Opening up international opportunities for Irish researchers
EU-funded project INSPIRE supported 50 experienced researchers from Ireland who undertook projects at universities across the globe, advancing both scientific knowledge and their careers.
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A group of Irish researchers working on topics as varied as lung cancer, osteoporosis and tropical cyclones were able to further their careers through the EU-funded project INSPIRE.
The project, which was co-funded by the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme, provided opportunities for 50 experienced researchers to pursue projects abroad in other EU countries, Australia, Japan or the United States for two years before returning to their Irish institution to transfer their skills. INSPIRE ended in January 2014.
“Before the INSPIRE programme was launched, there was no Irish funding scheme to support international mobility for experienced researchers. In addition, at that time, funding for reintegrating trained experienced researchers in Ireland was very limited, as the economic crisis and austerity measures were negatively affecting funding available for research,” says Peter Brown, director of the Irish Research Council and INSPIRE project coordinator.
From cancer diagnostics to predictive tools for cyclones
Ondrej Stranik, a researcher funded under the programme, developed innovative optical methods to detect biological molecules, allowing for the development of a sensitive biosensor.
Stranik’s technology was included in the LungCard project, which is developing new diagnostic tools for non-small cell lung carcinoma patients. LungCard hopes to improve lung cancer diagnostics and help limit cancer treatment with chemotherapy.
Another researcher, Priscilla Mooney, analysed the possible response of tropical cyclones to climate change with improved predictive tools. One question she tackled was whether there will be significant changes in the intensity and trajectory of tropical cyclones in particular, the hypothesis that the trajectory of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic will shift poleward in a warmer climate.
Using high-performance computers with faster processors and increased memory, Mooney improved the way regional climate models represent atmospheric and oceanic processes that are key to understanding the intensity and path of a tropical cyclone.
David Hoey, a third beneficiary, investigated the bone-density-loss disease osteoporosis. Every 30 seconds, a person suffers an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in the EU. This phenomenon results in significant morbidity and mortality, as well as healthcare costs estimated at EUR 36 billion per year. Treatment currently targets bone resorption, but it can cause severe side effects.
Hoey advanced understanding of how physical exercise can help bone formation. He developed novel engineering systems that allowed researchers to apply physical forces to cells and examine their response.
Today, most INSPIRE fellows have moved on to research positions and permanent academic positions in universities, and some have launched new companies.
“The Irish Research Council is proud of the success of our INSPIRE fellows and of the programme, which has left a significant, valuable and lasting imprint on the Irish research landscape,” says Brown.