An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, together with the Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, TD, has today launched four new world-class Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres.
The four new SFI Research Centres, including CONFIRM led by University of Limerick (UL), represent an investment of €74 million from the Government over the next six years, with a further investment of €40 million from industry.
CONFIRM, the new €47 million centre for smart manufacturing, seeks to add intelligence to production systems, creating the factories of the future, where products can be fully customised and adaptable. The overall SFI investment supports cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, driving economic benefits and positive societal impact.
Speaking at the launch of the four new SFI Research Centres, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “Investing in leading-edge scientific and technological research is good for our economy and helps us to discover new innovations which can improve our quality of life. Our SFI Research Centres represent a virtuous triangle between government, industry and higher education, and show just what can be achieved when there is a shared vision about reaching your ambitions.
“These four new SFI Research Centres will be centres of activity where Irish and international researchers are trained and collaboration with private companies is facilitated to deliver new ideas and innovation. This in turn helps to create high-value jobs and drives economic growth and regional development. The SFI Research Centres show the value of investing in today, so we can imagine the world of the future."
According to Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland, “For young science researchers, like students undertaking PhDs or those progressing to post-doctoral research, these centres will provide opportunities for them to develop in key strategic areas of scientific research, while also providing unparalleled training in entrepreneurship and science communication”.
The CONFIRM centre will be led by University of Limerick and UL Professor Conor McCarthy, with Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork, Cork Institute of Technology, NUI Galway, Athlone Institute of Technology, Maynooth University and Limerick Institute of Technology as academic partner institutions.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Professor McCarthy, Director of SFI Research Centre CONFIRM, said: “CONFIRM truly is a game-changer for Irish manufacturing competitiveness. The establishment of this SFI research centre, will position Ireland to play a leading role in the global smart manufacturing revolution, whereby products, machines, production systems and supply chains are digitally connected and making smart decisions. This innovation will enable consumer-driven mass customisation, where future Irish products will be tailored to individual needs, and delivered directly to them just hours after placing orders.
“CONFIRM will act as a beacon for international talent in the areas of advanced manufacturing from robotics to artificial intelligence. Ireland enjoys a highly-skilled and highly-motivated workforce in the manufacturing sector, this workforce is the envy of other nations. CONFIRM builds upon this reputation and seeks to establish a world-leading centre for smart manufacturing,” Professor McCarthy added.
The four SFI Research Centres will be involved in 80 industry collaborations with partners ranging from multinationals to SMEs. CONFIRM has 42 industry partners across these sectors including: Johnson & Johnson; Analog Devices; Action Point; Modular Automation; SL Controls; United Technologies Research Centre Ireland; KUKA; and, Medtronic.
“CONFIRM will allow us to enable customer-driven customisation. So it’s not just about automation, it’s about tailoring more customer-focused solutions so that we can add more value and bring more business back into Ireland,” said Barry O’Sullivan, General Manager, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.
The manufacturing sector is the second largest employer in Ireland accounting for €112 billion in exports. CONFIRM aims to transform Ireland’s manufacturing industry to become a world-leader in smart manufacturing.
According to Shane Loughlin, Chief Technology Officer, SL Controls: “CONFIRM can deliver for Irish industry something that it couldn’t possibly achieve itself. As an SME, we can never really achieve scale on a global basis, but with the assistance of the senior researchers in key topic areas, and other SMEs in similar service sectors, we can totally transform the service offering we can provide out to our multinational customers on a global basis”.
Launched with CONFIRM in Dublin Castle today, were three other new SFI research centres, two of which will be led by University College Dublin and one by Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.