Skip to main content

Groundbreaking UL projects funded through State investment in disruptive technologies

UL Vice President Research Professor Norelee Kennedy welcomed ‘a key funding instrument to advance excellent innovative projects’
Thu, 22 Apr 2021

A number of exciting new projects involving University of Limerick are to receive funding through State investment in disruptive technologies.

The Government has this Thursday announced an investment of €95m for groundbreaking projects under its Disruptive Technologies Fund.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar T.D., the Minister for Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris T.D. and the Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy T.D. today announced that 29 exciting new projects have succeeded in securing funding.

The Government is investing €95 million in the successful projects over the next three years. The 29 ground-breaking projects cover areas such as life sciences, medical devices, ICT, artificial intelligence, manufacturing and environmental sustainability.

Of these, one is coordinated at University of Limerick and aims to develop a low-cost, high-performance Na-ion smart battery system using entirely sustainable materials and processes.

UL is a partner on two more projects looking at reducing the cost of offshore wind and another to improve maritime security and position Ireland as a leader in the field of smart drones.

All projects involve collaborations of between three and eight partners, including SMEs, multinational corporations and research organisations.

UL Vice President Research Professor Norelee Kennedy said: “The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is a key funding instrument to advance excellent innovative projects.

“UL’s involvement in three DTIF awards announced today in leading a consortium on battery technology as well as working with colleagues across Ireland in the energy, climate and sustainability area, demonstrates our commitment to undertaking excellent research that addresses global challenges.

“The awards also signal the partnerships approach to our research that is fundamentally important to realising the innovations needed for the challenges of the future. Congratulations to all involved,” Professor Kennedy added.

Announcing the successful projects today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “The pandemic and Brexit have combined to bring unprecedented economic challenges and volatility to our enterprise sector. But with every challenge comes new opportunities and the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is dedicated to entrepreneurs and researchers working on some really exciting ideas to develop solutions to the problems we face.

“We are funding projects which will have wide-ranging benefits across many areas of society. Projects using AI to make factories safer and drones to detect drug smuggling, for example. There are many successful projects in the health sector, which we hope will result in better patient outcomes for thousands suffering from cancer, heart disease and fractured bones among other conditions. There is also focus on sustainability, with a number of projects looking at ways to improve and reduce energy use.  

“These new technologies will create high-quality jobs in existing and emerging sectors, now and over the coming decades. There is a good spread of partners, based all around Ireland, highlighting the strength of our enterprise and research base all across the country.

“The level of DTIF funding involved – at €95million – demonstrates our commitment to continue to invest and rebuild a stronger, more resilient economy after the pandemic.”

Minister Simon Harris also welcomed the DTIF funding.

“The Irish research sector is key to our future economic prospects. Many top-performing indigenous companies have emerged as spin-outs from the research conducted in our universities and higher education institutes. Several recent spin-outs are partners in the consortia that are being awarded funding under the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund today. This is in addition to the 37 HE-based partners in those projects. That is a fantastic outcome which reflects the strength of the Irish research sector.

“DTIF is an important tool for realising our ambitions as a global innovation leader and a location for research excellence. The level of investment being made today in cutting-edge technologies will create employment opportunities for our graduates and help to maintain Ireland as an attractive destination for top research talent.”

Minister of State Robert Troy said: “The 29 projects represent the innovativeness of companies across Ireland, from Clare to Dublin and Cork to Westmeath, coming together to bring new levels of digitalisation to a diverse range of industries, such as agriculture, healthcare, construction and more. As a small nation with limited resources, we must work together to maximise the opportunities from the investment in our enterprise sector and research institutions.”

Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, who administer the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, said: “Irish entrepreneurs have yet again demonstrated their ingenuity, adaptability and resilience in the face of the challenges they face. The breadth and scale of the projects that have come through the rigorous DTIF evaluation process is a huge tribute to the quality of our innovative companies and the other partners involved.”

A total of 62 applications were received under this third call of the Fund. The eligible projects went through a rigorous and competitive evaluation process involving screening and interview by panels of international experts.

UL projects:

TRIDENT: A Grid-Ready, Sustainable Sodium-Ion Smart battery for Stationary storage, is being coordinated by UL under principal investigator Dr Tadhg Kennedy, a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Sciences and a researcher at UL’s Bernal Institute.

