Bernal Report 2021

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Bernal Report



PhD student, Alice Parkes and Dr Maryam Karimijafari, Process Engineering Cluster.

Doctoral and Master’s degrees awarded 29


European Research Council successes 24

Bernal publications pathways 40

2021 by the numbers 8

Funding highlights 34

Dr Ciarán CompositeMcHale,Materials Cluster

Welcome 4

Highlight events/visits 32


Notable achievements 30

Foreword from the Supervisory Board 2

Business development 37

Hosted centres in Bernal 28

Research clusters 10

Kieran Drain Chair, Supervisory Board, Bernal Institute



Foreword from the Supervisory Board

While we appreciate the efforts of the total Bernal team, we would like to recognise the Institute’s Leadership. Successful ascents require an experienced Sherpa, and we compliment the Director, General Manager, and leadership team for their success in driving the Institute forward keeping the strategic plan in focus and delivering such significant impacts. We would like to thank the operations team for continuing to deliver excellent support, allowing the Institute to progress in a safe world class

At the launch of Bernal Research day 2022, Minister Ossian Smith TD (5th from left) and SFI Director General Prof Philip Nolan (4th from right), UL President Prof Kerstin Mey (centre), UL Vice President for Research Prof Norelee Kennedy (3rd from right), Bernal Director Prof Luuk van der Wielen, (3rd from left) YES Bernal Chair Simin Arshi (extreme left) with Bernal members and members of the SDG working group.

In an ambitious Institute such as Bernal it is often only when we look back that we realise how far we have come. Looking back over the last year it is impressive what the Bernal community has achieved, and as an advisory board we congratulate the community on this Returningachievement.tocampus in a hybrid form with increasing on site presence we have witnessed resurgence in outputs across many of the Institute’s KPIs. The impressive growth in publication numbers, and specifically growth in high impact publications is a testimony to the quality of research being undertaken and executed. We see this as a critical metric to measure our journey’s progress to becoming a world class materials research Institute. It also fulfils our commitment to underpin the University’s core strategies and help build UL’s reputation as an internationally recognised research-led institution delivering excellent research with impact.

The International Quality Review was an important checkpoint for us, giving us a truly independent accounting of where we stand Internationally, highlighting our strengths and achievements and identifying opportunities where we can reach higher. Importantly these opportunities were not just defined for us as an Institute but also for us in partnership with the larger University. The review was very encouraging, and we were very pleased to see the recognition of the investment that continues to be made in talent development. The successes in ERC and SFI Pathway are testimony to the significant progress being made, as is the progression of staff taking on cluster and hosted centre leadership roles. Senior leadership play an important role in mentoring and as role models, most notably Mike Zaworotko achieving the incredibly impressive 100 h-index mark.

emerging national level plan “Shannon Scheme 2.0” presents a forum where Bernal can deliver tangible national impact, contributing solutions through materials science and engineering to tough energy and environmental challenges.

The engagement of the Institute with Industry is very positive, with high levels of transference of intellectual property. This is where Bernal can deliver both economic and follow-on societal impact. In this regard the participation of the Institute in the

we are optimistic about the future of the Institute. Leadership continues to correctly focus on responding to Global and thus National challenges in Climate, Energy and Health, where it is imperative that Bernal and researchers world-wide bring solutions to the serious issues we collectively face.

Bernal continues to be an important contributor in the Irish and European research ecosystem. 2021 was an important year for the Bernal hosted centre SSPC, with the centre passing its eight year International review and being recognised in the 2021 Irish Pharma Industry Awards.

Emerging from the pandemic and moving from the launch phase of Horizon Europe, Institute funding has made solid recovery and progress following the challenges of Covid and the intermediate wind down period of Horizon 2020.

development of the Institute’s multidisciplinary talent pool is evidenced by the impressive increase of scientific output, but certainly also by significant growth of the group of Early Career Researchers. Bernal Institute is seen by many as an attractive multidisciplinary work environment, combing scientific excellence, application and impact. It’s diversity is a challenge but it is also the only route forward to deliver on the Institute’s mission of developing disruptive technologies related to health, energy and the environment. Attracting and retaining the diverse group of Early Career Researchers holds large promise to the Institute’s future.


I’m delighted to present the second Report of our Bernal Institute, covering the achievements in 2021 and looking ahead to those in 2022. After the many challenges during the pandemic years 2020 and 2021, significant challenges related to climate, (regional) environment, materials scarcity and cost and security of energy, clean water and food have once more underlined that the strategic orientation of the Bernal Institute in 2018 to those was timely and

President, University of Limerick


Those achievements were recognised by the 2021 independent, international Quality Review Group. Their comprehensive commendations were encouraging and their recommendations provided helpful insights and guidelines for the further enhancement of the Institute. The maturing and success of the Bernal Institute makes a significant contribution to UL’s research leadership regionally, nationally and globally. I welcome especially the initiatives to further link and integrate research and teaching as exemplified in the UL Sustainability Challenge, that bridges research institutes, departments, faculties and even central support units. By stimulating cross-disciplinary, cross-functional and cross-sectoral sharing and engagement, the Bernal Institute has become a lasting positive contributor to the university ecosystem.

Foreword from the President of the University of Limerick

I thank the Director and the whole Bernal Team for their sustained commitment and effort and wish them every success in the challenging period ahead of us. I am certain that the staff of the Bernal Institute and its students will continue to develop much needed disruptive solutions to global challenges in health, energy and the environment.

I am delighted to see the Bernal Institute increasingly interact with external stakeholders: through individual research projects, as member and leader of national SFI and EI Centres as well as EU programmes but also through increased industry partnerships and by participation in key national taskforces and international innovation centres in and beyond Europe. These investments in the Institute’s emerging network are critical to advance the research community, to benchmark the organisation and generate new opportunities for ambitious collaborations. It will help the Institute to develop further as an internationally recognised player in structured materials research (strategic goal 1) and provide a conducive environment for its members to reach their full potential (strategic goal 2).

PhD candidates at the Faculty of Science and Engineering: Abinaya Sankaran, Mei Li, Antony Youssef, Kim Leah Shortall, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster, and Simin Arshi, Bio Materials Cluster

KPIs and performance

that Bernal achieved a record number of publications in AY2021 (337). This is an 11% increase from the previous record year (AY2020) and a 116% increase over the five years since the Institute’s formation (156). In terms of quality, there is a 71% increase in top decile publications over those five years and a 53% increase in 2020. The Institute’s publications represent a sizeable majority of Faculty of Science & Engineering’s total output.


• Publications

• Funding awards


The undoubted KPI highlight of the year was the doubling of the ERC awards in Bernal in 2021 (from two to four), the measure of prestige for all research institutes globally.

As an international Institute, Bernal is benchmarked against leading similar entities globally. Strict key performance indicators (KPIs) are measured against best in class and reported quarterly. The KPIs agreed by the external Bernal Supervisory Board are in the areas of:

• Commercial outputs

Funding in AY2021 of €9.7M is acceptable given international conditions (pandemic and interim-period Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe) and we see a ramp-up of this occurring already, with over €9M achieved in the first two quarters of AY2022 alone.

• European Research Council (ERC) applications and Dataawards.shows

The past year was an unprecedented time for Bernal, in which the long-awaited international quality review process for the Institute took place. This was an overwhelming success, in which our commitment to talent development through mentorship and investment was internationally recognised.

Bernal operations team members: Áine O’Neill, Tetiana Bondarenko, Bríd O’Brien May, Barbara McGrath and Rebecca Corbett.

• People (principal investigators and PhDs in supervision)

All commercial targets have been met or exceeded (licences, options, assignments, patent applications and patents granted), with the exception of spinout companies created. Confidence is high that this latter target will be met, as all other outputs in this area are strong and the post-pandemic landscape is more conducive to such activity.

PhDs in supervision remain consistent at 2.6 per principal investigator (PI). Bernal strives to increase this ratio to over 3.0 but the dearth of PhD funding programmes nationally and internationally, as well as the attractiveness of industry for graduates, mean that growing PhD numbers is a well-recognised challenge for universities globally. Bernal continues to work with all stakeholders nationally and locally in UL to address this.

• The highly professional, committed and effective Bernal leadership team.

International quality peer review

The QRG commends:

in Fig.1 (LHS) shows how the h-in dex distribution shifts from 2017 to 2022. The X-axis shows the h-index of the Bernal members in inter vals of 5 h-index units with the number of research ers with said h-index measured on the Y-axis. The data is measured periodically (6month or yearly). The diagram on the RHS shows the shift of the mean h-index year on year to be approximately two points (dH/dt= 1.6) leading to a remarkable 50–60 points for a 25–30 year academic career. This benchmarks very well internationally. Typical h-indices for ERC grant applications are indicated in the blue bars with the number of Bernal applicants since 2018 per category included.

The QRG was highly impressed with the development in research infrastructure and research culture at all levels since the inception of the Institute. This has very clearly led to significant improvements in the quality of research outputs and the ability to attract important national and, increasingly in the future, international funding.


In 2021, the first ever international quality peer review of the Bernal Institute took place. This was a resounding success, which vindicated the UL decision to invest significantly in Bernal, while also commending the Institute’s performance to date. There were also some recommendations for Bernal and UL to work together to further enhance the Institute’s success. Highlights from the quality review group (QRG) report are summarised as follows:

The year 2021 also represented a landmark, whereby Bernal’s commitment to talent development through mentorship and investment reaped rewards. The Institute’s early-career researchers won no less than two highly competitive and prestigious ERC Starting Grants. Four Bernal-based applicants were invited to the final interview stage. Bernal researchers were also awarded six Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Pathway Grants (personal funding and funding for a PhD studentship) and five postdoctoral fellowships – two by the European Commission (the highly prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship) and three by the Irish Research Council. This was in parallel with the continued success of our mid-career researchers and research leaders, especially in consolidating infrastructure and expanding translational research with our industry

This success was due to a cross-community effort by all stakeholders, within and external to Bernal, who engaged in the preparation and review process, as coordinated by the internal quality team.

