UL hopes €52m project will see it rise up the ranks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has launched a first-of-its-kind €52m science and engineering project at the University of Limerick which will create new R&D concepts for use in the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries.

UL hopes €52m project will see it rise up the ranks

The Bernal Project will be overseen by 10 of the world’s leading academics in the field and will be housed in a new building due for completion in two years time, and which will provide 150 construction jobs.

Up to 75 full-time, multinational researchers will be recruited to run the project.

UL Foundation has committed €36m, of which €26.3m has been pledged by Atlantic Philanthropies.

The remainder will come from state and university funds.

Mr Kenny said: “This project 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. 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.”

UL president Don Barry said the importance of advancing the university’s place in contributing to the economic development of the country, was based on development of a deep knowledge infrastructure.

He said: “This will attract investment and stimulate the development of high-end industry and services at the core of a revitalised smart economy’.”

Dr Mary Shire, UL vice president of research, said the Bernal Project will bring together top researchers from some the world’s top-100 ranked universities.

Five of the 10 lead professors have been recruited. Prof Mike Zaworotko, regarded as one of the world’s top 20 chemists, will be chair of the new faculty.

Asked why he had taken up his appointment at UL, he said: “I want to be in the [world’s] top 10 [chemists].”

He said: “It’s like when you want to go further, onwards to the future. I believe the University of Limerick is close to a unique opportunity to not just publish high profile papers, but to turn those ideas and inventions into products.”

During his visit this week he will be recruiting six international PhD graduates who will join his group.

He said his field of crystal engineering is new by academic standards and not very strong in Ireland.

“I am kind of bringing that field to Ireland. We are architects of materials. We design them. Traditionally you screen many compounds until you find something that works. We literally go to the drawing board and make blue prints and try to build structures to do what we want them to do.

“The field is taking off and I hope to take advantage of the funding and the interdisciplinary infrastructure at the University of Limerick to move forward.”

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