World-class research centre opens at University of Limerick

Investment of €86 million attracts leading scientists into UL’s Bernal Institute

Prof Don Barry:  Bernal Institute at UL is academia, government and industry all working together to create a “gamechanger”. Photograph: Sean Curtin Press 22
Prof Don Barry: Bernal Institute at UL is academia, government and industry all working together to create a “gamechanger”. Photograph: Sean Curtin Press 22

New drugs, better batteries and new materials are just a few of the discoveries expected to emerge from a €86 million investment in a new research institute at the University of Limerick.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was on hand on Monday to formally open the Bernal Institute, a huge multipurpose research space that will bring a number of existing institutes into a single location.

The Bernal Institute will provide the space but it will also have the personnel to advance Ireland’s research efforts.

The institute will house more than 260 researchers, including six world experts who already hold Bernal research chairs and who lead teams making discoveries in crystal engineering, fluid mechanics and microscopy among other disciplines.

These chairs between them have already attracted an additional €25 million in research funding and 70 companies have already formed partnerships with scientists who will be based at the institute.

Pharmaceuticals and materials

“The institute will ensure that Ireland stays at the cutting edge of research and innovation,” the Taoiseach said at the formal opening. Advances in pharmaceuticals, medicines and materials will help tackle great world challenges facing society, he said.

The Bernal Institute was a great example of academia, government and industry all working together to create a “gamechanger”, said UL president Prof Don Barry.

Funding for the institute has come from Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Higher Education Authority.

It is named for John Desmond Bernal, an influential scientist who was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. He was a pioneer in the use of X-ray crystallography to study structures in molecular biology.

University of Limerick appoints senior UCD academic as new president

Prof Des Fitzgerald’s appointment strong signal UL is seeking to move up in world rankings

Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease. Photograph: UL press office
Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease. Photograph: UL press office

Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease.

Prof Des Fitzgerald, a vice-president of UCD and of the country’s highest paid academics, is set to be appointed as the new president of University of Limerick.

The appointment sends a strong signal that UL is seeking to boost its research capacity and move up in world university rankings.

Prof Fitzgerald playing a central role in transforming UCD’s research performance and helped develop a range of international partnerships, in particular in the US and China.

Announcing the appointment on Thursday, UL’s chancellor Mr Justice John Murray said Prof Fitzgerald was a widely-respected scholar with an enviable international research reputation and experience in a number of highly-ranked universities.

“I know I speak for the governing authority and the broader UL community in stating how much we look forward to working with Prof Fitzgerald to build on UL’s fine foundations as we realise the institution’s vision and objectives for the future,” he said.

In a statement, Prof Fitzgerald said he was honoured to lead UL and looked forward to working with colleagues and partners to secure a strong national and international academic profile.

“UL has unique strengths, its staff, students, alumni and friends; its powerful local, national and international partnerships; its stunning campus and its excellent reputation,” he said.

“I want UL to establish and lead pioneering initiatives that will deliver real impact in a range of important areas that are critical to Ireland’s future and the future of the mid west.”

Prof Fitzgerald, a clinical academic, has earned wide-spread recognition for his research into platelets and thrombosis in coronary artery disease.

He joined UCD in 2004 after being head-hunted by the college’s then president Hugh Brady from a senior leadership role in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

In 2009 it emerged that he was Ireland’s highest paid academic, with a salary of €409,000 per year.

However, his salary fell to just over €260,000 following cost-cutting and pressure from outside the college to reduce his salary.