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UL launches The Bernal Institute

22.11.2016
UL launches The Bernal Institute

Pictured are: David Egan, Senior Researcher at the University of Limerick, UL President Prof Don Barry and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny launched the Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick on November 21st 2016, an €86 million science and engineering research institute comprised of 20,000m2 of high quality, multi-purpose research space in the new Science and Engineering Zone at UL. 

The Bernal Institute incorporates UL’s Materials and Surface Sciences Institute, the Stokes Research Institute and the Bernal Project into one unified flagship research Institute to showcase and build on the University’s significant strengths in research in Science and Engineering.  A key aspect of the Institute is the recruitment of world leading researchers as Bernal Professors, with seven of a total of ten new professorial chairs filled.  The Institute houses over 260 researchers who work in and across research themes in advanced materials, manufacturing and processing engineering and fluid dynamics.
Examples of research work include:

• pharmaceutical manufacturing research, focusing on the production and processing of pharmaceutical materials that supports the pharmaceutical sector in Ireland (exports of €50 billion per annum).
• New materials for rechargeable batteries which extend battery life. This research will have significant implications for mobile computing and telecoms but also for the emerging electric vehicle market allowing for smaller and lighter batteries that can hold more charge for longer and maintain performance over the lifetime of the product.  
• The development of a new metallic alloy, nickel titanium, in partnership with Cook Medical for use in minimally invasive medical devices such as guidewires for stents and catheters which are used when a patient is under x-ray.
• The use of engineering expertise in composite materials to diagnose equipment failure in a powder manufacturing facility that resulted in savings of €10 million.
• The development of high-throughput droplet-based technologies for drug discovery, cell culturing and genetic analysis has led to the creation and evolution of very successful spin-out enterprises (Stokes Bio and GenCell Biosystems).

Speaking from the launch event An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD said: “Ireland has a proud history of scientific achievement that has helped shape the modern world we live in. The opening of the Bernal Institute at UL will ensure that Ireland stays at the cutting edge of research and innovation. Advances in pharmaceuticals, medicines and materials at the Bernal Institute will help tackle the great challenges facing society today. The Government is proud to support scientific endeavour, and the development of the Bernal Institute is an excellent example of collaboration between Government, higher education, philanthropy, and industry. Through our Action Plan for Jobs we will continue to support and promote science as a way to improve the lives of people in Ireland and around the world.”

Research Impact is at the core of the vision for the new Institute.  UL President Professor Don Barry said “Bernal is a shining example of industry, government and philanthropy working together to create a game-changer in terms of impact. And by ‘impact’ I mean impact in the real world that generates real benefits for real people and helps to build the future for us all. This new Bernal Institute will enable UL to enhance key disciplines in the Faculty of Science & Engineering and to advance the University’s reputation for Research Excellence, while continuously developing research that has a real impact on industry, society and the local, national and international communities we serve. “

UL has partnered with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Enterprise Ireland (EI) in relation to the establishment of numerous technology centres as well as centres of excellence hosted at the Bernal Institute. Four major national centres - the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre supported by SFI, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology Centre and the Irish Centre for Composites Research grant-aided by EI and more recently the Dairy Processing Technology Centre–are hosted by the Institute and currently the Institute has research partnerships with over 70 companies.  The recruitment of two of the Bernal Chairs, Mike Zaworotko, Professor of Crystal Engineering, and Paul Weaver, Professor of Composite Materials, has been supported by SFI through their Research Professors Programme with each receiving awards of €5 million.

The Institute has been awarded substantial infrastructural funding by the Higher Education Authority’s Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (cycles 1, 4 and 5).

The new Institute is named for John Desmond Bernal, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th Century who was born in Nenagh, County Tipperary.The Science & Engineering Zone at UL comprises the Lonsdale Building completed in 1996, the MSSI building completed in 2002 and the recently-completed Phase Two of that building and the new Analog Devices Building, so named following a major gift by the company to the UL Foundation.