Irish Research Council to invest €24 million in ground-breaking, ‘curiosity-driven’ research

Posted: 10 October, 2022

Ukrainian researcher who came to Ireland due to the war to collaborate on one of the newly awarded projects

An investment of almost €24 million in ‘curiosity-driven’ frontier research was announced today by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, T.D. The investment will fund 48 ground-breaking research projects under the Irish Research Council’s Starting and Consolidator Laureate Awards Programme.

Under the scheme, researchers will receive funding for cutting-edge projects equally divided across the fields of the humanities; physical sciences and engineering; life sciences; and social sciences. Their research areas range from new approaches to treatment for diseases such as cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 6G technology development, interculturalism in rural Ireland, changing storm patterns and the communication of climate science.

The Laureate programme encompasses two streams of funding, namely ‘starting’ funding for early-career researchers who are to receive €400,000 each and ‘consolidator’ funding for mid-career researchers who are to receive €600,000 each.

A Ukrainian researcher will collaborate on one of the newly awarded projects in UCD as part of the IRC’s Ukrainian Researcher Scheme. The scheme was established so that researchers from Ukraine who are arriving in Ireland due to the war could be supported by the Irish research system.

Announcing the awards, Minister Harris said:

“I am delighted to announce the winners of the second round of the Irish Research Council’s Starting and Consolidator Laureate Awards Programme and I congratulate each of the awardees. It is a pleasure to also welcome the Ukrainian researcher who came to Ireland from the war in Ukraine, and who will collaborate on one of the newly funded projects through the IRC’s innovative Ukrainian Researchers Scheme.

These talented researchers will no doubt contribute hugely towards the world-class excellence that is the bedrock of our research system in Ireland, pushing the boundaries of research knowledge and finding new discoveries that deepen our understanding of the world around us, by looking to the past, questioning the present, and unlocking our future potential.”

Also commenting, Dr Louise Callinan, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “The 48 researchers who will receive funding under the Starting and Consolidator Laureate Awards Programme have the potential to make ground-breaking advances in their respective fields and to bolster Ireland’s competitiveness in European research funding.

This is the second round of Laureate funding and many of the first-round awardees will be completing their research next year. It is testament to the success of the programme that three of the first-round awardees have already gone on to receive European Research Council funding, one as part of Ireland’s first ERC Synergy grant worth €10 million.

The winning projects were awarded on the basis solely of excellence, and applications were assessed through a rigorous and independent international peer-review process.

Successful Projects

Among the research projects receiving funding are:

  • ‘Non-communicable diseases including cancer (and except disorders of the nervous system and immunity-related diseases)’, Dr Tríona Ní Chonghaile, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences:

Taking age as being the biggest risk factor for cancer, this project will investigate the dynamic effect that age has on tumour biology and treatment responses, in an effort to make this risk factor better understood.

  • ‘Imaginative Literature and Social Trust, 1990-2025’, Dr Adam Kelly, UCD:

By comparing contemporary imaginative literature from the US, Russia and Ireland, this project will look at how social trust functions and how it fails, with a view to identifying better, more justified, and more sustainable forms of trust.

  • Rural Villages, Migration, and Intercultural Communication’, Dr Andrea Ciribuco, University of Galway:

This project will work with rural communities in Ireland to understand how different languages and cultures coexist in these environments, investigating the obstacles and opportunities for intercultural interaction in rural areas.

  • ‘The battle for ironin the alveolar space underlies susceptibility to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease’, Prof Suzanne Cloonan, Trinity College Dublin:

The link between iron overload in the lung with susceptibility to the inflammatory lung disease known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be examined in this project.

  • ‘Gene Editing with Nucleic Acid Click Chemistry’, Dr Andrew Kellett, DCU:

This research project seeks to develop a new type of gene technology that will be tested against cancer causing genes that are present in aggressive human cancers.

  • ‘Holocene Storminess in Ireland’, Dr Lisa Orme, Maynooth University:

This project will examine how periods with intense or frequent storms can cause societal challenges in Ireland, particularly for coastal communities, and seek to discover whether storminess in Ireland increased or decreased during past warm periods.

  • Examining the Potential of Communicative Deliberation for Climate Action’, Dr Jane Suiter, DCU:

This project will seek to bridge the communicative mismatch between climate science, citizens and policymakers utilising insights from three disciplines: deliberative democracy; science communication; and political psychology.

Download the full list of Laureate awardees 2022

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