Researchers from three Irish universities were awarded Lero Director’s Prizes at an online ceremony today.

The Lero Director’s Prizes were presented at the annual gathering of Lero members, which was held online again this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual awards are presented by Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software, to honour members working with the industry-focused research centre, which brings together software teams from 12 academic partner universities and institutes across Ireland.

Speaking at the annual conference, Prof Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Lero, told members their software development and research activities were critical as their work has the capacity to impact people’s lives at a fundamental level.

“Software impacts every aspect of our lives and can enable us to solve problems at a global and local level by harnessing the vast amounts of information that we as a society have accrued,” he said.

Prof Fitzgerald said Lero’s work can help alleviate suffering and hardship, improve people’s lives and make the best of scarce resources.

“These are ground-breaking tasks we set ourselves. However, we have a duty to lead the way and ensure that software is developed ethically and that we work hard to make sure there are no unintended consequences that could detrimentally effect individuals or society,” he added.

Prof Fitzgerald said the Lero Director’s Prizes were initiated to recognise the Lero members’ successes in providing scientific and technological solutions to global issues.

The 2021 Lero Director’s Prize for Research Excellence was awarded jointly to the University of Limerick’s Prof Conor Ryan and JJ Collins, and the University College Dublin’s Prof Mike O’Neill for their research on grammatical evolution.

The Prof Rory O’Connor Prize for Outstanding Service to Lero is a highlight of the annual Lero Director’s Prize, and this year’s recipient is Susan Mitchell of University of Limerick. The prize is named in honour of the late Prof Rory O’Connor, of Dublin City University and Lero.

The 2021 Lero Director’s Prize for Education and Public Engagement went to Prof Derek O’Keeffe of NUI Galway.

The 2021 Lero Director’s Prize for Diversity and Inclusion was awarded to Dr Cornelia Connolly of NUI Galway.