A research project utilising advanced robotics led by University of Limerick has been awarded significant funding through a government investment into disruptive technologies.
‘XBat+: Advanced Robotics & Artificial Intelligence for Critical Raw Materials Recycling in the Circular Economy’ led by UL’s Professor Colin Fitzpatrick, Head of Department and Associate Professor in the Department of Electronic & Computer Engineering, received funding through the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.
The project, which includes consortium partners Peregrine Technologies, Somex Automation and Helgen Technologies, was awarded €3.7m under the Energy, Climate Action and Sustainability research priority area.
The UL-led research project aims to disrupt the global recycling market by identifying the potential hazards and risks associated with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling sector.
Professor Fitzpatrick explained: “Global demand for batteries is set to increase 14-fold by 2030. However, many of the materials required for batteries are considered to be critical raw materials, meaning that their supply is concentrated from only a small number of countries and are rated as having a substantial supply risk.
“The XBat project will help to position us at the forefront of research in Europe in automation and the circular economy as we seek to recover more critical raw materials from waste electrical and electronic equipment.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, and the Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD announced that 11 innovative projects have been approved funding of up to €40m in the first tranche of awards under the fourth round of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.
Announcing the successful projects the Tánaiste said: “Today I have approved funding under the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) for another 11 ground-breaking projects that embody innovation and technological change.
“Now more than ever we should look to the future and embrace innovation as a means of building our capacity to conquer the challenges we face.
“Throughout the pandemic, the research community showed a commendable ability to adapt and rise to previously unthinkable challenges. We want to encourage and support that ingenuity and inventiveness through this fund, helping to deal with the adverse effects of COVID-19, Brexit, the war in Ukraine, and rising inflation.
“Projects announced today will benefit patients with heart failure, make online space safer for children and reduce greenhouse gases, paving the way for Ireland’s journey to a carbon neutral society, to name a few. These and other successful projects have identified emerging areas of opportunity in future markets to help solve societal challenges by building on our regional economic and research strengths.
“DTIF project partners continue to develop cutting-edge technologies and we will continue to invest in those enterprises and experts in the research community who apply innovative thinking to push boundaries and drive change.”
DTIF places a large emphasis on SME participation, to utilise their potential as drivers of disruptive innovation. The 11 successful consortia in this call have 40 partners, of which 58% (23) are SMEs and 10 of which are leading their projects. To date, 153 SMEs have been awarded funding in the four calls to date.
This brings the total allocation of DTIF funding to €275m. Over €157m (57%) of that funding has been awarded to project partners outside of Dublin. This will contribute to further economic growth in all regions and create high-quality jobs for talented people who live and work in rural Ireland.
Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said: “This fund reinforces the significant impact research and innovation has on our industrial development and economic prosperity.
“Ireland continues to lead the world in research excellence, consolidated by our sustained commitment to research, development and innovation.
“This call includes many of Ireland’s talented and motivated research community which covers a wide range of disciplines. The diversity of these disciplines makes Ireland an attractive place for graduates to find sustainable long-term employment and gives enterprises, particularly SMEs, access to highly skilled talent.
“Of the 40 partners involved in this call, I am delighted to see that 15 research performing organisations have been awarded €15m. This level of funding reaffirms our Government’s commitment to supporting Irish ingenuity and the development of cutting-edge technologies in our higher education institutions and universities.”
Dara Calleary TD, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation congratulating the successful projects said: “Innovation through collaboration is a key part of Ireland’s success now and into the future. The DTIF calls are terrific opportunities for companies and research institutions to harness the potential of disruptive technologies, such as AI, and apply this to real-world problems.
“The 11 projects announced today demonstrate that such innovation is alive and well within the Irish ecosystem and that collaboration can lead to significant benefits to society as well identifying further opportunities for further growth. This ultimately is good for business and good for the economy and gives Irish enterprise the competitive edge when trading into new markets and an increasingly competitive global environment.”
Over the four calls announced to date, 123 research institutions are participating in 83 projects. Research institutions are involved in all but two and are the lead partner in 18 projects.
Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, who administer the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, said: “The investment offered through DTIF encourages Irish companies of all sizes, multinational companies and academic institutions to explore new opportunities by encouraging them to be more ambitious and pursue strategic research opportunities. It helps clients target investment in innovations in areas of major importance, such as future medical technologies and digitalisation.”