The goal of the TRIDENT project is to develop a low-cost, high-performance Na-ion smart battery system using entirely sustainable materials and processes. Partners on the project, which has received €3.65m, are Tyndall National Institute, Analog Devices, mSemicon, ICERGi Limited, Glantreo, TisaLabs and Smart M Power. Furthermore, the project has been fully endorsed by MIDAS, the Industry Association for Microelectronics and Electronic Systems Design in Ireland.

The name of the project is derived from the ambition to provide a complete plug and play solution for grid-integrated residential battery energy storage systems (BESS) through development of the 3 prongs of the TRIDENT:

  1. Low-Cost Sustainable Sodium-ion Battery Chemistry
  2. Balance of System Hardware (including Wireless Battery Monitoring System (BMS) and Power electronics)
  3. Flexible Energy Asset Controller for Grid-Integration

The TRIDENT smart battery system will be a plug-and-play solution that can be installed in a household utility room and will empower the consumer to take an active role in the energy market, storing energy in times of low demand and selling back to the grid in times of high demand. The innovative solution will introduce flexibility to the energy markets, a key requirement for Ireland if the country is to meet its renewable energy targets.

The TRIDENT battery chemistry will be optimised for sustainability, consisting of a hard carbon anode derived from biowaste and a cathode derived from iron sulphate (a common food additive).

Dr Tadhg Kennedy, coordinator of the TRIDENT project, explained: “The ecological design of the chemistry will lead to a 50% reduction in both materials cost and global warming potential (GWP) per kWh compared to Li-ion battery manufacturing. At the hardware level, a complete wireless battery monitoring system will be designed. To couple the TRIDENT smart battery system to the home and grid, a low-cost, high-efficiency grid-tie storage inverter system will be also designed and proven. An innovative controller system will also be developed that will allow the TRIDENT smart battery system to connect to the electricity grid for a range of applications including peer-to-peer trading of energy and peak shaving.”

Sustainability and cost effectiveness will drive component design at all levels, leading to a best-in-class sodium-ion smart battery for residential energy storage. The project goals will be delivered by Irish partners spanning the battery value chain, including materials synthesis, battery management systems and electric power transmission.

UL is a partner also on the project Sempre-Subsea Micropiles: Robotic Drill & Prototype Foundation Development, Test & Evaluation, reducing the cost of offshore wind by up to 20%, through UL lead Dr Edin Omerdic, a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at UL and a researcher at the Mobile & Marine Robotics Research Centre, UL.

This project received €2.88m and the coordinator is Minicon PLC, with UL, UCD and Subsea Micropiles Ltd as partners.

The offshore energy sector is at a critical juncture with the rapid growth of investment in offshore wind, the decarbonisation of offshore oil and gas production as well as new regulatory constraints which limit use of conventional piling and anchoring solutions due to environmental impacts.

Offshore wind is positioned to become a major sustainable energy in the Europe and globally, but its potential will be severely limited without cheaper and less environmentally disruptive approaches to anchors and foundations which can support increasingly larger turbines in more challenging seabed conditions.

Sempre will develop micro piles for subsea anchoring use which will lower the cost, have huge environmental benefits, improve seabed access.

UL is also a partner on the Guard: Drug Interdiction Using Smart Drones project, with Dr Gerard Dooly of UL’s Mobile & Marine Robotics Research Centre the lead for the University.

This project received €5.1m and the aim is to support Naval Services with an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Solution to improve maritime security, and position Ireland as a leader in the field of smart drones.

The proposed solution aims at a) providing state of the art sensors, software and technology specifically developed and integrated for maritime operations and drug interception, b) flying in civil airspace and c) providing low cost of ownership and maintenance.

Given the expectation to be tested and deployed in Irish seas, The GUARD UAS would need to be operated from the ships at harsh sea conditions (Beaufort-6/7) as well as the land.

Tyndall National institute is the coordinator, while partners are A-TechSyn Ltd, University of Limerick, VRAI Ltd, University College Dublin, WAZP, Defence Forces and Naval Service, Revenue and Customs.