Almost €2 million in funding has been awarded to an NUI Galway zoologist to investigate Irish off-shore waters.
The funding comes as part of a €40 million Science Foundation Ireland package which will be invested in a number of deep-sea excursions along the Irish coastline.
Dr Louise Allcock, a lecturer in natural sciences and zoology at NUI Galway, will be the recipient of a €1.9 million investment, which she will use to explore deep-sea corals and sponges, in an attempt to identify and categorise the unusual, naturally-occurring products in Ireland’s offshore waters.
By doing so, Ms Allcock wants to produce a predictive map of bio-discovery potential, which will maximise the economic impact of future bio-discovery work.
The investment is expected to add a wealth of knowledge, and economic value, to many of Ireland’s unknown and underrated deep-sea species, and will be done in association with the Marine Institute.
Dr Ciaran Kelly, marine research and development manager at the Marine Institute said, “We are delighted to partner with Science Foundation Ireland to co-fund this important research to build capacity in key areas such as deep sea bio-discovery, aquaculture, and genetics.
“These research projects will help to maximize the benefits of our ocean resources to society, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of these activities.”
Announcing the €40 million fund which will benefit as many as 24 research projects and 200 researchers throughout the country, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said, “The programme offers researchers the opportunity to develop their careers, as well as providing industry collaborators with access to the wealth of outstanding expertise and infrastructure found throughout the island.
“The projects within this programme clearly demonstrate excellent and impactful research which is a key goal of the Government’s science and innovation strategy - Innovation 2020.”
Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific advisor to the Government, added, “The Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme supports the highest standard of impactful research, as clearly demonstrated by the outcomes of previous awards.
“I have high expectations for these projects, all have undergone rigorous peer review by international experts and we have funded only those projects deemed to be at the pinnacle of scientific excellence.
“As well as providing an important platform for engagement in Horizon 2020, the programme also creates training and employment opportunities, promotes industrial collaboration, and drives advances in energy, agriculture, science, technology, and health which will benefit Ireland’s economy and society.”
With awards ranging from €500,000 to €2.7 million over four to five year periods, the investment will support world-class research in key priority areas for Ireland.