Dr Sarah Markham, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster

Dr Jacky Sorrel Bouanga Boudiombo, PhD student Alice Parkes and Dr Maryam Karimijafari, Process Engineering Cluster

• The clearly articulated ambitious strategy of the Bernal Institute, which builds on its research strengths and is underpinned by appropriate quantitative KPI measures and risk management procedures

Talent development



Jon General Manager

0-5 5-10 10-15 15-20 20-25 25-30 30-35 35-40 45-50 >50 3/’17 (62) 9/’17 (61) 3/’18 (73) 5/’19 (66) 1/ ‘20 4/’224/’2110/’20(78)(63)(66)(66) 2017 (dH/dt=1.6/yr) ERC Starter (10) members Mar-17 ERC Consolidator(3) ERC Advanced (4) 20181614121086420 2426222018162022 Sep-17Mar-18 May-19 Jan-20Oct-20Apr-21Apr-22

Within the Limerick Digital Cancer Research Centre, Bernal’s aforementioned capabilities complement other UL strengths in data science (MACSI), software engineering (Lero) and smart manufacturing (Confirm). Together, these can build an innovative, digitally empowered, multidisciplinary framework for cancer Lookingresearch.towards

The 2020–22 pandemic also highlighted significant health challenges. As frontline hospitals fought the Covid-19 pandemic, cancer services were cancelled or postponed. The Bernal Institute is exploring how its core strengths (in structured materials research such as imaging, biomaterials design, modelling and manufacturing of (bio)pharmaceutical materials, and delivery devices) can contribute to such challenges.


Fig. 1 Bernal members development of h-index distribution (left panel) and its average (right panel) during 2017–2022, based on Scopus data


The future

Health, Energy and the Environment. In this report,

Looking beyond 2021, the strategic focus is firmly on grand challenges in health, energy and the environment and on achieving clear societal impacts with our (inter)national academic and industrial partners. The urgency of the climate challenge related to carbon emissions for vital Irish economic sectors (agro-food; materials and their circularity; and transport and housing/storage of people, data and goods) is becoming increasingly evident. ‘Towards a Circular Economy’ was selected as the theme for the 2022 Bernal Research Day, with a strong contribution by Minister of State, Ossian Smyth, who has specific responsibility in this area. Recognising the Atlantic offshore renewable energy potential at our (Shannon Estuary) doorstep, Bernal is significantly inspired by the Shannon Scheme (Ardnacrusha) of the 1920s and is committed to exploring contributions to an emerging national-level plan ‘Shannon Scheme 2.0’.

2022 and beyond, the strong, coherent and relevant Advanced Structured Materials (AStruM or ‘star’) agenda is now more relevant than ever. van der Wielen Director


Copper Silicide Fireworks by Rebecca Forde 2021 Bernal Institute Research Image of the Year

8 2021 by numbersthe 23 11 11 4 111 Top publicationsdecile applicationsPatentassignmentsLicences,disclosuresInventionoptions,Patentsgranted241 Top publicationsquartile 334 publicationsTotal Publications Commercial outputs

9 ERC Fundingawards€9.72M € 2.9M € 1.5M fundingIndustryfundingInternationalfundingTotal 25ERC applications

Cluster Lead: Professor Andreas M Grabrucker

• Dr Kieran McGourty explored the cellular mechanisms that control processes taking place in the brain to allow nerve cells to grow connections.

We have designed medical devices and developed and evaluated functional foods, nutraceuticals, drugs and drug delivery systems. Principal investigators and their teams in the Bio Materials Cluster are working in areas that aim to reduce the mortality of non-communicable and infectious diseases, increase reproductive health and reduce hunger worldwide.

Research clusters


2. United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: ‘We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.’ How will the cluster’s research activities protect the planet and the people for the future?

What was most important is that we continued to have research highlights while working during the pandemic. I congratulate all our researchers, in particular those who were in the labs daily, carrying out experiments. Not only did they adhere to the restrictions, but they also produced great results.

1. What were the research highlights of the cluster in 2021?

PhD students: Janelle Stanton and Adrian Hannon, Bio Materials Cluster

Bio Materials Cluster

The data generated in 2021 led to more than 100 scientific publications and several patents. Approximately one quarter of the publications were in journals that rank in the top 10% of their respective fields. This reflects the impact and quality of the cluster research activities.

• Dr Christophe Silien, Professor Tewfik Soulimane, Professor Damien Thompson and Professor Tofail Syed investigated piezoelectric effects in biological materials. This study raises the question of whether piezoelectricity might be important for fundamental physiological processes in cells.

Research in the Bio Materials Cluster is focused on developing devices and therapies to help maintain or restore good health and wellbeing. Emerging from a pandemic, I think we are more aware of the benefits of research and appreciate the impact diseases have on our lives and on society in general.

To summarise:

• Dr Eoghan Cunnane, a €1.5M ERC grant recipient, and Professor Michael Walsh published a study that will enable the fabrication of a biomimetic urethral scaffold, mimicking the mechanics, composition and structure of the native tissue.


With our academic partners across the globe, we contribute to research networks that explore the underlying mechanisms of diseases; together with our industry partners, we translate our research findings into real-life applications; and with our clinical partners, we follow our research outputs on their way to everyday clinical practice. For example, Professor Michael Walsh’s group improved the design of catheters to prevent accidental inflation of the catheter balloon inside the urethra. The improved catheter is now in use in hospitals in Europe and the United States. This approach allows us to have a reallife impact far beyond the borders of Ireland.

4. How is the cluster research connected to academia and industry in Ireland and internationally?

3. How will the work that the cluster is doing now impact society in ten or fifteen years?

Today, we lay the groundwork for novel therapeutics, nutraceuticals, medical devices, biomaterials, and tools for more personalised medicine approaches. We should not forget that it takes, on average, ten years for a new medicine to complete the journey from initial discovery to the marketplace. The research we do today in the Bio Materials Cluster will contribute significantly to advancements in tomorrow’s health and wellbeing. For example, based on years of research from the UL Department of Biological Sciences and the Bernal Institute, Dr Jakki Cooney and her team were granted a patent on a revolutionary medical device to treat sepsis.

The Bio Materials Cluster research groups work with more than 35 industry partners. Among these are: BD Biosciences, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Sanofi, Pfizer and Janssen. We also have strong ties to Irish companies such as Serosep, Curran Scientific and many more. This allows us to do research that spans ‘bench to bedside’.

Our research focuses on key areas such as mental health, cancer, cardiovascular health, inflammatory diseases, diabetes and pain disorders. This is important, given that cancer continues to be the second most common cause of death in Europe after heart disease. Globally, mental health conditions have seen a 13% rise in the last decade; almost 50 million couples experience infertility; and in 2020, approximately 750 million people faced hunger.

Not only are results important, but also the way we do research. In 2021, the Bernal Biolabs were the first labs at UL to be certified by My Green Lab® as part of the Green Lab Certification programme, considered the international gold standard in lab

sustainability. We optimise all our research protocols, considering energy usage and waste production. We hope that these processes will translate to other labs around the world, through our students and researchers carrying this green culture to new jobs and environments.

Professor Andreas Grabrucker and Dr Ann Katrin Sauer, Bio Materials Cluster

Case study

Dr Kieran McGourty’s team of biomedical engineers, cell biologists and clinical and industrial collaborators aim to utilise a multidisciplinary approach to characterise healthy and diseased tissue. At present, they are focused on the architecture of intestinal tissue. The team is currently mapping the cellular environment and behaviour. Ultimately, they want to use this understanding to create materials that mimic the natural environments of healthy or diseased tissue in platforms outside the body.


One of the team’s major research projects is a collaboration with BD Biosciences, which is focused on colorectal cancer, one of the leading causes of global mortality. However, therapeutic strategies to tackle this disease are hampered by a lack of understanding of the complex tumour structures.

In cancer, stem cells can be dormant or inactive, which means that they can hide from the immune system and be resistant to chemotherapy. As the drivers of cell dormancy remain unclear, understanding normal cell behaviour and how cells regulate normal tissue homeostasis and growth in intestinal tissue will provide clues to the signals that make cells dormant and potentially abnormal in cancer. An interesting but complex task is to look at the microenvironment surrounding cells and the environment in their vicinity, to understand what positional cues they are receiving.

Adrian Hannon, PhD student, Bio Materials and Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster

Can we develop sophisticated mimicking systems to study how tissue is made?

Tissue has a defined structure, with different cells arranged in different regions according to their function. An example would be where the barrier layer of the intestine, known as the epithelium, gets completely regenerated every five days. This process is the result of the activities of stem cells at the base of finger-like villi of the intestinal wall, a region known as the crypt.


The knowledge generated through these characterisation techniques will enable the team to design biomaterial scaffolds, to recreate healthy tissue and tumour models and to then further

Reference Sigita Malijauskaite, Sinéad Connolly, David Newport, Kieran McGourty (2021). Gradients in the in vivo intestinal stem cell compartment and their in vitro recapitulation in mimeticplatforms. Vol. 60, August 2021, Cytokine & Growth Factor Reviews.

In addition, through ongoing collaboration with BD Biosciences, the McGourty lab has developed novel applications for ‘lipid integrating cell labelling technology’. This is used to mark the location of dormant cells in tumours before doing full singlecell sequencing, in order to reach a huge number of target parameters simultaneously. Traditionally, it was not possible to retain positional information using single-cell sequencing approaches. These innovative approaches allow the biological processes active within a cell to be thoroughly evaluated, while also identifying where the cell is located.

