Dublin, Ireland - 9th April 2020: A joint investment of €12 million has been announced through a tripartite research and development partnership between the United States of America (USA), Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). The four awards announced will support more than 40 research positions across 10 research institutions, for three to five years. The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions.  

These research projects include work that aims to enable next generation optical communication for a smart connected society; eradicate bone infection using cold plasma treatments; develop new approaches for the treatment of secondary hypertension and to identify a first pharmacological treatment for cerebral malaria, that may also help prevent and treat other hemorrhagic diseases or acute respiratory distress syndrome caused, for example, by the Covid-19. 

The partner agencies in the Republic of Ireland are Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). In Northern Ireland, the Health & Social Care R&D Division (HSC R&D) which is supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Department for the Economy (DfE), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are partners. In the USA, it is facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). These organisations manage peer review and support US researchers through grants, on which the RoI and NI investigators are collaborators. 

Welcoming the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The continued success of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong open relationship between our countries and highlights Ireland’s scientific standing internationally. I would like to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators, who are forging innovation and discovery across the Atlantic, with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies.” 

The programme, which uses a ‘single-proposal, single-review’ approach, focuses on prioritised thematic areas, including sensors, telecommunications, energy and sustainability, health and agriculture. The Irish components of research projects in the area of health are jointly co-funded by SFI with the Health Research Board (HRB). Commenting on the awards, HRB Chief Executive, Dr Darrin Morrissey, said: “The HRB is committed to supporting highly innovative international research collaboration through the US-Ireland R&D Programme. These new awards have strong potential to create new knowledge and address major health challenges in society and demonstrate the high calibre of researchers we have in Ireland.” 

“This partnership creates research consortia that leverage investments by the three participating countries,” said Dr Roger Glass, Director of the NIH’s Fogarty International Center and Associate Director for International Research at NIH. “This not only advances cutting-edge science, but it also builds international collaboration in the best possible way.” 

In congratulating the researchers on these awards, Prof Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and Director of Health and Social Care (HSC) Research and Development, said: “The US Ireland R&D Programme is important to HSC as it enables powerful international collaboration across Ireland and the US, producing world leading science and strengthening the global community to advance the health of our population.”  

Trevor Cooper, Director of Higher Education in the Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland) said: “I welcome the announcement of these new awards under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership. They represent ground-breaking trans-Atlantic research which will help to drive forward the Executive’s goal of transforming Northern Ireland into an innovation economy.” 

Under the programme, Dr Ivan O’Connell, MCCI Head of Precision Circuits in Tyndall National Institute, Connect SFI Research Centre-Funded Investigator, and previous SFI award winner, will lead a project to enable next generation integrated optoelectronics, to explore and develop energy-efficient, reconfigurable components for communication and sensing applications using nanomaterials. This project is partnering with Queen’s University Belfast (NI) and University of Utah (US). 

SFI Investigator awardee, Prof Paula Bourke in University College Dublin (UCD), will partner with Queen’s University Belfast (NI) and Jefferson University (US). Together, this collaborative team will develop new therapies for orthopaedic Infection with antibiotic resistant microorganisms using cold plasma.   

In University College Cork, Prof Thomas Walther will lead research to identify a first pharmacological treatment for cerebral malaria, a severe neurological disease syndrome with a high mortality rate, especially in children. This project is partnering with Queen’s University Belfast (NI) and New York University School of Medicine (US). 

Dr Michael Conall Dennedy, lead researcher at the adrenal research laboratory, National University of Ireland Galway, and an SFI-CÚRAM investigator, will partner with Ulster University (NI), Kansas State University (US) and the Translational Medical Device Laboratory (NUIG). Together this collaborative team of clinicians, scientists, engineers and mathematicians will research an image-guided approach for minimally invasive microwave thermotherapy (MWT) of aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) for the treatment of secondary hypertension. They will also develop machine-learnt techniques for identifying APAs and monitoring therapy using nanocontrast technology.   

Learn more about the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme here

Full list of awards is available here