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Ireland announces €28M high-tech investment

14 Jan 2016

Photonics supporting core areas of new research into key enabling technologies to be investigated.

Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton, and Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills, Damien English, have announced details of a €28 million investment in research equipment and facilities through Science Foundation Ireland.

A total of 21 exemplary research projects will be supported in many photonics-related sectors. These include applied geo-sciences, pharmaceutical manufacturing, bio-banking, marine renewable energy, the internet of things, astronomy, big data and additive manufacturing using nano-materials.

This infrastructure funding is being awarded competitively following an international review to research groups that need equipment and facilities to address major research opportunities and challenges. The Irish Government says this new infrastructure will ensure that the country’s researchers continue to be competitive internationally, with access to modern equipment and facilities which will enable them to be successful in securing future funding from leading companies and Europe, including the EC’s Horizon 2020. The investment will be given by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland.

5 themes; 21 projects

The 21 infrastructure projects funded cover in a range of strategically important sectors, identified by Science Foundation Ireland and the government. The photonics-related projects to be investigated are highlighted as follows:

Big Data Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and Networks: Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR) gathering radio images of astronomical objects using advanced image processing and data analytics techniques; a new Ireland-wide wireless network testbed to support IoT concepts, business models and devices to be developed and tested; a radio testbed for the development and testing of radio technologies for IoT; a 400+ Gigabit-per-second communications testbed to enable the development of the next-generation core network and data center technologies.

Manufacturing: additive manufacturing nanomaterial infrastructure for the development of innovative printable materials such as 3D hip and knee implants; a state-of-the-art advanced analysis facility, allowing real-time direct observation of pharmaceutical process reactions as they occur thus supporting drug manufacturing; a crystallization, isolation and drying technology testbed for pharmaceutical manufacturing; sputter deposition tool capable of growing complex, device-quality stacks of metal and oxide thin films for applications such as integrated photonics; infrastructure to support the packaging and assembly of miniaturized photonic devices used in data-communications, sensing and point-of-care medical diagnostics.

An example of a significant photonics manufacturing project is “High Accuracy Photonic Device Flipchip Packaging and Assembly System”, being led by Peter O’Brien at the Tyndall National Institute, Cork, which is to receive more than €740,000 under the new investment program.

Precision flipchip bonding equipment will enable the Photonics Packaging Group at the Tyndall to further enhance its capabilities to develop advanced integrated photonic sub-systems and prototypes. The equipment will provide the capability to package a wide range of minaturized photonic devices, such as semiconductor lasers, photo-detectors, micro-optics and microelectronic devices, with submicron placement accuracy, under manual and full automatic process control.

Natural Resources & Hazards: sensing/early-warning system for offshore earthquake and offshore storms, including the quantification of offshore natural resources; electron microscope to determine the microscopic composition of rocks to identify valuable minerals; state of the art X-ray CT scanner to enable the analysis of botanical, geophysical and natural resources; an atmospheric chamber to enable innovative studies on air pollution and climate change.

Other research areas to receive funding include Marine, which will feature a project to develop an Open Ocean Emulator to replicate real ocean wave conditions in a laboratory setting to accelerate growth of the offshore renewable energy industry in Ireland; and Animal & Human Health, to encompass a human motion analysis system to facilitate the development of personal sensing connected health technologies for patients and athletes.

Richard Bruton, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, commented, “By investing in world-class R&D infrastructure, both at a regional and national level, this will ensure that we can compete at the highest levels internationally and continue to turn more good ideas into good jobs. At the heart of our Action Plan for jobs is driving employment growth in every region of the country. We have now put in place jobs plans for seven out of Ireland’s eight regions and what has repeatedly become clear is that research and innovation must be accelerated right across the country if we are to deliver the jobs growth we need.”

Prof. Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, “Ireland is increasingly becoming the location of choice for multinational companies to develop and test tomorrow’s technologies and this investment demonstrates our commitment and expanded ability to engage, discover and collaborate at all levels.”

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