fbpx The Bernal Project - a €52 million initiative to Enhance Science and Engineering | University of Limerick arrow
Search icon

The Bernal Project - a €52 million initiative to Enhance Science and Engineering

Bernal Project Bernal Project
Pictured Here: An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and UL President, Professor Don Barry

University of Limerick Announces Multi-million Euro Science and Engineering Initiative with the creation of 225 jobs

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD has today, 17th October 2013 officially launched a €52 million science and engineering initiative at the University of Limerick, ‘The Bernal Project’ which will make a significant contribution to Ireland’s national research initiatives in the strategically important areas of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Energy Research and Development. Named after influential 20th century Irish scientist, John Desmond Bernal who was regarded as the founding father of molecular biology, the project outlines a detailed plan to enhance research excellence in the fields of pharmaceutical science and engineering; energy and sustainable environment; modern and biomedical materials and engineering.

The Bernal Project involves the recruitment of 10 world leading professors, a start-up seed fund to support their teaching and research activity and the construction of a new advanced research building on campus. The University of Limerick Foundation has committed to providing €36million in philanthropic funding for this project primarily from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the project’s main sponsor to date with a commitment of €26.3million.  The balance will come from state funding and University funds.

To date, five leading international researchers have been appointed as Bernal Chairs: Professor Mike Zaworotko, Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering, (one of the world’s top 20 chemists); Professor Ursel Bangert, Bernal Chair of Microscopy and Imaging; Professor Bartek Glowacki, Bernal Chair in Energy; Professor Harry Ven den Akker, Bernal Chair in Fluid Mechanics and Professor Gavin Walker, Bernal Chair in Pharmaceutical Powder Engineering.

150 construction jobs will be created in building the new building with a further 75 long-term, sustainable research and teaching positions, amounting to a total of 225 jobs being created by the Bernal Project. The Bernal Laboratory will house fully-equipped laboratory facilities in a 7,459m2 building. The building project has begun with completion envisaged by 2015.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said: "I'm delighted to be here to announce this project which not only creates jobs in the construction phase but is exactly the kind of development Ireland needs as we continue to enhance our attractiveness as a location for inward investment and jobs in Research and Development.  The 150 construction jobs will be a great boost for the sector and I also welcome the 75 high-quality, high-skilled permanent jobs in the project, which builds on the 3,000 new jobs being created each month.  Following the recent Budget, successfully exiting the bailout later this year will improve international confidence in Ireland and will help attract in more investment and jobs in research and development activities."

Speaking at the launch of the project, UL President, Professor Don Barry said; “The imperative in growing the University and contributing to the economic development of Ireland is premised on developing a deep knowledge infrastructure and human capital base that will attract investment and stimulate the development of high-end industry and services at the core of a revitalised “smart” economy.”

Dr Mary Shire, Vice President Research, UL said; “Through the Bernal Project the University of Limerick is attracting top researchers from some of the world’s top 100 ranked universities to bring their expertise to Limerick in support of Irish recovery and growth. This investment will have major significance in promoting Ireland as a location for Foreign Direct Investment and job creation particularly in R&D and advanced manufacturing. The Bernal Project provides an opportunity to align the strategic needs of the State with those of the University in their common goal to impact economic, educational and social development nationally.”

Professor Kieran Hodnett, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, UL welcomed the announcement; “The disciplines of science and engineering are the key to our economy’s future growth. UL has a reputation for building effective industry partnerships and creating graduates ready to take on future scientific challenges. The Bernal Laboratory creates a home for world-leading research in fields which are vital for Ireland’s recovery and building this institutions reputation.”
Each of the selected areas is already supported by major funding from Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (Higher Education Authority), Science Foundatioin Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the European Union and a variety of commercial sources.

News Reports on The Bernal Project

RTE News Broadcast

RTE Radio 1, Morning Ireland, Interview with Professor Mike Zaworotko, Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering

Endorsements for the Bernal Project

Mary Sutton, Republic of Ireland Country Director for The Atlantic Philanthropies said ”The Atlantic Philanthropies has a long-standing relationship with the University of Limerick and is delighted to support this innovative investment in Science and Engineering.”