Ongoing work in the McGourty group has identified signals (chemical and mechanical) from the tissue microenvironment that can drive adult stem cells to become dormant. Using complex imaging and ‘omics’ techniques, an ‘environmental landscape’ around the cells can be produced in both healthy intestine and tumour tissue. This approach identifies replicating or dormant cells and maps them back to their microenvironment to identify signals that drive these cell behaviours. Cutting-edge imaging technology at the Bernal Institute has allowed researchers to map cells and their environments, in both healthy tissue and in colorectal tumours removed from patients that underwent surgery at University Hospital Limerick under the care of Dr Colin Pierce and his team. Although this approach offers high throughput and great understanding of the positions of cells, it is limited in the number of targets that can be investigated simultaneously.

investigate cell behaviour in both healthy and diseased states, particularly stem-cell and cancer stem-cell behaviour from the intestine.

Employing state-of-the-art 3D bioprinting, and multicellular organoid techniques (a collection of cells that behave like complex tissue), the intricate structures of the intestine can be generated, e.g. villi of the intestine. Further, cells such as immune cells and cancer cells can be encapsulated in hydrogel bioinks and precisely positioned using novel 3D bioprinting approaches. In this way, the researcher can control the position and environment that a cell will experience, in order to investigate the causal links to cell behaviour. These models are used to recapitulate the healthy tissue and tumour microenvironments and assess cell dynamics in tissue generation, cancer tumour progression and treatment efficacy.

In cancer, stem cells can be dormant or inactive, which means that they can hide from the immune system and be resistant to chemotherapy

This study is published in Cytokine & Growth Factor Reviews. The authors are from the Bernal Institute, Department of Chemical Sciences and School of Engineering, UL.

1. United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: ‘We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.’ Has the pandemic changed the way the cluster works to protect the planet and the people for the future?

2. How will the work that the cluster is doing now impact society in ten or fifteen years?

Our focus has not changed, noting we have been working on such issues for a number of years. The cluster research agenda began in 2016 and is influenced by global warming and the requirement to reduce emissions, along with continuous advancements in digital technologies. Our work is of profound importance to the rapidly evolving lowcarbon global economy, so we could not lose pace during the pandemic.

4. Is there any barrier that you think hinders the cluster research activities? If so, can you suggest a solution?

We are developing new intellectual property in composites materials, manufacturing and design technology, which will help reduce the cost of energy for wind turbine blades and lead to cheaper, betterperforming aircraft (less fuel burn) and we do this in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way.

3. How is the cluster working to encourage more diversity, equity and inclusion in academia?

We do this by identifying and seeking potential researchers from non-conventional backgrounds. Making connections and ensuring continuous collaboration with universities from around the world helps us to address inequalities in education and support talent development. The Erasmus+ and International Credit Mobility programmes not only provide funding for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from around the world, they place a strong focus on social inclusion. These funding schemes stipulate that, in the case of an equivalent academic level, preference should be assigned to students from less advantaged socio-economic


to join our group at UL results in additional publications and more funding applications. I hope to further enhance our collaborative work with both EU and non-EU universities.

Progress has been made at UL to advance research. The solution to achieving our shared goal of being a world-leading university lies in championing this culture of continuous improvement, collaboration and partnership.

Composites Cluster

Cluster Lead: Professor Paul Weaver

Emma Tobin, PhD student, Composite Materials Cluster

We are developing new sustainable materials and designs for wind turbine blades, hydrogen storage vessels and cars of the future. Next-generation, highperformance composites will not only address the fuel emissions crisis, but will also be multifunctional and recyclable materials. Our researchers are producing bio-based carbon fibres from forestry residue, which will be used for developing highspecific stiffness and high-strength carbon fibre for sustainable structural applications. In doing so, it will replace non-sustainable, oil-based carbon fibre. Now we can exploit materials to make the best use of them for the future, to recycle and reuse them and reduce the materials footprint.


Cut-outs are ubiquitous in engineering structures and represent windows, access holes, slots and fastener holes for joining operations. They reduce material usage and, by doing so, increase sustainability both directly and also indirectly by reducing fuel costs in transportation structures. The presence of cutouts in composite structures currently results in stress or strain concentrations, leading to potential structural inefficiency and sustainability reductions. Steering continuous tows around cut-outs using advanced fibre-placement techniques is an emerging technology being pioneered at the Bernal Institute that can potentially alleviate such problems. Furthermore, continuous tow steering around cutouts eliminates the need for cutting tows, thereby precluding 3D stress concentrations, which could lead to premature material failure.


1 V Oliveri, G Zucco, M Rouhi, E Cosentino, T Young, R O’Higgins, PM Weaver (2021). Design of a unitized thermoplastic composite out-of-autoclave three-bay wingbox demonstrator. AIAA SciTech Forum, 0919.

Ongoing research within the Composites Cluster investigates the potential for continuous tow steering in aerospace and wind engineering. We will further discuss two examples of applications studied in 2021.

Enhanced sustainability and structural efficiency in composite structures containing access holes, fasteners and slotsstudyCase

3 A Bowen (2022). PhD Thesis, University of Limerick.


The second example explores the possibility of having fully folded flexible hinges in wind turbine blades to ease their transportation and installation. To facilitate the folding process of a flexible hinge embedded in an aerofoil section, Bowen designed two slotted cut-outs in its folding region (Bowen 2022).3 Then, to reduce large and localised stresses in the vicinity of the cut-outs, continuous tow steering was used to preclude otherwise necessary cutting of tows. Results show that approximately 10% weight can be saved, compared with conventional

Fig. 2 From let to right: (a) schematic picture of the static test of a wing box section with an elliptical cut out; (b) continuous tow-steered tows around the cut-out for each layer; (c) top view of the panel with continuous tow steering around the cut-out.

smaller than those obtained when using conventional composite laminates (Zucco et al. 2021).2 With the aim of providing experimental validation of our concept, this wingbox will be manufactured and experimentally tested in 2022.

The first example of using continuous tow steering around cut-outs concerns an elliptical access hole in an aircraft wingbox (Oliveri et al. 2021) in collaboration with Airbus UK (Fig. 2).1 Numerical results show that stresses and strains around the cut-out with continuous tow steering are around 30%


2 G Zucco, M Rouhi, V Oliveri, E Cosentino, R O’Higgins, PM Weaver (2021). Continuous Tow Steering Around an Elliptical Cutout in a Composite Panel. AIAA Journal 59(12), 5117–5129.

worth noting that traditional ways of reducing stresses and strains around cut-outs use additional reinforcements that considerably increase overall structural mass and complexity. However, our method avoids such problems. Overall, the impact on society is a reduced carbon footprint in transportation vehicles, especially aircraft, by using less fuel and fewer oil-derived materials, as well as reducing the cost of renewable energy in wind turbine blades.

Reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

Cluster Lead: Professor Gavin Walker

3. How will the work that the cluster is doing now impact society in ten or fifteen years?

Dr Ahmad Albadarin, Dr Rabah Mouras and I received SFI Covid Rapid Response funding for ‘Engineered Inhalable Antiviral-Composites for Pulmonary Delivery with Optimal Therapeutic Outcomes’ (project title), with Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland. The award enabled us to develop, optimise and test inhalable antiviral formulations, which were prepared using spray-drying and/or freeze-drying technologies at the Bernal Institute. In collaboration with the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Waterford Institute of Technology, the efficacy of these novel inhalable formulations for antiviral activity at the lung epithelium was assessed using in-vitro and ex-vivo approaches. Airway models were infected with an inactive virus to establish standard operation procedures and quantify the model

Advanced energy and carbon-storage/ conversionChemicalprocess synthesis and integration.

Kavanagh and I published ‘Inhaled hydroxychloroquine to improve efficacy and reduce harm in the treatment of COVID-19’, in collaboration with the School of Pharmacy, TCD and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Ireland and US. The same team had a subsequent paper published, ‘Investigating structural property relationships to enable repurposing of pharmaceuticals as zinc ionophores’.


Reduced time to market for new drugs

Research within the cluster has been strategically aligned to the UN Grand Challenges and, due to the pandemic, this focus has been further strengthened on research in specific areas within:

• Health. Good Health and Wellbeing, to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all, at all ages,Optimisedvia: biopharma processing

Solvent-free processing of advanced materials Multiphase, hybrid and bio-processing.

2. United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: ‘We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.’ Has the pandemic changed the way the cluster works to protect the planet and the people for the future?


Oisín Kavanagh, Anne Marie Healy, Francis Dayton, Shane Robinson, Niall J O’Reilly, Brian Mahoney, Aisling Arthur, Gavin Walker & John P Farragher (2020). Inhaled hydroxychloroquine to improve efficacy and reduce harm in the treatment of COVID-19. Medical Hypotheses, Oct; Oisin143:110110.Kavanagh, Robert Elmes, Finbarr O’Sullivan, John Farragher, Shane Robinson & Gavin Walker (2021). Investigating structural property relationships to enable repurposing of pharmaceuticals as zinc ionophores. Pharaceuticals, 13(12), 2032.

1. Did your researchers work on Covid-related issues?

The focus of the cluster is in areas of health, energy and environment, which are key to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Regarding the next ten or fifteen years, the main mechanism for funding the cluster’s research activity is through our nationally hosted centres within Bernal and UL, which are: SSPC, the SFI research centre for pharmaceuticals; CONFIRM, the SFI centre for smart manufacturing; the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing


• Energy. Affordable and Clean Energy, to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all via: Increasing substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Process Engineering Cluster

Improvements to food production industries to meet increased demand on food supply due to growing population.

