Pictured (l-r) at I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing at University College Dublin are; Professor Wim Meijer, UCD School of UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science; Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD; Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact and Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland. (Credit: Vincent Hoban).
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD has announced that two University College Dublin (UCD)-led projects are to receive funding under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) coordinated research and innovation response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects are respectively focused on 3D printing of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for frontline medical staff and measurement of SARS-CoV-2 levels at wastewater treatment plants.
The UCD projects are among 11 projects announced which between them are to receive a total investment of €1.4 million. This investment builds on previous funding and complements the existing research work underway in higher education institutions across the country.
I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing headquartered at UCD, has secured €126,071 in funding for a project entitled 3D printing PPE for healthcare settings. Professor Denis Dowling, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Professor Dermot Brabazon, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, DCU, are co-applicants for this project.
Within I-Form, the COVID-19 Rapid Response Digital Manufacturing and Innovation Hub will rapidly design, manufacture and deliver urgently needed PPE for frontline medical staff in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
The Hub will primarily focus on 3D printing of key PPE parts for wearable equipment, such as face protectors, and parts for environmental protectors, such as door openers and ventilator parts.
The project will provide much-needed PPE for hospitals and other healthcare settings, which will help to protect front-line workers and patients, which will in turn provide greater protection in healthcare settings for workers, patients and their families.
Professor Denis Dowling, Director, I-Form, said, “Since the start of the pandemic we have been working to support frontline staff, including the 3D printing of over 4,000 protective visors. This funding from SFI will be of enormous assistance in helping us to develop our use of 3D printing technology for PPE, including addressing improved part design, material and performance issues.”
Professor Dermot Brabazon, Deputy Director, I-Form, said, “The sudden escalation in the need for protective wearables from mid-March this year has led to many requests coming into us for support. This funding will enable not just the provision of these important supplies but will enable further improvement in the provision of more comfortable and protective PPE for frontline workers.”
Professor Wim Meijer, UCD School of UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science is leading a project entitled, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance of sewage and water bodies, which has secured €48,666 in funding.
This funding will enable the project team to measure levels of SARS-CoV-2 at wastewater treatment plants. This will provide insight into the prevalence of the virus in the community and serve as an early warning system for a new wave of infection. The project also aims to work out what happens to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in nearby bodies of water such as rivers, streams and sea, including the waters where we swim.
This SFI-funded research will benefit from the expertise of an existing EU Interreg-funded project at UCD called Acclimatize, which determines the levels and origins of faecal contamination in Dublin Bay.
Professor Wim Meijer said, “This SFI funded project for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage and bodies of water will provide critical information on the prevalence of the virus in the population, and on the fate of the virus in the environment.”
He added, “This project is a great example of collaboration between UCD Schools, which is one of the great strengths of the university, and it is combining expertise in microbiology, molecular biology, environmental biology, civil engineering and virology.”
Co-applicants in this project are; Dr Nicola Fletcher, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine; Professor John O’Sullivan, UCD School of Civil Engineering; and Dr Liam Reynolds, Dr Laura Sala Comorera, Niamh Martin MSc, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. Professor Meijer and Dr Fletcher are Fellows at the UCD Conway Institute.
Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Irish Water are collaborating on this project.
Speaking at the announcement, which took place at I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, at UCD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said, “I am delighted to announce this further investment in research and innovation related to COVID-19. These projects will address immediate priorities to assist us with the challenges we face as we seek to reopen our society and economy, and get the country running again.”
“Research and innovation from our higher education institutions, in collaboration with our health services and industry, can support us in delivering solutions to the many challenges the pandemic has thrown at us. Working together we can find solutions and move forward towards recovery.”
The Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme was established by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the Health Research Board and Irish Research Council. All of the projects funded have been internationally peer reviewed at the assessment stage. Further announcements will be made over the coming weeks as the reviews are completed.
Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “I would like to congratulate my UCD colleagues who have been successful in receiving funding today for their new COVID-19 research and innovation projects. A significant number of UCD researchers are continuing to deliver key research as part of our national effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment provided by SFI through this Rapid Response call is a critical mechanism for supporting them to carry out this vital research at this time.”
Further information on the other 9 funded projects is available via https://www.sfi.ie/research-news/news/covid19-research-ireland/.