INSPIRE -National Nanoscience Consortium Launched

Posted on: 30 October 2008

10 Third Level Institutions Join Forces  in  All-Ireland  Nanoscience Consortium, INSPIRE

A €31.6 million national nanoscience consortium – INSPIRE (Integrated NanoScience Platform for Ireland) –  comprising ten third level institutions was launched  this week by the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Jimmy Devins,  at an event hosted by  consortium partner,  the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) at  Trinity College Dublin.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) allocated €31.6 million to INSPIRE following an extensive international peer-review process. This is the largest funding allocation awarded to a consortium under the recent  Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions,  PRTLI 4.

Nanoscience is the study of objects less than 100 nanometres – a nanometre is one million times smaller than a millimetre. New technologies emerging from nanoscience are set to yield the next generation of microelectronics, drug delivery systems and medical imaging techniques among many other areas.

In the last five years, Ireland has had significant government investment in nanoscience, enabling Irish  research in this field to make a real impact on the global stage. A testament to this investment is that it is currently ranked 6th in the world*.

This newly launched nanoscience consortium INSPIRE aims to raise Ireland’s capability in nanoscience  and nanotechnology research even further. It will allow up to 500 researchers across industry and all of its 10 institutions Ireland wide  –  to share  state-of-the-art equipment  in cutting-edge collaborative research. It will also implement a national graduate programme, which will contribute to the aimed doubling of PhD numbers in line with stated Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI).

INSPIRE  will provide access to  all of its consortium  members to shared clean room facilities with conditions only seen in world-leading computer chip manufacturing companies; characterisation systems to create the building blocks of the future for even faster computer chips and more effective disease-fighting medicines; and world-leading electron microscopes which allow even more enhanced resolution at the atomic level. Over the last year, some of the newest and most advanced instruments in the world have been purchased through a joint national tendering process by the consortium which has  resulted in the saving of millions of euro.

Commenting on the significance of the nanoscience consortium, Professor John Boland, Director of CRANN at TCD stated: “The investment in INSPIRE will result in  a shared national infrastructure which will enable collaborative research in the development and characterisation of new materials with significant impact on areas as diverse as health care, medicines and communication technologies. Each of the INSPIRE consortium partners is already established as a world-class research institute in its  particular area of expertise. Through INSPIRE, it will harness this expertise in an all-island integrated approach to research, teaching and learning.”

A very important element of INSPIRE is also its graduate programme,  NANOGRAD,  which  is based on best international practice and  aims to be  the  leading inter-institutional PhD programme in Europe.   Through the graduate programme, students from all institutions on the island of Ireland will be able to  participate in lectures  both  through their attendance and by distance delivery  provided by  leading researchers.  This innovative postgraduate training will establish an internationally competitive structured PhD programme providing the best training to Irish students and attracting  high-calibre international students to Ireland. 

 “The graduate education programme, NANOGRAD, developed by the INSPIRE team, together with the capability for distance-delivery, will enable research students to be presented with the very best teaching and learning in nanoscience and nanotechnology thereby facilitating the acquisition of skills necessary to advance the Irish economy in this vital new area,” stated Professor  Roger Whatmore, CEO of Tyndall National Institute at UCC. 

The Integrated NanoScience Platform for Ireland (INSPIRE) members include:

 Centre for Research into Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN)  / Trinity Collage Dublin (TCD) – lead Administrative Partner
 Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) / University of Limerick (UL),
 Tyndall National Institute / University College Cork (UCC),
 FOCAS Institute / Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT),
 The National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology (NCPST), and the Research Institute for Networks and Communications Engineering (RINCE),  Dublin City University (DCU),
 LightHOUSE Centre for Applied Photonics /National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG),
 Cork Institute of Technology (CIT),
 Centre for BioNano Interactions (CBNI), University College, Dublin (UCD).

Ancillary Partners:

 University of Ulster (UU)
 Queens University, Belfast (QUB)

Notes for the Editor
* Ireland was ranked 6th in the world by Nature Nanotechnology Study (October, 2006)

INSPIRE’s aims are:

 Creation of a shared national infrastructural capability serviced effectively by trained support staff to enhance the national capacity for delivering innovative research in nanoscience and nanoscale technologies.
 Development of shared national nanoscience graduate programmes with international appeal resulting in graduate numbers aligned with stated Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) goals.
 Expansion of existing institutional linkages to facilitate new collaborations, locally, regionally and nationally across institutions and disciplines.