• Environment and sustainability. To ensure responsible, sustainable consumption and production patterns via:

In all these programmes, societal impact is crucially important, in both the short term (typically 2–5 years) for EI programmes and longer term (10–15 years) for SFI and some low technology readiness level (TRL) EU programmes. It is important for an engineering cluster to concentrate on low TRLs (1–6) ranging from (1) basic principles observed and reported, through to (6) system/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment. This fundamental long-term research is instrumental for the cluster and for Bernal to have a lasting impact on society, both in Ireland and globally.

… we believe that celebrating and supporting our diverse community provides a solid foundation for success. Cultivating an environment that enables the advancement of complex scientific challenges through the range of perspectives, ideas and experiences of our diverse community, is key to our individual and collective success. We believe that everyone should feel free to bring their whole self to


Dr Nicolas Aramouni and Dr Jacky Sorrel Bouanga Boudiombo, Processs Engineering Cluster

4. How is the cluster working to encourage more diversity, equity and inclusion in academia?

has also been actively involved in securing the new SALI (Senior Academic Leadership Initiative) Chair in Bioprocess Engineering for the Bernal Institute and UL. The aim of SALI is to accelerate progress in achieving gender balance at the senior academic level in higher education institutions.


Technology Centre (PMTC), Enterprise Ireland (EI); and the Dairy Processing Technology Centre (DPTC), EI. From these national platforms, the cluster has leveraged significant SFI, EI and EU funding on a project basis.

The cluster is aligned to SFI, EI and Horizon Europe legislation on diversity, equity and inclusion. The mix of nationalities is immense, within both the faculty staff and research community, and is a reflection how Bernal, and specifically the cluster, attracts global talent. Throughout the cluster, we follow the SSPC mantra in that:


The Bernal Institute was successful in securing funding from Enterprise Ireland Capital Call 2020 to acquire a combined fluidised bed granulator and dryer to help Irish pharmaceutical and dairy industries advance. The total EI award (circa €500K) will assist the development for advanced control of the fluidised bed process, equipped with multiple process analytical tools (PAT) for monitoring and control. This equipment can reduce development times and costs and enhance understanding of the process, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. This is a unique capability in Ireland, where this infrastructure can contribute to an understanding of PAT improvements and process modelling for the fluidised bed coating, drying and granulation processes.

Industry need

Case study

Particle/granule coating, drying and granulation are processes that are complex to control in manufacturing sectors such as pharma, biopharma and dairy, where development costs and product waste are high. Low product yields (and, in the case of small molecule pharmaceuticals, to include the use of carbon-intensive solvents) have opened up opportunities for Industry 4.0 technologies to improve these issues. Thus, (bio)pharmaceutical and dairy processing companies are actively looking for opportunities and appropriate infrastructures to help optimise production capability. Understanding how PAT-enabled technologies can be utilised to benefit production processes is an immediate industry need. Combining PAT with software for process visualisation and control can allow for inline and instant data recovery of the process, where models can be utilised for process control. This equipment and technology will help Irish-based (bio)pharma, dairy and biotech manufacturing to better utilise and understand PAT potential and maximise production efficiency and product yield.

Dr Sowmiya Krishnaraj, Process Engineering Cluster


Impact on research activities


Dr Valeria Nico, Process Engineering

The new equipment and personnel will help Bernal- and UL-hosted national centres (PMTC, SSPC, DPTC, CONFIRM) expand the scope of research, where previous lack of infrastructure presented limitations. The use of a fluidised bed system enables smaller-scale development for industry, with a focus on the benefits of PAT and improved process control via Industry 4.0 technologies. The integrated PAT includes a near infrared spectrometer and particle sizer, which are both capable of providing inline, real-time process measurement. Fitted with a process control software system, this offers a powerful low-code/no-code environment for PAT-driven process automation and control, along with an Industry 4.0 experience of cloud-based data analytics and visualisation. Our goals are to maximise the impact of our research, which enhances our industrial engagement, and to broaden the reach of Bernal through PMTC/SSPC/DPTC/CONFIRM. The new equipment will strengthen the Institute’s infrastructure and allow for new collaborations with industry in the pharmaceutical, food and biotechnology areas, which are critical to Ireland’s economic growth.


Dr Patrick Cronin and Dr Jacky Sorrel Bouanga Boudiombo in one of the purpose-built Process Engineering labs at the Bernal Institute

2. United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: ‘We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.’ Has the pandemic changed the way the cluster works to protect the planet and the people for the future?

Cluster Lead: Professor Kevin M Ryan

Most of the pandemic-related projects were in the health and biomaterials space, sometimes involving other clusters. However, we had a number of activities relevant to the pandemic across many levels, from final-year projects (e.g. looking at the rate of environmental degradation of Covid masks) to higher-level research (e.g. on antibacterial and antiviral materials for surfaces).

1. Did your researchers work on Covid-related issues?


The Mol-Nano cluster is working across a wide range of projects, with applications ranging from nextgeneration batteries, piezoelectrics, photovoltaic materials, water harvesting, industrial chemical separation, bioelectrochemistry and next-generation molecular-based electronics. Progress in these areas at Bernal is made possible by our unique capabilities to design new materials, synthesise them in the lab, characterise them at the nanoscale and apply them in technological devices at the frontiers of science and engineering. Each of these projects is pushing the boundaries of what is possible with materials, by controlling their molecular and nanoscale properties to allow capability significantly beyond what is possible with existing materials.

Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster

3. How will the work that the cluster is doing now impact society in ten or fifteen years?

The recovery has brought about an acceptance of everyone’s individual responsibility to contribute to this challenge.

I think one outcome of the pandemic and of homeworking is that the general public have become more conscious of energy issues, in terms of their home environment and fuel costs for commutes. This can help translate to a greater uptake in more environmentally friendly technologies such as solar generation, electric vehicles (EVs) and vehicle-to-grid technologies that allow EVs to not only charge from the grid but also supply power back to the network.

4. How is the cluster working to encourage more diversity, equity and inclusion in academia?

• Professor Micheál Scanlon and his team are working on electrochemistry.

The cluster is working hand in hand with the Bernal Institute and UL to put measures in place to fulfil the principles of Athena SWAN and diversity, to include our work activities, researchers, students and external partners.

• Professor Damien Thompson and his group have developed a way to make complex computing functions with molecules that were previously only possible with semiconductor devices. As the computing power of microchips reaches their limit due to scaling limitations, the ability to make advanced-logic devices using these molecular memristors can allow the continued increase of computing power into the next decades.

A lot of our members are part of Athena SWAN initiatives in their departments. Athena SWAN awards are granted in recognition of the positive impact of actions that a department or institute has undertaken to achieve gender equality among staff and students in higher education. The Physics Department at UL, for example, is one of the only departments in the country with a silver award and the Chemical Sciences Department has a bronze award.

This is a snapshot of only some of the activities of the 19 principal investigators in the cluster. All of the cluster research activities will impact the technologies of the future to drive economic growth, while meeting a large number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in terms of transport, sustainable energy storage and generation, clean water and climate action, and industry innovation of nextgeneration computing.

Some examples:

• In my own work and with collaborators, Dr Tadhg Kennedy and Dr Hugh Geaney, we have developed methods to increase the energy density in lithiumion batteries using nanoscale materials. Over the next decades, this can allow EVs that charge in seconds, with ranges that are comparable with internal combustion engines and at a lower cost.

• Dr Ning Liu and her team are working on optoelectronics of nanocrystals that will allow new materials to either harness light for photovoltaic storage or emit light for beyond state-of-the-art displays or use light instead of electrons for all optical integrated circuits.

Dr Xiang-Jing Kong, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster


• Professor Uschi Bangert’s work on metalferroelectric super crystals with periodically curved metallic layers can lead to new materials, where properties can be controlled by electric fields.

• Dr Shalini Singh and her group are focused on synthesis of nanocrystals and their functionalisation.

High mass loading silicon nanowire anodes for nextgeneration li-ion batteries

Silicon (Si) has emerged as the most promising anode material for next-generation lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) as it offers a tenfold theoretical increase in lithium storage capacity over conventional graphite-based anodes. Si also exhibits multiple advantages such as huge natural abundance, relative low-cost environmental friendliness and low working voltage. However, the application of Si as an anode material is challenging, because it expands approximately 300% during battery cycling, resulting in pulverisation of the material and a low number of charge/discharge cycles. Si in a nanowire (NW) morphology promises better performance, as its one-dimensional nanostructure can accommodate the mechanical stress and large strains that occur during operation without pulverisation.

The main challenge associated with real-world prospects of Si NWs is the low areal mass loadings achievable using conventional current collectors. The Bernal nanomaterials research team, led by Professor Kevin M Ryan and Dr Tadhg Kennedy and funded by the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine (MaREI), have overcome this issue by swapping the planar current collector with a highly conductive, interwoven stainlesssteel fibre cloth (SSFC). The project involves the utilisation of the mechanically robust interwoven SSFC as a flexible substrate to directly grow a dense loading of Si NWs. This anode exhibits key practical properties required for the next generation of LIBs for portable electronic devices and electric vehicles such as a high mass loading of Si, high capacity and a long cycle life. The team demonstrated a laboratory scale test that delivers a



stable performance over 500 charge and discharge cycles. Further, post-mortem analysis of the anodes after extended cycling by advanced electron microscopy shows a complete restructuring of the Si NWs into a porous network that is mechanically robust and highly stable. More importantly, these Si NWs on SSFC can be readily scaled up without compromising the structural integrity of the anode, which is highly desirable for practical batteries. This represents exciting progress for the realisation of high mass-loading Si NWs anode for nextgeneration high-capacity LIBs.

