Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, was in Athlone yesterday to officially open a multimillion euro research hub at Athlone Institute of Technology.
Almost 70 people are currently employed at the research hub, including 47 postgraduate students, seven postdoctoral researchers and 12 research and support staff. The hub supports collaboration with industry and enterprise, and ensures the optimum use of specialist research equipment.
Speaking at the opening, which took place yesterday, Minister Quinn paid tribute to AIT’s central role in Ireland’s development.
“AIT has a central role to play in our economic development through its world class education, research, and innovation programmes. Intellectual capital is now the primary driver of growth and will be critical to Ireland’s future growth and prosperity,” he said.
Three research platforms in chemistry, bioscience, and characterisation are located in the AIT hub. Among the services provided to industry are rapid prototyping fabrication, physical and mechanical testing, and surface and elemental analysis.
Speaking about the hub, AIT president, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, highlighted AIT’s success in collaborating with industry and state bodies.
“AIT is a significant knowledge partner to enterprise in the Midlands region. Successful collaborations with industry, where they can access cutting-edge equipment, have helped bring innovative new products to market in the medtech, materials, and ICT space. The institute also supports the work of state agencies, such as IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, in developing Ireland’s smart economy.
“An international team of researchers work together in the research hub to nurture an innovation culture in the Midlands. Ireland Inc operates in a global world, where competition for new ideas, for funding, for collaboration is intense. This research hub highlights the contribution that AIT and higher education make to Ireland’s international reputation and to the delivery of a vibrant knowledge society,” he said.
The development of the research hub was funded by the Higher Education Authority’s (HEA ) research facilities enhancement scheme (€1.8 million ) and much of its equipment was funded by Enterprise Ireland’s research equipment grants.
Since September 2004, AIT has been awarded some €17.5 million in research funding.