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AMBER was announced as the recipient of a Centre-to-Centre Award under the US–Ireland Research and Development Partnership programme today at the Science Foundation Ireland Science Summit, Croke Park. The international partnership between Science Foundation Ireland, the National Science Foundation in the US and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland has recognised three new international collaborations between Research Centres in the Republic of Ireland, the United States and Northern Ireland.

AMBER will collaborate with the NSF Engineering Research Centre, Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems (TANMS), and the Centre for Nanostructured Media (CNM) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) on the project, Ultra-Low Energy Electric Field Control of Nonvolatile Magnetoelectric Memory Devices. This collaboration aims to develop materials which can be used to develop high performance magnetoelectric memory cells. Each research centre brings a unique set of skills to the collaboration. The AMBER team led by Profs Coey, Staminov and Sanvito has developed an entire new class of materials, namely fully compensated half-metals, which can be grown in thin films. The properties of these materials depend on the growth conditions, which in turn affect the microscopic structure. The materials grown at AMBER will be characterised by CNM, who are world leaders in magnetic characterisation, in particular that of complex hybrid structures involving magnets and materials with ferroic ground state. The materials will then be used by TANMS who have a long‐standing ability to make both magnetic heterostructures and, in particular, hybrid stack combining magnetic and ferroic materials (ferroelectrics and piezoelectrics).

A group of industry leaders drawn from the Research Centres’ own industry collaborations will form an advisory group for the project. Using their expertise in data storage and processing, the group will be involved in evaluating the technology readiness of the proposed research programme and in advising on how to proceed as the programme reaches an end.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: “I welcome the announcement of the three new Centre to Centre awards under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership. These three very important research collaborations will see ground breaking research carried out in the fields of renewable energy, nanotechnology and bioengineering, which will address key challenges and deliver important economic benefits for Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United States.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland welcomed the announcement saying; “The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres combine world-class scientific research with deep and significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact. The opportunity to combine the expertise within our Research Centres with those in the United States and Northern Ireland will greatly enhance the research performed. These new collaborations will result in innovative discoveries and advances relating to renewable energy, new memory cells for electronic devices and biodegradable orthopaedic devices.”

“These three new collaborations demonstrate the value of linking research clusters across the Atlantic, and of partnerships between the scientific and entrepreneurial communities,” said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. “To augment Science Foundation Ireland’s financial commitments to the new centers, NSF will make new investments in the U.S.-based centers that collaborate with them. These partnerships provide us with the opportunity to address global research challenges.”

Science Foundation Ireland is investing €2.5 million into the three international collaborations over the course of 24-36 months. During the course of the collaborations, the three new awards will employ 8 postdoctoral researchers and 2 PhD students in Ireland, in addition to giving an opportunity to two summer students to work on cutting edge-research. The collaborations aim to foster entrepreneurship and economic development in the participating countries by directly engaging with at least 14 companies during the course of the three awards.

Two other SFI research centres were also announced as Centre-to-Centre Award recipients.

The Science Foundation Ireland funded Research Centre, CÚRAM is collaborating with the NSF Engineering Research Centre, Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB) and the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) at Ulster University. Their project aims to develop advanced metallic biomaterials that can be used to create biodegradable orthopaedic devices which are capable of supporting regenerative biological functions.

The Science Foundation Ireland funded Research Centre, MaREI, together with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), is collaborating with the NSF Engineering Research Centre, Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems (FREEDM) and the Energy Power & Intelligent Control Research Cluster (EPIC) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). Their project aims to determine how to optimise the generation of intermittent renewable energy at the point of consumption, while maintaining safe, secure, reliable energy at affordable prices.

AMBER researchers and collaborators received two key awards at the annual Science Foundation Ireland Science Summit today. Prof Valeria Nicolosi won the SFI Early Career Researcher of the Year award and the SFI Industry Partnership Award was won by AMBER and Merck.

The SFI Early Career Researcher Award recognises outstanding early career research talent in Ireland. Prof Valeria Nicolosi is an Investigator with AMBER and Trinity’s School of Chemistry. She is Europe’s only five-time European Research Council’s (ERC) awardee. In July 2016, she was announced as a recipient of the ERC Proof of Concept Grant. This was a top-up for her ERC Starting Grant of €1.5m awarded in 2011 and brings her total research funding awarded in the past 5 years, to over €12million. Her work focuses on advanced 2D nanomaterials, particularly in relation to energy storage and efficiency.