Reference Sumair Imtiaz, Ibrahim Saana Aminu, Dylan Storan, Nilotpal Kapuria, Hugh Geaney, Tadhg Kennedy, Kevin M Ryan (2021). Dense Silicon Nanowire Networks Grown on a Stainless-Steel F iber Cloth: A Flexible and Robust Anode for Lithium-Ion Batteries. Advanced Materials, December 29, 2021.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, Dr Marina Moraes Leite, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster

This work is published in the high-impact journal Advanced Materials and has attracted significant national and international attention. The authors are from the Bernal Institute and Department of Chemical Sciences, UL.

Fig. 3 Schematic illustration of the synthesis procedure of Sn-seeded Si nanowire networks on a flexible stainless steel fibre cloth. The insets show the corresponding magnified SEM images of the plain stainless-steel fibre cloth, the stainless-steel fibre cloth with a coating of 25 nm of tin (Sn,), and the Si nanowire networks grown at 460°C.



Bernal affiliated researchers, Dr Eoghan Cunnane and Dr Sarah Guerin, were awarded the highly prestigious ERC Starting Grant, worth €1.5M each, to carry out two ground-breaking projects looking at male infertility and energy-efficient electronics respectively. Dr Cunnane’s project is RE3MODEL (Representative, Reliable and Reproducible In Vitro Models of the Human Testes), aimed at developing in

vitro models of the human testes. Dr Guerin’s project is Pb-FREE (Piezoelectric Biomolecules for Lead-free, Reliable, Eco-Friendly Electronics). Two other Bernal affiliated researchers, Dr Shalini Singh and Dr Micheál Scanlon, also submitted applications for ERC awards and were invited to stage 2 screening interviews. This represents an important signal of growth in Bernal’s research performance and reputation.


Sean Kelly, Member of the European Parliament and Professor Luuk van der Wielen

4. What advice can you offer other early researchers?

The research I am coordinating involves understanding how the cells and tissues of the testicles interact and how to accurately represent these interactions outside of the body in a preclinical model. The model will then be used to help develop treatments for male infertility prior to clinical trials.

Preserving the ability of willing couples to conceive and combatting the incidence of infertility (which current ly affects 15–20% of couples, with male factor infertility responsible in 50% of cases) is an essential goal in maintaining the wellbeing of our society and economy. However, we are currently falling short of this goal, as human sperm concentration has dropped by over 50% since records began in the 1970s. If this trend con tinues, sperm concentrations may drop below the fertility threshold by the end of this century. Identification of effective male infertility treatments is therefore an essential research priority and requires an appropriate preclinical model of the sperm-producing testes to evaluate treatment choice, dosage and duration.

5. What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your career to date?

Interview with Dr Eoghan Cunnane


Dr Eoghan Cunnane received his PhD from UL in 2015 under the supervision of Professor Michael Walsh. He was subsequently awarded a Marie Curie Global Fellowship to transition his expertise from tissue charac terisation to tissue engineering and modelling at the University of Pittsburgh (US) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He was then awarded a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Fellow ship to characterise cancerous tissue at Imperial College London. Dr Cunnane is also the co-founder of startup company, Class Medical, developed out of UL to commercialise a patented device that improves urinary catheter safety.

2. In your opinion, why do you think the man or woman on the street should care about this field of research?

Writing a large grant requires a lot of time and effort, but the writing becomes easier when your ideas are more developed. So set aside time to generate and develop your ideas – whether it’s reading relevant liter ature, writing down ideas or discussing ideas with whoever will listen. I have a file in my phone where I’ve written down a lot of mostly terrible ideas. But the concept that allowed me to write an ERC grant application is in there too. Seek feedback on your proposals early, even if you are embarrassed by the contents. It will help you to focus and give you a deadline to work towards.

I was very intimidated by the literature when I began my PhD. The most important lesson I learned is to not be intimidated by what’s been done before you. Be inspired by it. If something that you consider incredible can be done in another lab by another researcher, then you can achieve something incredible too. Let it inspire you to be more informed, to understand and learn different techniques and to talk to more people.

3. What surprised you the most about your journey to winning the ERC funding award?

What surprised me most was that by the end of the writing process I had developed my ideas to the point where they could be tested experimentally by a team of researchers. So, regardless of the award outcome, I was ready to build a career in academic research, based on the ideas contained in the proposal.

1. Exactly what is your research all about?

Billions of piezoelectric sensors are produced every year, improving the efficiency of many current and emerging technologies. By interconverting electrical and mechanical energy they enable medical device, infrastructure, automotive and aerospace industries, but with a huge environmental cost. The majority of piezoelectric sensors contain lead zirconium titanate (PZT), the fabrication of which requires toxic lead oxide. Prominent lead-free alternatives are heavily processed and rely on expensive, non-renewable materials such as niobium. Biological materials such as amino acids and peptides have emerged as exciting new piezoelectrics. Biomolecular crystal assemblies can be grown at room temperature with no by-products, and do not require an external electric field to induce piezoelectricity, unlike PZT

Interview with Dr Sarah Guerin

1. Exactly what is your research all about?

and other piezoceramics. Currently, no research focuses on developing these crystals as reliable, solid-state sensors to integrate into conventional electronic devices, due to their high water solubility, uncontrolled growth, variable piezoelectric response and difficulty in making electrical contact. My project, Pb-FREE, will take on the ground-breaking challenge of developing biomolecular crystals as organic, low-cost, high-performance sensors, to outperform and phase-out inorganic device components with dramatically reduced environmental impact.

Dr Sarah Guerin is the PI of the newly established Actuate Lab in the Department of Physics and Bernal Institute. She currently works on both insilico and ex-silico engineering of biomolecular crystals, primarily for application areas in eco-friendly sensing and pharmaceuticals. Dr Guerin has been successful in securing €2M in funding from national and international sources for the development of organic piezoelectric device components. She currently works with a large number of international research groups as a world leader in computationally predicting the electromechanical properties of novel molecular crystals. She has been awarded the British Association of Crystal Growth Young Scientist of the Year Award and the IEEE Dilis Das Gupta Memorial Award.

2. In your opinion, why do you think the man or woman on the street should care about this field of research?


So many reasons! Firstly, I think everyone should care about research that is reducing environmental damage and removing lead from our everyday lives. There have been such big movements to get rid of lead paint and lead pipes, for example. I think this is one of the final frontiers for eradicating lead from public consumption. We are in the climate crisis and we need to be adamantly excited about adapting the way we consume to save the planet. Secondly, this research has a lot of potential medical device applications that can make procedures and equipment cheaper and less invasive for patients. Finally, I think Ireland is primed to become the world leader in producing these eco-friendly sensors, as the same materials are produced in our pharma companies. I think in five years’ time, we could see a lot of jobs created in Ireland in green piezoelectric technologies.

PhD students Harsh Barua, Bio Materials and Raju Lipin, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster

By far the most important for me has been realising that you are your most important resource. If you take care of yourself, everything else will follow. Value your physical and mental health. This includes things like knowing when to ask for help! You don’t need to know everything right away. And always be honest, refuse to play other people’s games. Life’s too short to not be who you are. You are a better scientist, mentor and collaborator, and a happier person, if you are supporting your own needs first. Put on your own oxygen mask before attending to others!

OK, in no particular order. Go towards the people and the jobs in life that make you smile and laugh – follow your own joy. You can be a successful and passionate scientist while working 9 to 5. Work in the ways that make you productive, whatever that looks like. There’s no competition in science, only collaborators. Open science is the future – talk about your research, share it, replicate it, make it available to everyone. Once you have found your feet, find ways to make opportunities for others. If you’re failing, then you are trying. There are no stupid questions; there is no idea that should not be said out loud or at least written on a post-it for future thought! Science gets done – focus on creating an environment that makes people fulfilled and happy to be doing challenging and innovative research.

3. What surprised you the most about your journey to winning the ERC funding award?

5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?

Science-wise, the environmental damage being done by current commercial sensor materials! When I started writing the grant application, I assumed that lead-free alternatives would be better for human health and the environment and that the goals of my research would be outperforming those materials at the technology level, i.e. by developing a material that was cheaper and more efficient and that could be used inside the human body. Then I did the research and discovered that they are worse than PZT and we need to dramatically accelerate the uptake of biomolecular crystal technologies! It really surprised me how people could move from one destructive technology to another, just to get around EU regulations on the technicality of ‘lead-free’. Life-wise, what surprised me was how supportive everyone was of just trying to write an ERC grant application, whether it was successful or not. The number of people who took substantial time out of their lives to read drafts, give advice, distract me when needed, take other work off my plate, listen to my presentation, come up with mock questions, make cups of tea … it really blew me away and made me realise how important a good network of friends and colleagues can be. This was especially crucial as I was writing my proposal during our harshest Covid lockdowns, so I didn’t get any opportunities to bounce ideas off people face to face. It was a good surprise, or at least a reminder, to see how much science is done socially day to day.


YESBernal members Mei Li, Dr Simin Arshi and Kim Leah Shortall

4. What advice can you offer other early researchers?

New to DPTC Phase 2 are the Sustainable Innovation Forum, which aims to identify zero and net zero carbon solutions without impacting on commercial growth, and the Emerging Contaminants Forum, which aims to share knowledge and facilitate aligned responses regarding contaminants to regulatory authorities, customers and auditors. A Memorandum of Understanding, signed in Q3 2021 with SFIfunded research Centre Vistamilk, further shows our partners commitment to sustainable dairy production, and enables both Centres to exploit synergies and establish linkages between milk production and processability.


