Dublin, Tuesday, 16th October 2018 – Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, today announced €3.5 million in funding for 37 research projects to support the commercialisation of government-funded research. 51 research positions are also set to be supported through the awards.

The funding is provided through Science Foundation Ireland’s Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme. The programme supports researchers undertaking applied research (that is, research used to find practical solutions to everyday problems, cure illness, and develop innovative technologies), across a range of disciplines in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), which demonstrate strong potential for economic impact.

The programme aims to demonstrate the feasibility of an innovative idea for further commercial exploitation, as well as providing project funding and training in innovation and entrepreneurship skills to third-level researchers, to support them in exploring commercial opportunities.

Speaking of the awards, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said “I greatly welcome this announcement of commercialisation support for 37 research projects, which further helps us to achieve the innovation and entrepreneurship skills outlined in the Irish Government’s science strategy, Innovation 2020. The SFI TIDA programme supports researchers in Ireland to develop important entrepreneurship skills and commercialisation capabilities, ensuring Ireland maintains its position as a leader in cutting-edge research, with significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact.”

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD also welcomed the announcement, adding: “Commercialisation potential is significantly important for Irish research. While Ireland is one of the fastest growing economies in the Eurozone, we cannot be complacent. The SFI TIDA programme fosters collaborative partnerships and supports innovation across the regions, as well as the development of critical skills among our research community.”

Researchers funded through the TIDA programme will also participate in the new SFI Spark Pre-Accelerator, which is an intensive five-day programme, delivered by the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. It will support STEM researchers in developing skills in areas such as evidence-based entrepreneurship, innovation and design thinking. The pre-accelerator also facilitates mentoring and networking for participants.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “Science Foundation Ireland is committed to investing in the translation of world-class research from the laboratory to market. The SFI TIDA programme aims to increase the number and quality of discoveries with strong economic impact potential that secure follow-on public or private investment. It supports the next generation of technology entrepreneurs in Ireland, which will lead to new innovative products and disruptive solutions to global research challenges.”

Applications for the 2018 TIDA Programme are currently at the final stages of review.

Research Project Highlights

  • Prof Celine Marmion, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland: Breaking the cancer drug resistance paradigm - a novel prodrug strategy for multi-modal chemotherapeutics. Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and its incidence is increasing. Chemotherapy plays a vital role in cancer treatment, however there are drawbacks associated with current therapies. Some cancers are intrinsically resistant to therapies and others, upon exposure to cancer treatments, can build up resistance to them. This research aims to develop drugs which will target cancer cells in a different way to existing therapies and advance a new therapeutic to treat resistant cancers.
  • Dr Martin O'Halloran, National University of Ireland, Galway: Leanbh - a novel fetal monitor capable of detecting intrapartum Hypoxia for better clinical outcomes. Four million babies are delivered each year in US hospitals alone. Of those four million deliveries, over 85% are monitored via electronic fetal monitoring. While a number of trials demonstrated a clear benefit of the technology for the reduction of neonatal seizures, the same trials showed very little benefit of the technology in terms of overall infant mortality and cerebral palsy. The Leanbh project proposes to develop a much more accurate technology for monitoring fetal wellbeing, capable of higher sensitivity and specificity, with very significant clinical and commercial potential.
  • Dr Alan Davy, Waterford Institute of Technology: Auto-scaling virtual service function chains. The emergence of virtualisation technologies has revolutionised how services are delivered over the Internet and paved the way for the ‘Software as a Service’ model used within Cloud Computing. This is also revolutionising the telecommunications industry, meaning operators will no longer depend on expensive hardware systems to deliver dedicated network functions. These functions can be virtualised and run on cheap commodity hardware, impacting on the overall cost of network operators’ investments. However virtual systems are increasingly complex to manage. This research project will demonstrate an Artificial Intelligence based network management function to improve the reliability and performance of virtual network functions involved in delivering telecommunications services.
  • Dr Lynne O'Shea, University College Dublin: Development of a non-invasive follicular fluid biomarker assay to accurately determine embryonic developmental competence following human assisted reproduction technologies. Subfertility is a major global health problem, with an estimated one is six couples suffering from fertility issues. Several assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have been developed to overcome this problem, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). However, the success rates of ART remain low, with just 26% of treatment cycles resulting in a live birth. This research project aims to develop a commercial test capable of predetermining an embryo’s ability to provide a viable pregnancy, prior to uterine transfer, thus improving pregnancy rates following ART.
  • Prof Igor Shvets, Trinity College Dublin: Sensing the composition of a multi-component fluid flowing in a pipe for non-contact real-time analysis. A wide variety of industries rely on fluids flowing through pipes. It is relatively straightforward to measure the amount of fluid passing through the pipe, however determining the makeup of that fluid is difficult. This project proposes a technology that can be placed on the pipeline to constantly monitor the composition of the fluid within. This technology has many potential applications including the detection of water content in crude oil, or fat content in cream.
  • Prof Helen Sheridan, Trinity College Dublin: Validation of the therapeutic potential of two lead anti-inflammatory molecules with a novel carbon scaffold in ex-vivo colonic explant tissue. An urgent need exists for novel drugs to target inflammatory disorders and cancers with unmet clinical need. Small molecules that act by inhibiting the release of undesirable chemical mediators from inflamed or precancerous tissue (e.g. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a regulator of both acute and chronic inflammation), are potential new therapeutics for clinical use. This research has discovered a novel class of molecule displaying biological activities, that demonstrate exciting and significant inhibition of chemical mediator release. Results support further evaluation of these molecules in human tissue to validate their potential development as inflammatory or anticancer therapies.