The SFI Industry Partnership Award recognises an outstanding collaboration between an SFI funded academic research group and industry. AMBER has been working with Merck for a number of years, and the partnership has increased from one small scale project to 8 joint research projects led by the AMBER director, Prof Michael Morris and Investigators Drs. Ramesh Babu and Aran Rafferty. Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials with an expanding facility in Cork with 700 employees and produces membranes, analytical devices and chromatography products. The AMBER/Merck engagement includes researchers at University of Limerick, DCU, UCG and UCC. The projects range from 6 month feasibility studies to 3 year collaborations that focus on material characterisation, quality product monitoring, new polymer membrane replacement and new processes for membrane production.

Congratulating the award winners, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson said, “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to recognise and honour the excellent work and achievements of Irish scientific researchers in a number of fields. 2016 marks the addition of five new awards recognising crucial areas of research and development including: industry collaborations, entrepreneurship, communication, public engagement and outstanding early career researchers. I want to congratulate the award winners on their hard work and accomplishments. I hope their success will be a source of inspiration to others.”

Prof. Michael Morris, Director of AMBER, commented on the award winners, saying, “I am delighted that the quality of work and commitment by AMBER researchers has been recognised today by Science Foundation Ireland. Valeria is an exceptional asset to the AMBER team and an inspiration to young researchers. We work with a range of industry partners and value all of their engagements. Our work with Merck is of particular personal interest to my own research area and I look forward to continuing our successful collaboration well into the future. ”

All awards announced today:
SFI Researcher of the Year
Recipient: Prof Barry O’ Sullivan, Director INSIGHT, SFI Research Centre, University College Cork

SFI Early Career Researcher of the year
Recipients:
- Prof Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER, SFI Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin
- Dr Martin O’Halloran, National University of Ireland Galway

SFI Industry Partnership Award
Recipients: AMBER, Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin & Merck

SFI Entrepreneurship Award
Recipient: APC Ltd - Prof Brian Glennon and Dr Mark Barrett, SFI SSPC Research Centre, University College Dublin

SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication
Recipient: Dr Sabina Brennan, Trinity College Dublin.

SFI Best Reported Impact
The SFI Best Reported Impact Award recognises a researcher whose 2016 impact statement clearly demonstrates their commitment to maximising the impact of their research findings.
Recipient: Dr Emmeline Hill, University College Dublin

SFI Research Image of the Year
Organic “ChemisTree”, a Telescopic View
Recipient: Andrea Zanetti a Chemistry PhD student at University College Dublin

Professor Anne Marie Healy, Investigator with AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre, hosted in Trinity College Dublin, has been awarded €600,000 (as part of NIH funded collaborations worth €8.8million overall) in research funding to develop a new inhaler for the treatment of lung disease. The funding was provided through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world’s foremost medical research centres based in the United States.

The funding will be used to develop a new dry powder inhaler for the treatment of lung disease, and could help millions of patients with cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This innovative type of inhaler will be the first ever of its kind to treat lung disease.

Patients with cystic fibrosis produce thick sticky mucus instead of the thin, watery kind. This mucus can block the airways, causing difficulties with breathing and infections in the lungs. Mucolytic therapies (medications to break up the mucus) are limited in number, efficacy and tolerability. There have been no new mucolytic drugs introduced to treat lung disease in the past 20 years and only one in the past 50 years. The NIH funded research aims to design, develop and trial novel carbohydrate based compounds within a dry powder inhaler, an easily deliverable format, that could benefit millions of patients with mucus-associated lung disease.

Professor Anne Marie Healy, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Trinity, Investigator in AMBER and SSPC (The Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, led by the University of Limerick) said, “I am delighted to be part of a translational NIH project, which aims to take the research from bench to bedside. Ireland has the highest incidence of cystic fibrosis in the world, with approximately 1 in 19 Irish people carrying one copy of the altered gene that causes the condition*. In addition, Ireland has the 4th highest prevalence of asthma in the world, with almost 5,000 asthma admissions to hospital on average each year**. Our proposed new treatment has the potential to greatly improve the respiratory function of these patients with lung disease, thus improving overall quality of life and reducing hospital admissions.”

The funding allocated to Professor Anne Marie Healy, is part of 2 large NIH projects, coordinated by Professor John Fahy, Professor of Medicine from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and valued at $9.9 million (€8.8 million). UCD’s Professor Stefan Oscarson (Professor of Chemical Biology, School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology) is also a partner. Clinical trials of the inhaler will start within the 5 year project framework.