SSPC’s commercial activity has given rise to six licence agreements and one patent awarded. The centre’s industry in-kind contribution has doubled and SSPC supported 22 international projects. SSPC achieved NE:NC (Non-exchequer, non-commercial) funding of €2.5M and secured a prestigious ERC grant. Two new industry members from outside of Ireland joined the centre: Technobis (UK) and the Merck Group (Germany). A total of 241 activities were completed under the Education and Public Engage ment umbrella, delivering significant societal impact across Ireland.

SSPC has had a vibrant and successful 2021. The centre was awarded Pharma Research Centre of the Year for 2021 by the Pharma Industry Awards, along with Innovation of the Year for our CM-Nano tech nology. SSPC secured a project with collaboration from five of the world’s leading BioPharma companies – Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Bristol Myers Squibb and MSD – to address global protein A resin shortage.

The centre’s eight-year review also took place, with the international review panel noting SSPC’s ‘pivotal role’ in the academic research engagement that con nects to a large number of pharmaceutical companies involved in drug manufacturing in Ireland.

The €34m Dairy Processing Technology Centre (Phase 2) was officially launched in October 2021 by An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue. The re-commitment and investment by the Irish Government and dairy processing industry demonstrates the exceptional value derived from the highly-successful DPTC 1. The ambitious Phase 2 research programme, headed by newly-appointed Centre Director Dr Anne Marie Henihan, will advance the future of sustainable dairy processing to the advantage of our industry and academic partners nationally and globally, whilst contributing heavily to Ireland’s Climate Action Plan.

Hosted centres in Bernal

The PMTC operates a collaborate research model that aims to provide advanced technology solutions to address the needs of the pharmaceutical manufac turing

from PMTC in 2021 include the successful translation of research outputs to indus try. One such highlight was the translation of a plant cleaning methodology, which delivered significant impact when deployed across some of the world’s largest pharma manufacturing companies. This re duced cleaning changeovers by an estimated 10% per annum and solvent usage by 40%, thus allowing for faster changeover times.

Dairy Processing Technology Centre DPTC


In 2021, PMTC competitively won €1.5M in funding. This included three Enterprise Ireland capital equip ment grants totalling over €790K (for the procure ment of an ATEX-rated clean-in-place rig, a Hybrid Raman analyser and a Fluid Bed system), over €400K in Innovation Partnership programmes and two Ca reer-FIT fellowships totalling €500K.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technology Centre (PMTC)

SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals (SSPC)

PMTC’s recent focus on acquiring digitally enabled pharmaceutical equipment and on translating re search outputs to industry are prime examples of how the centre aims to provide a risk-free environment for process troubleshooting and improvement, while us ing its capabilities to advance understanding of how advanced process controls can be applied.

Doctoral degrees 1. Maria Alhajji (Robert Lynch) 2. Anne Beaucamp (Maurice Collins) 3. Sharon Bolanta (Emmet O’Reilly) 4. Marian Carroll (Jeff Punch, Eric Dalton JS) 5. Miriama Ceresnakova (Sarah Hudson, Tewfik Soulimane JS) 6. Gearóid Clancy (Paul Weaver, Ronan O’Higgins JS) 7. James Clare (Kyriakos Kourousis) 8. Sinead Connolly (David Newport, Kieran McGourty JS) 9. Shahrzad Daghighi Masouleh (Paul Weaver) 10. Olga Doeva (Paul Weaver) 11. Eimear Donnellan (Sean Fair) 12. Michele Dully (Tewfik Soulimane, Sarah Hudson JS) 13. James Flynn (Sarah Hudson) 14. Luke Guinane (Tofail Syed, Ehtsham Ul Haq JS) 15. Jazib Hassan (Michael McCarthy, Ronan O’Higgins JS, Conor McCarthy JS) 16. Maryam Karimijafari (Gavin Walker, Denise Croker JS) 17. Naveen Kumar (Michael Zaworotko) 18. James Lynch (Michael Walsh) 19. Sean Lynn (Sean Moore, David Tanner JS) 20. Oguzhan Maraba (Damien Thompson) 21. Joseph Mooney (Vanessa Egan, Jeff Punch JS) 22. Fiona McGrath (Kevin M Ryan) 23. Ciarán McHale (Paul Weaver) 24. Hannah McTague (Åke Rasmuson) 25. Joanne Nolan (Patrick Kiely, Colum Dunne JS) 26. David O’Connor (Posthumously) (Michael Walsh, Marco Franzoni JS) 27. Joseph O’Donnell (Tofail Syed, Tewfik Soulimane JS, Christophe Silien JS, Damien Thompson JS) 28. Laura Parreno (Sean Fair) 29. Karthik Ramaswamy (Conor McCarthy, Michael McCarthy JS, Ronan O’Higgins JS) 30. Sally Ryan (Sarah Hudson, Tewfik Soulimane JS) 31. Sudharsan Srinivasan (Harry van den Akker, Orest Shardt JS) 32. Michal Strozyk (Maurice Collins, Mario Culebras Rubio JS) 33. Darragh Walsh (John Mulvihill, David Newport JS) 34. Fernanda Zamboni (Maurice Collins) Masters degrees 1. Oliver Fitzsimons (Ronan Courtney) 2. Donal Moran (Alexandros Tsoupras) 3. Ashu Panwar (Gavin Walker) 4. Patrick Taaffe (Sean Fair, Pat Lonergan JS) Names in bold – Bernal member and supervisor JS – Joint supervisor Doctoral and Master’s degrees awarded

Dr Joseph Mooney, Process Engineering Cluster with UL Mace Bearer John O’Neill and UL President Professor Kerstin Mey Donnellan,

Bio Materials Cluster 29

Dr Eimear

Professor Mike Zaworotko


Professor Mike Zaworotko, Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering, achieved an h-index of 100 on Google Scholar, a phenomenal accomplishment by any researcher. Professor Zaworotko’s career has taken him across the globe, building significant research groups and mentoring others in both North America and Ireland, as well as establishing strong collaborations in China and elsewhere. In addition to the h-index achievement, his research publications surpassed 50,000 citations during June 2021. He has been listed by Silicon Republic as one of the 12 people changing the world of life sciences.

Congratulations to: Uschi Bangert, Christophe Silien, George Barreto, Vivek Ranade, Maurice Collins,

In April 2022, Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Director of the Bernal Institute, was appointed to a national level taskforce for sustainable development of the Shannon Estuary and MidWest of Ireland. The Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce will assess the strategic strengths and comparative advantages of the Shannon Estuary and scope out potential economic opportunities for the area. The group will produce a report, specifying the actions that can be taken to create jobs and secure investment along the estuary and in its vicinity. It will report by the end of November 2022.

In terms of SFI individual funding, 2021/22 has been a very successful year for Bernal Researchers and some of our early-career PIs in particular. This success includes the following awards: SFI Frontiers (4), SFI Infrastructures (3), SFI Career Pathways (5) and SFI Industry RD&I (3).

Mariana Hugo Silva, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD Student, was among the 611 young scientists from 91 countries invited to the 71st Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in June 2022. Due to the pandemic, many of these young scientists had to wait more than two years for the forum, including Marie Curie Fellow, Dr Ibrahim Saana Aminu. Mariana is working with Dr Sarah Hudson’s team on an SFI-funded project to develop long-acting drug formulations that achieve extended-release dosage to fight diseases. Ibrahim is working with Professor Kevin M Ryan on a Horizon 2020 (H2020) Marie Curie project to develop advanced rechargeable aluminium-ion batteries, using all low-cost and sustainable components.

Kevin M Ryan, Luis Padrela, Jennifer Cookman, David Madden, David McNulty, Soumya Mukherjee, Valeria Nico, Nanasaheb Thorat, Ibraham Amiinu, Meichandran Balasubramaniam and Ahmad Ziaee. Combined, these awards represent over €6M in research funding.

The Bernal Institute Biolabs were the first labs at UL to be certified by My Green Lab® as part of the Green Lab Certification programme, considered the international gold standard in lab sustainability. The university is committed to the development and implementation of a holistic approach to sustainable development. In line with this, the Biolabs have evaluated opportunities for energy and water savings, as well as chemical and waste reduction. Championed by a coalition of scientists, facility managers and a safety professional, Bernal BioLabs members are pursuing sustainability through the adoption of ‘Green Labs’ practices. In July 2021, the team were awarded the Platinum level ‘Green’ certificate, with the second highest score ever achieved in the programme. They have joined a network of hundreds of certified Green Labs all over the world.


Professor Daniel Granato

Professor Daniel Granato was listed on the 2021 Clarivate top 1000 most highly cited researchers globally, which is an outstanding achievement. The Highly Cited Researchers™ list identifies global research scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated exceptional influence, as reflected through their publication of multiple papers frequently cited by their peers during the last decade.

Dr William Cheuquepan Valenzuela will join Dr Micheál Scanlon to develop a novel, disruptive and sustainable approach to photoelectrocatalytic carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction. The aim is to achieve an unprecedented control of the degree of CO2 photoreduction to high-value hydrocarbons in a biphasic system. These three researchers are funded as part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships

Eight Bernal PIs were nominated for the Teaching Hero Awards, which are Ireland’s only national, student-led awards for those who are teaching in higher education. They provide an opportunity for students across the country to recognise and celebrate outstanding teaching in higher education institutions. The Bernal nominees were: Dr Andreas Grabrucker, Dr David Tanner, Dr Hugh Geaney, Dr Robert Lynch, Dr Sarah Hudson, Dr Shalini Singh, Dr Teresa Curtin and Dr Walter Stanley. In addition, Dr Shalini Singh was the winner of the university’s Teaching Excellence Award (individual), which recognises outstanding contributions to teaching and student learning.