Dr Liam Tully, Director, Pfizer global Development Process Centre and adjunct Professor of Pharmaceutical Innovation at University of Limerick said “The €52 million Bernal Project is a welcome investment and a smart investment in the future of Science & Technology in Ireland.   The Project is very focussed at delivering scientific excellence in areas that will have the greatest impact.  This will be an invaluable support to the Pharmaceutical sector as well as other high tech industries in Ireland”.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland welcomed the announcement; “We welcome this significant investment into excellent science and engineering research of direct relevance to the Irish economy by the University of Limerick. The Bernal Project displays great vision and focus on areas of strategic importance for Ireland’s future and the evolution of our research system.”

Bill Doherty, Executive VP EMEA Cook Medical and Vice Chair of the Irish Medical Devices Association welcomed the announcement; “Research and innovation are at the core of the MedTech industry as we seek to deliver new solutions for patients and healthcare systems globally.  The Bernal Project with its emphasis on science and engineering will greatly enhance Ireland’s capability and reputation in this regard as well as contributing to other key areas of the local and national economy.”

John Desmond Bernal was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary in 1901 and is regarded as the founding father of Molecular Biology, the branch of science whereby the structures of complex proteins and enzymes are now routinely determined by x-ray methods. While at Cambridge, he worked on the structure of vitamin B1 (1933), pepsin (1934), vitamin D2 (1935), the sterols (1936), and the tobacco mosaic virus (1937). In 1937, Bernal became Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London. Prominent scientists who worked with him include Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosalind Franklin, Aaron Klug and Max Perutz.  Bernal was arguably the most influential Irish Scientist of the 20th century

Bernal Professorships

Professor of Pharmaceutical Powder Engineering The University of Limerick has appointed Professor Gavin Walker as Bernal Chair of Pharmaceutical Powder Engineering. Professor Walker’s, particular expertise is in pharmaceutical process engineering and modelling of particulate systems. Gavin has been appointed as The Royal Academy of Engineering/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow, is a Fellow of the IChemE and is a Visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering at Queen's University Belfast (UK).

Professor Walker's personal group includes 12 research students and 4 post-doctoral researchers. He has published 100 international journal papers in areas of pharmaceutical, environmental and bioengineering. He is Associate-Editor of the Chemical Engineering Journal and Chemical Engineering Research and Design.  Professor Walker is co-Principal Investigator on SFI funded SSPC (Solid State Pharmaceutical cluster) and the Principal Investigator on Enterprise Ireland Funded PMTC (Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology Centre) hosted at University of Limerick.
 In the pharmaceutical industry, the term “Secondary Manufacture” refers to a series of physical and chemical processes were by the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient is processed with other excipient materials to produce a drug product.  These secondary processes include engineering unit operations, such as mixing, blending, wet and dry granulating, extruding, drying, compressing, coating and tablet pressing.

Critically, the fundamental science and engineering underpinning these powder processes are not fully understood.  Currently, the pharmaceutical industry worldwide operates generally on an empirical basis because the processing of multi-component powder systems is inherently complex.
 This professorship aims to develop fundamental and applied aspects of pharmaceutical engineering, and become the focus for the development of this important area of engineering science both in Ireland and internationally.

Professor of Energy. The University of Limerick has appointed Professor Bartek Glowacki as Bernal Chair of Energy. A physics graduate who received his PhD in the Polish Academy of Science, he also received the life title of Professor from the President of Poland and became Expert in Energy at the Institute of Power Engineering in Poland. He has held the Personal Chair of Energy and Materials Science in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy of the University of Cambridge. Professor Glowacki is a member of the World Energy Council and his appointment follows a decision by UL, as part of its strategic plan 2011-2015, to enhance its research in the Science & Engineering sphere through the Bernal Project. Professor Glowacki leads the Transnational Energy Materials Printing Initiative (www.tempri.eu(link is external)). He has already established two inkjet printing systems at UL which are going to be used for energy materials development by his research team. He has a deep interest in applications of energy devices where fundamental quantum physics meets heavy industry.