Professor Fahy said, “This NIH funded collaboration between UCSF, TCD and UCD addresses an unmet need for a well-tolerated and easily delivered mucolytic drug, with application to multiple lung diseases, particularly cystic fibrosis, asthma and COPD. I am delighted to be working with Professor Anne Marie Healy who brings expertise in the optimisation of drug formulations for delivery as dry powders”.

* https://www.cfireland.ie/carrier-testing-for-cf
** https://www.asthma.ie/get-help/resources/facts-figures-asthma

Trinity researchers at the AMBER centre, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre, will lead an international project worth over €4.4 million under the European-funded “Future and Emerging Technologies - Open” (FET Open) programme. They are the first group in Ireland ever to coordinate such a project, from the most competitive science funding programme in the EU. FET Open funds visionary research and innovation for radically new future technologies, at an early stage, when there are few researchers working in a field. The success rate for this call was 4%.* Trinity’s share of the €4.4m budget is €1.7m.

The funding has been awarded to the TRANSPIRE project, which is led by Professor Plamen Stamenov, an Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, working with Drs Karsten Rode, Thomas Archer and Professors Michael Coey and Stefano Sanvito (all from the School of Physics), and collaborators in Germany, Norway and Switzerland. TRANSPIRE (Terahertz RAdio communication using high aNistropy SPIn torque REsonators), which came about from an initial collaboration between Trinity and the Materials Research Institute at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) in Germany, will develop a new class of magnetic materials that could enable new, on-chip and chip-to-chip data links at least 100 times, possibly 1000 times faster than current technology. Personal and substance security screening, medical spectrometry and imaging, geophysical and atmospheric research and the Internet of Things will all benefit from ultra-fast data transfer.

Professor Plamen Stamenov, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, said, “We are, of course, delighted to win this award. It is a recognition of the work we have done on the fundamental physics of highly spin-polarised materials over the last 5-10 years, but also of the quality and expertise of our collaborators in Germany, Norway and Switzerland. I trust that this project will be valued by the scientific community and hope that we will be laying the foundations for high-speed data networks of the future. TRANSPIRE aims to develop a new class of magnetic materials which should enable new and exciting terahertz, that is 1000 gigahertz, technologies. As the different forms of radio communication and navigation e.g. AM and FM radio, digital TV, microwave devices, mobile phones, GPS and wireless networks, all fight for space in the heavily-regulated frequency bands, the changes in their capacity is relatively slow and incremental. With the huge increase in the demand for high-speed data transmission, these radio bands are experiencing intense pressure. The terahertz bands offer new opportunities and some unchartered ‘territory’, but are rather difficult to work at. In this range, to date, no magnetic materials and correspondingly devices have been developed. Our ambition within TRANSPIRE is to start the development of a low-cost, compact and reliable, room-temperature terahertz technology which could underpin the next wave of the Big Data revolution.”

Professor Michael Morris, Director of AMBER, said, “I congratulate Prof Stamenov and his team. This places AMBER researchers amongst the best in Europe. FET Open will only fund scientists that have the capability of conducting research that goes beyond what is currently known or even imagined and we look forward to the developments with this project”.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said, “This is a recognition of truly excellent science by Professor Stamenov and the team at AMBER. The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres have ambitious targets of securing non-exchequer funding and AMBER has been very successful in reaching its targets to date.”

* 22 proposals were funded out of a total of 544 submissions, http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/news/25-new-fet-open-ideas-breakthrough-technologies

Since FET-Open is totally non-prescriptive, it attracts many more applicants than other programmes and the AMBER team were competing with internationally-leading scientists at the highest level across a broad range of disciplines, not just in their own area of interest. Proposals must pass a rigorous evaluation process which assesses the long-term vision of the project and, whether it identifies a clear scientific breakthrough, explores unknown territory with potential high risk but also high gain, and is novel and interdisciplinary.

The other partners in the consortium are Drs Alina Deac, Michael Gensch, Ciarán Fowley and Sergey Kovalev from the Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research Institute at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) in Germany, Prof Arne Brataas from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim (NTNU) and Dr Emile de Rijk from SWISSto12, a spinoff from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Trinity’s share of the €4.4 million budget is €1.7M.

TRANSPIRE aims to empower innovative small enterprises and major companies to assess the viability of spintronic terahertz technology to shape future devices and processes that will sustain the big data revolution for another generation. The project relies on coordinated interdisciplinary research in physics, chemistry, materials science, terahertz design and device engineering to ensure the success of a high-risk endeavour, which can change the nature of everyday electronic technology.