Ms Jan O’Sullivan TD, Minister for Education and Skills, formally launched an expanded Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Irish Software Research Centre, at the University of Limerick in a €46.4 million investment over six years. The development means that 90 PhD and 46 postdoctoral research positions will be created over the next six years, with recruitment commencing immediately.
€32.6m of the investment is being funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) with support from the EU Structural Funds. Industry is backing the initiative with total contributions worth €13.8m.
The Lero expansion now incorporates software researchers from UCC and NUI Maynooth, which means that all Irish universities plus Dundalk IT are represented in the national centre, which is located on the University of Limerick campus.
Under the new programme, Lero has also broadened its research scope from purely software engineering to a wider range of software disciplines. Research areas will combine core research with targeted projects in hot sectors including cyber security, Internet of Things, cloud computing, medical devices and smart cities.
Lero already works with multinational industry partners such as IBM, Fidelity Investments and Microsoft. Indigenous research projects are being implemented with local companies including S3 Group, Statsports and Tullow Oil.
“The collaboration of the best academic brains from all the country’s universities is unique in Ireland and rare worldwide,” commented Minister O’Sullivan. “This new investment in Lero is an important part of the national infrastructure that will help to attract and retain the world’s leading technology companies in Ireland as well as providing access to a world class software research centre for over 1,000 indigenous tech firms.”
Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The Science Foundation Research Centre programme represents the largest ever state and industry co-funded research investment in Ireland. The programme is supporting an investment of €355 million from SFI matched by €190 million from industry in twelve world class Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres of excellence and scale, one of which is Lero.
“This significant investment in Lero, as a national software research centre was made following a detailed scientific and economic impact assessment by international reviewers from industry and academia. Lero can deliver tangible economic benefits through productive engagement with industry collaborators, development of new technology and training of over 90 PhD students in the software sector."
“As a result of investments like this, Ireland can become recognised as a global centre for software research with major benefits for the economy,” commented Professor Mike Hinchey, director, Lero. “Software is at the heart of the most exciting developments in technology as we see the digital and physical worlds increasingly integrate. Today software is everywhere and our quality of life and economic wellbeing depend on it.”
Entrepreneur Dr Sean Baker, a co-founder of Iona Technologies plc, who was appointed as chairman of the Governance Committee of Lero earlier this year added, “The software industry is facing many challenges globally, not least a shortage of skilled research talent. Lero provides a world-class research resource to the sector as well as boosting the supply of software graduates, including 90 PhDs. Lero can also be a valuable catalyst for the development of new campus companies.”
Dr Mary Shire Vice President at the University of Limerick welcomed the announcement. “Lero is a critical part of the research ecosystem at UL and its close links with industry align well with our strategic focus on delivering excellent research with impact.”
Lero (www.lero.ie) which is headquartered in the 3,775 sq. metre Tierney Building at Plassey Technological Park, Limerick, includes Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick.