Ireland in Aviva Stadium where both Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton and Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, spoke.

It was attended by all of the leading research institutes in Ireland together with the Presidents of UCD and UCC Hugh Brady and Michael Murphy respectively.

Mary Colclough of CRANN TCD and PJ Rudden, President Engineers Ireland

Most prominent among the exhibitors were The Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) of Trinity College and CLARITY - Science Engineering and Technology (CSET) in UCD assisted by DCU and Tyndall Institute.

Nanoscience is the study of small scale matter. Nanotechnology looks to create future products which are lighter stronger cleaner and less expensive. You can thus see the value of these products. A 'nanometer' is one billionth of a metre smaller than the wavelength of visible light and a hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair!

Nanoscience views all matter from the same perspective regardless of whether it comprises the electrical circuits in a computer memory or the membrane that surrounds a human cell. The opportunities with nanoscience are immense touching all areas of human endeavour from advanced technologies and silicon chips to medical devices and new ways to diagnose and treat human disease. 

For instance CRANN is developing ways to manufacture computer chips using non-silicon materials. Also they are developing sensors for growth of micro-organisms such as MRSA in the nano-biology area. Nanoscience applies equally to all fields of science - physics chemistry and biology.

Minister Sherlock in his speech said that he was greatly encouraged by the deepening of the connectivity between Irish academia and industry as evidenced by the 44% increase in collaborations last year between SFI-funded researchers and industry. Praising the work of the Strategic Research Clusters he concluded 'we must continue the path that sees our ongoing research investment aligned to our economic needs, to satisfy the imperative to have research with consequences and growing levels of commercialisation and high value sustainable jobs'.

These encounters of mine with the Minister and the research community on behalf of Engineers Ireland greatly encourage me to continue my national tour of Research Institutes.

The President of UCC Michael Murphy invited me to Cork to view the important work currently being done by the Engineering Schools there including the Hydraulic and Marine Research Institute - an invitation I will take up in the months ahead and to visit the Tyndall Institute there also.

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