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AMBER Launches Paper ‘The Importance of Materials Science to Ireland’

23 April 2024

AMBER the SFI Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research has launched a Position Paper entitled ‘The Importance of Materials Science to Ireland’. Co-authored by: AMBER Director Professor Mick Morris, AMBER Executive Director Dr Lorraine Byrne and Economist Jim Power and available in full at the link below.

AMBER Importance of Materials Science to Ireland Paper


Materials science is an important field forming the basis of modern technologies and all manufacturing industries. Advanced materials are intrinsically linked to manufacturing and economic growth being a driver for innovation and industrial competitiveness forming the backbone of the export sector.

The world is experiencing a “Materials Transition” with Economic, geopolitical, and societal factors such as population growth and the mass adoption of digital and green technologies driving an unprecedented demand for raw materials which is expected to double in the next 35 years. This is driving increased global competition for finite resources resulting in significant challenges in terms of supply chain vulnerabilities and the consequential impacts on the environment and sustainability which in turn are shaping international trade and innovation policies.

Ireland as a small export-led economy with a high dependency on FDI, is not immune to these global trends and shifts in policy. Having a strong national competence in Materials Science Research and Education will be essential for future resilience of our manufacturing sector, (both FDI and Indigenous companies), National competitiveness and to address national priorities including climate change, renewable energy transition and healthcare provision.

As a result of long-term investment in the research ecosystem over the past 20 years, from individual PI led research to research centres of scale – Irish materials science researchers have earned an international reputation in this field as demonstrated by publication impact, draw down of competitive EU funding and industry engagement

Within the EU, Advanced Materials are being recognised as a priority through the recently announced Innovative Materials for Europe partnership which sets out priorities across 5 pillars relating to Research Investment, Translation and Commercialisation of Materials innovation, access to capital finance, access to infrastructure and skills and governance.  It will be important for Ireland as a small member state to engage with this programme across all pillars to avoid being overlooked

The comparatively low level of research intensity at 1.78% of GNI* means that Ireland lags significantly behind the EU and OECD average and this is reflected in a decline in our position as a Strong Innovator within the European and Global Innovation indices. If not addressed the impact could be particularly acute for innovation intensive areas related to the physical and engineering sciences and materials such as advanced manufacturing, decarbonisation, the circular economy, quantum computing and advanced therapeutics.


AMBER Director Professor Mick Morris introduced the Position Paper at the launch held in the PACCAR Theatre, Naughton Institute, Trinity College Dublin on Tuesday 23rd April 2024. Attendees ranged from representatives from the business community, research sector, FDI, policy makers, Enterprise Ireland, IDA, SFI and various Government Departments including DAFM, DFHERIS and DETE. Anton Savage moderated a panel discussion with paper authors Dr Lorraine Byrne and Jim Power, and included Mary Harney Chairperson of AMBER, Prof. Fergal O’Brien Deputy Director of AMBER, RCSI Professor and Paper Contributor and Claire McGee Head of Education and Innovation Policy, Ibec.

Speaking on the panel Mary Harney said: “Ireland needs to grow intellectual capital and the only way to do that is to invest in education and research, we haven’t yet caught up on what we were spending in 2009”

Speaking to the question of how best to encourage industry to invest in Ireland, Ibec’s Claire McGee said, “Pounds and pence, people and policy are needed to entice further investment in Ireland.

AMBER’s Lorraine Byrne outlined that “70% of all green and digital transitions are dependent upon materials science” and agreeing with contributions from policy makers that highlighted the need for scientists to engage with politicians and that evidence-based policy can only improve the ways of working between legislators and the scientific and research community for the benefit of wider society.

Speaking to AMBER as a Materials Science Centre, Professor Fergal O’Brien highlighted “the beauty of a Centre like AMBER is that we span disciplines, currently there is a cross over between battery development and bioengineering that is contributing to research in the area of spinal regeneration.


AMBER is calling for the development of a national strategy for advanced materials which aligns with national priorities and European initiatives which will consider the following recommendations:

  • The creation of a national stakeholder group across academia, industry and Government to inform policy and funding for materials science and ensure Ireland remains a world leader in this field.
  • Dedicated, sustained and predictable research funding for materials science. A strong national research centre should be supported as a national priority.
  • Focussing dedicated funding at priority areas within the broader materials science field.
  • Renewal of the national infrastructure supporting materials science research and innovation. Significant funding is required if this is to be consistent with other world-class centres.
  • Development of a materials training strategy, funded from the National Training fund. This should span diploma, MSc, and PhD schemes in addition to Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training to upskill the existing workforce.

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AMBER has a strong emphasis on collaboration. Central to AMBER’s research remit are collaborative projects performed with industry partners, and working with academic, industry and wider stakeholder on international and national research programmes.

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