Dr Gearóid Clancy

The Institute is hosting five new Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowships in 2022. Dr Alison O’Connor is working with Professor Noel O’Dowd to research how the operational lifetime of critical infrastructure can be improved through artificial intelligence. Dr Julia Alvarez-Malmagro is working with Professors Edmond Magner and Vivek Ranade to develop new ways for the continuous production of pharmaceutical materials via targeted and selective immobilisation of biocatalysts (using electrochemical approaches) in modular 3D-printed flow reactors.

Bernal PhD researcher, Aileen Bowen Perez, won the 2021 Lockheed Martin Student Paper Award in Structures at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum, the world’s largest event for aerospace research, development and technology. Aileen’s co-authors on the paper, ‘Folding of Flexible Hinges for Aircraft Wingtips and Wind Turbine Blades’, were Dr Giovanni Zucco and Professor Paul Weaver.

Dr Valeria Nico

Dr Ibrahim Saana Aminu

Janelle Stanton and Adrian Hannon

Dr Alison O’Connor

Gearóid Clancy won the JEC Composites Challenge 2021 during the JEC Composites Connect Event in June 2021. Composites Challenge is a competition between PhD students, sourced and selected for their research in the field of composites. His presentation focused on a process that he designed and tested, which can change the width (spread) of carbon fibre prepreg tapes as they are laid into position, thus eliminating a major problem with manufacturing complex components such as aircraft noses and engine casings. This novel manufacturing method will enable the production of components that are more structurally efficient (i.e. lighter but not weaker), leading to a reduction in carbon emissions and increasing the distance an aircraft can fly without refuelling.

Dr Aileen Bowen Perez

Additionally,programme.DrAislingRoss and Dr Joseph Mooney were awarded the highly prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr Ross will spend two years of her fellowship at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, University of Melbourne, working on the contribution of the Epstein-Barr virus and the tumour microenvironment to anti-apoptotic mechanisms in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Dr Mooney will research passive, carbon-neutral, clean-water technologies for tackling the ever-increasing global water crisis. He will work for two years with Professor Evelyn N Wang at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Dr David McNulty

Dr Maurice N Collins and Dr Matthias Vandichel were each elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC). This is a very prestigious award, based on an outstanding contribution to science over five years of distinguished leadership.


In( with Sustainable Flight Solutions, the Bernal Institute hosted a two-day workshop on 23–̵24 September 2021 to design a framework to decarbonise Irish aviation, with the aim of issuing a report to policymakers. Aviation is at a crossroads; its future must be environmentally sustainable to ensure continued operation and growth. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will play an important part in the future development of the industry. Currently, there is no SAF industry in Ireland; neither is there a roadmap to start one. The commercial and economic threat of doing nothing is real. Delegates from major airlines operating in Ireland, the main airports, aviation and national authorities, political parties, aviation fuel traders and manufacturers, as well as three universities with leading aviation-linked research and education programmes (Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin and UL) attended the workshop. Discussions with aviation stakeholders, industry experts and Bernal researchers centred around

creating the sustainable aviation fuel roadmap are

On 14 January 2021, the Bernal Institute hosted its first virtual Research Day, ‘AStruM 2021: Advanced Structured Materials’, addressing UN Sustainable Development Goals in health, energy and the environment. The event featured many high-profile international speakers and was live-streamed to audiences in Europe, China and the United States. Live-streaming due to Covid-19 led to significant pick-up, with over 15,000 individuals attending. On 26 April 2022, the Institute hosted its second Research Day, ‘AStruM 2022: Advanced Structured Materials –Towards a Circular Economy’, with keynote speaker, Ossian Smyth TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and Circular Economy. This event comprised both in-person and online events and featured many high-profile international speakers, an industry/academia fireside discussion and an early career insight session. Further details are available at Astrum 2022

Simulation and Innovative Characterisation (MOSAIC) group within the Biomaterials Cluster of the Bernal Institute organised the ECASIA 22 conference (European Association on Applications of Surface and Interface Analysis), which was hosted at UL from 29 May to 3 June 2022. The theme of ECASIA 22 was ‘Surface Analyses for Advanced Manufacturing’. ECASIA 22 upholds the ‘Spirit of ECASIA’, to bring together scientists from universities and industry (e.g. instrument suppliers) to bridge the gap between fundamental and applied research in surface science and to follow new trends in instrumentation. The conference attracted over 270 national and international delegates from more than 40 countries to the UL campus. More information on the conference is available at

Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, visited UL on 23 May 2022. His visit included a tour of some of Bernal’s experimental facilities, where the Minister had an opportunity to meet several researchers who

Cluster organised a summer school in Design and Advance Manufacturing of Composites from 30 May to 3 June 2022. Composite materials and structures are finding extensive applications in automobile, aerospace and wind energy industries, due to their outstanding performance and weight-saving capabilities. Along with their increased interest and use, there are new challenges for engineers to address, spanning the areas of design, analysis, manufacturing and viability. The summer school provided the 22 attendees, comprising mainly engineers and researchers from the University of Bristol, with a rapid knowledge of state of the art in this field (design, manufacturing and testing) via hands-on experience.



In March 2022, Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications and Leader of the Green Party, visited the Bernal Institute. The Minister was interested in Bernal research in the sustainability space, particularly waste management, renewable energy and battery technologies. He met with Professor Norelee Kennedy (Vice President Research UL,) Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Professor JJ Leahy, Professor Kevin M Ryan, Dr Tadhg Kennedy, Dr Ronan Courtney, Ray O’Brien and Jon O’Halloran of Bernal, and also visited several lab areas within the Institute. Discussions ensued on how the political, academic and industrial sectors could collaborate further to address global grand challenge/sustainable development goals as well as the untapped potential European test bed of Ireland’s Mid-West/Shannon Estuary and UL’s role in supporting it. Minister Ryan and his team are understood to have left with an excellent sense of the UL and Bernal experience and the capabilities for further engagement in the future.

33 are developing cutting-edge battery technology. Afterwards, the Minister tweeted: ‘Enjoyed my visit to @BernalNews in @UL last night. Super research work underway including around the area of battery life – something we are all reliant on in many aspects of life. Thanks to Tadhg & Marina for showing me some of their work & to the researchers for talking with me.’

Dr Jennifer Cookman, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster

Dr Tadhg Kennedy, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster


Professor Vivek Ranade and MSCA fellow Dr Alison O’Connor, Process Engineering Cluster

Professor Vivek Ranade’s FabPRO project was awarded €1.2M funding under the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. Personalised products are gaining significant attention in personal care, food and medicine sectors. There is an urgent need to develop new ways to manufacture personalised products with desired properties on demand. The project aims to develop novel ways of producing liquid–liquid emulsions (used widely in upcoming personalised products) with desired attributes, using a compact and modular ‘factory in a box’ platform. The project will develop new insights, devices and computational models to realise such ‘factory in a box’ platforms. The project team will collaborate with Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ireland; University of Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Helmholtz-Zentrum DresdenRossendorf, Germany. Unilever (a large multinational company) and Dolomite Microfluidics (a specialised company in the business of manufacturing equipment for making emulsions) are the team’s industry partners. The project will facilitate the realisation of truly distributed manufacturing of personalised products and will have a significant impact on manufacturing in Ireland and beyond.

Dr Tadhg Kennedy’s TRIDENT project received €3.65M under the government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund to develop a sustainable smart battery system for residential energy storage. The goal of the TRIDENT project is to develop a low-cost, high-performance sodium-ion smart battery system for residential energy storage, using entirely sustainable materials and processes. The TRIDENT smart battery system will be a plugand-play solution that can be installed in a household utility room. It will empower the consumer to take an active role in the energy market, storing energy in times of low demand and selling back to the grid in times of high demand. The innovative solution will introduce flexibility to the energy markets, a key requirement for Ireland if the country is to meet its renewable energy targets. Partners on the project are Tyndall National Institute, Analog Devices, mSemicon, ICERGi Limited, Glantreo, TisaLabs and Smart M Power. Furthermore, the project has been fully endorsed by MIDAS, the Industry Association for Microelectronics and Electronic Systems Design in Ireland.


The H2020 FibreGY project was launched in January 2021 with the goal of making offshore renewal energy more competitive, sustainable and cost-effective, by enabling extensive use of fibre-reinforced composites. The project leverages the expertise of 12 research and industry partners across seven EU countries to qualify and develop innovative composite materials for offshore applications, including elaborate new design procedures and guidelines and inspection and monitoring methodologies. Ultimately, the technology will be demonstrated by building a real-scale floating wind turbine and a tidal turbine, by replacing most steel structural elements with lightweight, noncorrosive, fibre-reinforced composites. For this, FibreGY has conceived an extensive three-tier testing, validation and demonstration plan. This includes a comprehensive coupon-level and mid-scale experimental campaign, followed by the testing of large-scale prototypes and then building the realscale demonstrator. UL is the key partner involved in the scrutiny, selection and characterisation of composite materials. To achieve this, Dr Anthony Comer’s FibreGY project was awarded a H2020 EU Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing and Processing (NMBP) grant of €667K to conduct an extensive experimental campaign involving static and dynamic mechanical testing of the composite materials. The outcome of the experiments will enable the design of structural elements that go into offshore renewable energy platforms. The realisation of the project opens doors to the installation of more costeffective offshore structures by curbing preventive maintenance costs, thereby making renewable energy more affordable to customers.