Professor of Crystal Engineering. The University of Limerick has appointed Professor Michael Zaworotko as Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering. Professor Zaworotko comes to UL from the University of South Florida and is among of the top 20 research chemists in the world. This appointment is the first under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Professorship Programme which aims to attract iconic research talent to Ireland. The programme includes funding of €6 million to support a body of research critical to our pharmaceutical industry and enhancing Ireland’s reputation as a centre for excellence.
 Professor Zaworokto is in demand as a consultant to several major pharmaceutical companies many of whom have supported his research. He is a Member of UTEK Corporation’s Scientific Advisory Council, Member of Thar Pharmaceuticals Scientific Advisory Board and a Member of Alkermes Scientific Advisory Board. He holds 6 patents and a further 10 are pending. Professor Zaworotko is a prolific publisher of high quality peer reviewed journals. His h-index is 68. He has published over 300 original research articles and these have been cited over 21,000 times. He is among the top 20 most cited chemists in the ISI database, was Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 and is a reviewer for Science, Nature, JACS and Angewandte Chemie.

Professor of Fluid Mechanics. The University of Limerick has appointed, Professor Harry Van den Akker, as Bernal Chair of Fluid Mechanics. Professor Van den Akker was previously the Professor in Transport Phenomena at Delft University of Technology.  Prior to joining the Delft, Professor Van den Akker was a research engineer at Shell Research in Amsterdam and has held visiting appointments in Princeton and at King’s College London. He was President of the Dutch Physical Society for 6 years, and Scientific Director of the Netherlands Research School in Process Technology for 12 years.
 Professor Van den Akker’s published work is in the top 20 of articles cited from the major journals in the area including American Institute of Chemical Engineering Journal and Chemical Engineering Research and Development. Professor Van den Akker comes to UL as world leader in the area of Fluid Mechanics and will contribute to all engineering disciplines with Fluid Mechanics at their core. For his part, he is attracted by the open and collaborative nature of the research ethos at UL and the quality of our young academic staff and researchers.

Professor of Microscopy and Imaging. Professor Ursel Bangert obtained her PhD in Physics from the University of Cologne, Germany. She has held academic posts at the University of Surrey and UMIST prior to her appointment as Reader in the School of Materials in the University of Manchester in 2004. As a member of the electron optics group there she took an active part in the running and development of the electron optical facilities, and is also strongly involved with the UK STEM facilities at Liverpool and Daresbury. She has worked in the general area of electron microscopy for over 20 years. A particular interest is the advancement and exploration of electron microscopies combined with spectroscopies with ultra-high spatial resolution. Her research has centred around functional materials, and, more recently, nanostructured materials, the underlying theme being the relationship between micro- and electronic structure. She has pioneered low loss EELS for highly spatially resolved electronic structure studies as well as single atom EELS. Having worked on electron microscopy of graphene since its discovery, (The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2010 was awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester for their work on graphene). Professor Bangert was the first to conduct atomic resolution HAADF and low loss EELS on graphene.

Recent advances in electron microscopy enable direct visualization of sites of individual atoms in materials as well as revealing their chemical nature. Using new generation aberration corrected (scanning) transmission electron microscopes available to Prof Bangert at the superSTEM facility at Daresbury, UK, where she is a co-grant holder has enabled her to combine atomic resolution imaging with electron energy loss spectroscopy and DFT modelling to reveal the constellation and chemical nature of point defects, lattice impurities and ad-atoms in graphene, and thus investigate issues that are vital for graphene device applications, such as the metal-graphene interaction (including metal mediated etching: drilling and filling), lattice doping via ion implantation, and graphene plasmon behavior and enhancement at defects and impurity atoms. Professor Bangert has published over 150 peer review articles including two full papers in Nature.

The next 5 Professorships will be in the following areas:

• Biomedical Engineering
• Biopharmaceutical Engineering
• Biocatalysis
• Composites
• Energy