Building research partnerships between France and Ireland – 19 new Ulysses awards announced

Posted: 16 June, 2020

Today, on Bloomsday, details are announced of nineteen new partnerships under the aptly named Ulysses funding scheme, which is designed to foster collaborations between Ireland- and France-based researchers. Run by the Irish Research Council and the Embassy of France in Ireland, the programme funds reciprocal travel between the two countries, facilitating the exchange of innovative ideas and technologies across all disciplines, including seeds to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Cliona O’Farrelly, from Trinity College Dublin, and Darragh Duffy, from Institut Pasteur, were funded in 2019 to work on the identification of mechanisms and characteristics of innate resistance to viral infection. They now focus on Sars-Cov-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.

A number of field-specific strands have been funded by strategic partners from both countries, including:

  • Electricity transmission system operator EirGrid will partner with French-based Réseau de Transport d’Électricité to support suitably aligned research projects in the area of renewable energies and smart grids.
  • The Health Research Board will partner with Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, to support research projects focusing on patient-oriented research, population health or health services research.
  • The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will partner with ADEME, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, and is providing support to research projects exploring topics relating to climate change.

The Ulysses scheme, named after the iconic James Joyce novel, celebrates not just the literary connections between Ireland and France, but also aims to establish lasting professional networking links between researchers and institutes. Through reciprocal visits over the course of one year, the programme provides ‘seed-funding’ to begin collaboration. Successful applicants are encouraged to develop their collaboration post-Ulysses by seeking large-scale funding from other sources, e.g. Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe. Due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19, this year’s awardees will be given two years to use the funds, meaning they will hold the award for 2020 and 2021. Projects include, for example:

  • Laurence Gill from Trinity College Dublin and David Labat from Université de Toulouse Paul Sabatier on the contamination of karst groundwater in France and Ireland.
  • Katie O’Dwyer from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Damien Jouet from Université de Reims Champagne Ardenne on parasites of migratory birds and their potential impact on human health.
  • Kathleen James-Chakraborty from University College Dublin and Nathalie-Cécile Ginoux from Sorbonne Université on Françoise Henry (1902-1982) and her contribution to archeology and history of art in Ireland and France.

The Council and the French Embassy are jointly exploring opportunities for the programme in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including consideration of enhanced research collaboration in particular on climate change and health.

Speaking of this year’s awards, IRC Director Peter Brown said: “International engagement is an important part of the IRC’s Strategic Plan to enhance the national research ecosystem. The Ulysses scheme, which has been running for over 20 years, plays a supporting role in establishing and cultivating collaborative links with our French counterparts and between our respective research communities. Today’s announcement, on Bloomsday, bolsters the already strong connections between Ireland and France, and I wish all involved fruitful engagement and impact.”

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