New Chair: Cork's Tyndall Institute has crucial role to play

Research and innovation are widely seen as key drivers to build a sustainable economic, environmental and social future, and the Tyndall Institute has a key role to play, says its new Chair Dr Denis Doyle
New Chair: Cork's Tyndall Institute has crucial role to play

Dr Denis Doyle, new Chair of the Tyndall Institute

ONE of the biggest changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has been the transformation of how we work. Home or hybrid working is now accepted as part of our working culture.

This change is enabled by decades of deep technology advances in areas such as high speed microprocessors, terabyte memory, fibre-optic and wireless communications, along with virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom and Teams. These technologies (broadly classed as Information & Communications Technology or ICT) allowed large sections of commercial activity and society to remain in operation, even during the most severe shutdowns. 

Technology has become ever present in modern life and we are now heavily reliant on science and technology for both business and leisure activities.

ICT technologies are also making profound changes in other areas of our lives. These include healthcare diagnostics and patient monitoring, vehicle electrification and autonomous driving, energy efficiency and industrial automation (Industry 4.0).

For 40 years, the Tyndall National Institute (formerly NMRC) at UCC, has been at the forefront of ICT research, innovation and education in Ireland. 

Tyndall has grown to over 600 research and support staff, including 155 Masters and PhD students. 

Many global ICT companies today are populated with Tyndall alumni in key business or technology positions. Commercialisation opportunities, start-up and spin-out companies were created directly from research carried out in Tyndall. Tyndall’s facilities, research, talented staff and students are a showcase for attracting inward investment into Ireland. Tyndall’s deep-tech research in the ICT space, covering semiconductors, nanotechnology, sensors, packaging and photonics directly address many of the key trends identified above with direct national economic and international impact.

Growing up in Charleville, County Cork in the 1970’s, Silicon Valley and its ICT world was 6,000 miles away. It may as well have been on Mars. Ireland’s success in attracting Foreign Direct Investment over the last 50 years has meant that today’s students in Ireland can work, innovate and contribute within many of the leading global technology companies just a short distance from home. 

This success has been built largely on a low tax rate and the ability of Ireland to provide highly educated, flexible and motivated talent to the incoming companies.

Today, this model is under pressure from global tax changes and intense international competition for talent across all sectors. The historic lack of women participating in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), and particularly in engineering, has made gender equality not just a moral and ethical issue but also a key business imperative. Tyndall must work with all stakeholders to encourage more young women to study in areas of STEM which will lead them to impactful, rewarding, family-friendly and lifelong careers.

Research and Innovation are widely seen as key drivers to build a sustainable economic, environmental and social future. A strong and vibrant innovation culture attracts the best talent - both students and graduates. Embedding research and development in large multinational companies located in Ireland makes their presence here more sustainable and secure. Embracing digitisation and automation makes our homegrown companies more efficient and better able to compete in international markets. Research and innovation allows entrepreneurs to start new businesses and attract venture capital and other investment. Such a thriving innovation culture can make Ireland and Europe an innovation leader rather than a follower - a creator of important technology, tackling today’s challenges, rather than being solely a provider of technology.

Ireland is ideally suited for the creation of such an innovation culture due to its size and flexibility when viewed as a testbed for solutions.

Ireland also has a tremendously diverse industrial base, such as food production, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, hardware and software platforms, manufacturing, cloud and financial services. Many of today’s global challenges require a cross industry, multi-disciplinary approach. Innovation is a team sport in which we can excel.

Recognising the importance of innovation, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, recently launched ‘Impact 2030: Ireland’s Research and Innovation Strategy’, the core purpose of which is to ensure that Ireland’s investment in research and innovation makes as big a difference as possible to as many people as possible.

Tyndall is a core part of Ireland and Europe’s strategic research infrastructure and is set to double in size over the next 5 years with a new 17,000m2, state-of-the-art research building on Cork’s Distillery Fields on the North Mall. This will allow the Institute to achieve important critical mass in terms of internationally recognized, impactful deep technology research, and make Tyndall, Cork and Ireland an attractive location for the best talent.

Tyndall has a crucial role to play as a focal point for this innovation culture, an institute where theory meets solutions, where academia meets industry with a multi-disciplinary approach, and where attracting the best postgraduate students results in a highly skilled workforce for industry, acting as a catalyst for research, innovation and solutions.

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