Minister Simon Harris announces €28m in Irish Research Council funding to support the next generation of top researchers

Posted: 6 October, 2021

2021 sees the highest combined number of awards made in the history of the IRC Government of Ireland programmes

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today announced €28m in funding for new research projects under the Irish Research Council’s flagship Government of Ireland programmes. The investment will fund 330 awards in total, namely 254 postgraduate scholarships and 76 postdoctoral fellowships.

Awardees will conduct research on a multitude of topics, ranging from bicycle-sharing systems to the susceptibility of young people to be influenced by social media influencers and the use of 3D printed scaffolds to enhance spinal cord regeneration. Several projects relating to COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic are also being funded under the programme. A number of awards are funded by strategic partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Met Eireann.

Commenting on the announcement, Minster Harris said: “I am delighted to announce this investment of funding today to develop exceptional talent in our research system. I am particularly pleased to see the record number of awards being made this year under the two programmes combined. The programmes are unique in the Irish research landscape, supporting excellent individual postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to develop innovative and creative ideas across the sciences, humanities and the arts. I would like to congratulate all the awardees on their success in the schemes and wish them well in their research endeavours.

“This year, my department allocated additional funding as part of a €7.5 million package to enable the Irish Research Council to enhance the number of postgraduate awards in the emerging technological university sector. I am pleased to see the first phase of this funding come to fruition today, with a total of 40 additional awards being made under the 2021 Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme to researchers based in our technological institutions.

“Now more than ever, the benefits of investing in research and innovation are clear, and this starts with fuelling the pipeline of excellent early-career researchers. Support for basic research and investment in cutting-edge expertise across different disciplines is vital for Ireland, and this will be key to ensuring that we can overcome national and global challenges now and in the future.”

Successful awardees

Some of the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme awardees who have been funded, include:

  • Brakemi Egbedi, based at Waterford Institute of Technology, who will research whether novel antimicrobial compounds can be extracted from waste shells generated from seafood processing companies for the potential use in pharmaceutical applications.
  • Vincent Thorne, based at Trinity College Dublin, whose research will examine whether there is a link between increased bicycle supply and urban pollution and estimate the benefit-cost ratio of bicycle-sharing systems.
  • Charles Alves de Castro, based at Technological University Dublin, whose research will aim to determine personality traits that make young people susceptible to control by social media influencers and work towards teaching them how to avoid the negative issues associated with such undue influence.
  • Cian Fogarty, from Trinity College Dublin, whose research will explore improved solar thermal technology for decarbonising residential heating.

Amongst the Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme awardees are:

  • Ian Woods, based at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, whose research will aim to develop 3D printed scaffolds to enhance spinal cord regeneration.
  • Laura Ryan, based at National University of Ireland, Galway, who will research themes of homelessness  in modernist literature and examine how contemporary conceptions of homelessness were formed.
  • Aoife Kathryn Lucid, based at University College Cork, whose research will use machine learning to increase the efficiency of thermoelectric materials that will allow for efficient conversion of waste heat and solar thermal energy into electricity and thus reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

Welcoming the announcement, Director of the IRC, Peter Brown said: “The Irish Research Council Government of Ireland awards are extremely competitive and attract applications from all over the world. The programmes provide the foundation for the development of cutting-edge skills and expertise and awardees will become future research leaders across academia and beyond, including industry and the public sector. The scope of awards across and between disciplines supports the balanced development of our research system and ensures that we are best positioned for the challenges of an uncertain future.

“Thanks to the increased funding announced by Minister Harris in January this year, the new awardees will receive funding for postgraduate stipends and postdoctoral salaries that are in-line with national norms. This is vital to ensure our early-career researchers are adequately supported and there is a level playing field in our research system.”

To deliver on shared national objectives, each year the Government of Ireland programmes collaborate with strategic funding partners. Nine of this year’s awards were made in collaboration with and funded by partner agencies. The agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, Met Éireann and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Download the full list of 2021 Government of Ireland awardees here

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