Dr Anthony Comer, Composite Materials Cluster

Dr George Barreto, Bio Materials Cluster


Dr George Barreto was awarded €603K for his project, ‘Coupling Neurosciences and Artificial Intelligence to Potentiate Pharmacological Actions of Tibolone over Neuroglobin Signalling in Traumatic Brain Injury’, under the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex disease and current treatments do not work well. Intriguingly, women have a speedier recovery from TBI than men. This is due to a protein/molecule called neuroglobin, which is more abundant in the female brain and has vast protective effects in brain cells. In collaboration with Dr Ramírez (Universidad de Concepción, Chile) and Dr Peláez (University of Salamanca, Spain), Dr Barreto’s group will develop an artificial intelligence pipeline for the design and screening of ligands to potentiate the pharmacological effects of tibolone on neuroglobin in male and female cell cultures. Current drug therapies used to treat TBI patients do not have a broad spectrum of action and the therapeutic effect often diminishes after injury. This is in addition to the fact that certain drugs work better in men than women. Developing a new drug costs millions and it can take at least 10 years to be released on the market. By proposing tibolone for re-purposing in TBI, it is intended to reduce this process. Previous studies by the Barreto group have shown tibolone to have great clinical potential and that it may be useful for TBI patients due to its broad anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Investigating new treatments such as this may prove crucial to patients who are the most in need, thereby reducing the burden to their loved ones, relatives and community, and ultimately reduce the burden of TBI on society.

Dr Christophe Silien was awarded €560K for his project, ‘Illumination Diversity for Label-Free Super-resolution Biological Multimodal Far-field Microscopy (ID-BioM)’, under the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. An important limitation of light microscopy is that nanoscale elements of cells driving life are too small to be observed and tracked, thus impeding discoveries in biological and medical research. ID-BioM aims to demonstrate a super-resolution to facilitate biological imaging at the nanoscale. Most diseases that challenge our society originate from perturbation of the natural life cycle of cells. Photonics technologies use light that can penetrate and probe the corresponding mechanisms dynamically. The same technologies are relatively inexpensive and applied to diagnose from extracted biopsy as well as endo-biopsy. This project will strengthen Ireland’s knowledge base in the photonics and medical device sectors, provide a platform for advanced biological research and enhanced knowledge on the cellular origin of diseases, and aid diagnostic and therapy monitoring. Professor Tewfik Soulimane and Professor Tofail Syed are also participating in this project.


Dr Maurice Collins, Composite Materials Cluster

recycling technology. It is a research and innovation project with a duration of 48 months and a budget of almost €5.3M. Professor Maurice N Collins of the Bernal Institute is the project lead at UL. The work at UL specifically addresses the development of sustainable fibres for reinforcement of these next-generation recyclable composite materials, in addition to toxicity testing and the testing of the new composites for construction, aerospace and naval applications. VIBES builds on work done at UL that began with LIBRE, a project that aimed to free the composite industry of its reliance on oil-based precursor materials. The VIBES consortium comprises a host of partners across seven EU member states, plus research and technology organisations, companies, SMEs and public bodies. The consortium hosted a project review meeting at the Bernal Institute in May 2022, celebrating VIBES’ first-year anniversary. The progress and future activities of the project were presented and discussed during the meeting, which was organised in hybrid mode so that several consortium members could also participate online.

Dr Ning Liu, Molecular & Nano Materials Cluster and Dr Christophe Silien, Bio Materials Cluster

Researchers at the Bernal Institute and UL are working on an innovative solution to improve the recyclability of composite materials used in the construction, aerospace and automotive industries. These next-generation recyclable composites are being developed by the VIBES project, a panEuropean consortium of which UL is the only university partner. They could have a significant climate impact, while also creating new jobs in the sector. VIBES is funded by Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. The project, which commenced in June 2021, seeks to improve the recyclability of composite materials through a greener, cost-efficient, non-toxic

44 12 11 182 Companies serviced 32 Multinationals 11 New companies SME accesscompaniescompaniesonfacilitiesagreements 129 Instrumentation-related requests Quotations issued 4 Sites visited 53 Consultancy/contract research/ collaborative research The Bernal Enterprise Service Team (BEST) made particular efforts to attract local SMEs with the aim of elevating their market position and accelerating their research activities through the Institute. We would like to welcome Serosep (leading laboratory diagnostics specialists in microbiology, histopathology and environmental testing) to UL and the Bernal Institute and wish them every success as we collaborate to a local success story. Most utilised instrument in 2021 1st Place Helios Dual Beam FIB (Focused Ion Beam) 2nd Place Perkin Elmer FTIR 3rd Place X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy Most income by instrument in 2021 1st Place X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy 2nd Place Helios Dual Beam FIB 3rd Place TOF-SIMS developmentBusiness 37 Dr Shahrzad Daghighi, Composite Materials Cluster

BEST Manager Ray O’Brien and Bernal Institute academics, including Dr David Styles and Professor JJ Leahy, supported and attended a COP26 event held by Stripe Climate. Irish Independent reporter, Caroline O’Doherty, published a follow-on article on 10 November, in which the Bernal Institute featured as the leading contributor to the event, through its research coverage of life cycle analysis and downstream potential of carbon capture Thetechnologies.BernalInstitute continues to evolve the Project Based Learning (PBL) initiative with the local Educate Together Secondary School in Limerick and its US partner New Tech High and our own industry partners, as we seek to bring a centre of excellence to Limerick, in conjunction with the Bernal Institute, Research PBL and the language of learning!


BEST is committed to providing opportunities for our external audiences and our internal community. Through our relationships with industry, BEST is opportunistically positioned to connect researchers, research output and knowledge with industry challenges, fostering a targeted, collaborative and innovative ecosystem. BEST’s delivery and commitment to success in Bernal and UL can be demonstrated most effectively in the delivery of services and research outcomes during the pandemic’s restrictive challenges.


initiative that the Bernal has created, offering a matching fund of €1M, which will double every €80K gift received from industry. The €1Million is made up of Bernal, SSPC and CONFIRM contributions. The funds will be used to enable early researchers to acquire PhDs in order to accelerate their research. This enables Bernal to fully fund PhD students. The mechanism is utilised through the UL Foundation via the efforts of Bernal General Manager Jon O’Halloran, Director Luuk van der Wielen and BEST Manager Ray O’Brien. The first €80K was acquired by BEST through our ongoing relationship with Boston Scientific and has enabled Dr Matteo Lusi and Dr Vasanth Kannuchamy to commence the process of hiring PhDs.

Ray O’Brien Bernal Enterprise Servicies, Dr Sarah Guerin Bernal Institute, Susan Feindt Analog Devices, Mike Morrissey Analog Devices, Jon O’Halloran Bernal Institute, Zoran Zvonar Analog Devices

The year 2021 saw the first completely online Bernal Institute Research Day, AStruM: Advanced Structured Materials, which drew a domestic audience of 1011 and a steady streaming audience of 7000+. There was a substantial industry session that attracted speakers of significant international standing, with talks from Kevin Boyle, Senior Vice President, Becton Dickinson; Micheál O’Loughlin, Vice President Research & Development, Boston Scientific; and Dan Leibholz, Chief Technology Officer, Analog Devices. The presentation of all the speakers focused on the world’s grand challenges, highlighting how materials research is at the heart of their mULtiplysolutions.isanew


The Vice President Research Professor Norelee Kennedy and BEST Manager Ray O’Brien supported and awarded the winners of the Becton Dickinson STEM Stars initiative. BEST had the opportunity to deliver an overview of the Bernal Institute and how its materials research will shape the future of our world amidst the climate change challenge.


Local narrative

The Bernal Institute continues to foster relations with its Bernal housed Centres through enabling projects with its industry partners such as SSPC. Following the success of a project transition to SSPC, the BEST team continues to support local industry and accelerate their research needs through our state body initiatives such as the Enterprise Ireland initiatives: Agile Innovation Grant, Innovation Partnerships and Enterprise Ireland Innovation Vouchers. Talk to for more.


Learning and students

Following the strategic review of materials research at the Bernal Institute, it was clear that to foster a deeper integration into the university, the Materials Science and Engineering course should be reestablished to feed future students to the Institute more organically. BEST engaged with Professor Michael Walsh and Professor Jeremy Robinson to implement the course at UL. This supports UL and Bernal Strategies to be(come) more research-led, also within teaching.

Dr Karrina McNamara, Bernal Instrument Scientist using the NTEGRASPECTRA Hybrid Nanoscope.





decile publications



Bernal pathwayspublications

2021-2022 are accessible by scanning this QR code with





SMALL 15.15


GREEN CHEMISTRY 11.03 institutes top in your


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Bernal members publish a range of publications that convey the pioneering research underway at the Institute and represent a sizeable majority of UL’s total publication output. A sample of the high-quality journals in which Bernal members publish is given below. The full digital collection of the Institute’s publications can be explored on our website, (the publications are searchable by author).






CHEM 25.83

NATURE 69.50












The equipment and facilities mentioned in this document are largely co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Ireland’s European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes and the HEA, the European Commission, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, The Atlantic Philanthropies and Analog Devices.

The challenge is part of a programme of events taking place this year to mark the 50th Anniversary of the University of Limerick.

In April 2022 Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and Circular Economy Ossian Smyth TD launched a UL student competition; the Sustainability Challenge, which seeks ambitious proposals from students at the university to attempt to solve climate issues. The concept of the challenge evolved from a partnership between the Bernal Institute, Kemmy Business School and Buildings and Estates department at UL to empower and encourage students to contribute to sustainable development.

The Bernal Report was produced in an environmentally responsible manner, using soya based inks, an alcohol free press and FSC ® Certified paper. The cover is printed on 300gsm FSC ® Certified offset and 140gsm FSC ® Certified offset. The Bernal Report is fully recyclable.

Bernal Institute University of Limerick Limerick V94 Ireland.T9PX Web

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