Solving megatrend issues with global impact with the US-Ireland R&D partnership

Tackling head-on some of the universal challenges of our time, requires cutting-edge thinking and funding from around the world. That’s exactly why the US-Ireland R&D partnership is so important.

Back row:  Aidan Gough, Designated Officer InterTradeIreland; Dr Rosemary Hamilton CBE, NI co-chair;  Feargal O’Móráin, Ireland co-chair; Dr Jonathan Margolis, US co-chair, US Department of State. Front row:  Samuel Howerton, National Science Foundation (US); Mark Ferguson, Science Foundation Ireland; Trevor Cooper, Department for the Economy (NI)

Set up in 2006, the partnership is an alliance between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United States of America, in which academics from the three countries join together to bid for funds. It is led by a steering group of senior representatives from each jurisdiction, with InterTradeIreland providing the secretariat for the group on the island of Ireland.

To date, this innovative alliance has funded over 50 projects and raised over £65 million to address key issues including agriculture, sustainability and health. The partnership also recently celebrated the signing of the updated Memorandum of Understanding between the National Science Foundation in the US, Science Foundation Ireland and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland (see photo).

Professor Peter Maxwell from Queen’s University Belfast along with Professor Catherine Godson and Dr Eoin Brennan from University College Dublin, in collaboration with academics from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital in the US have joined forces on a project around diabetic kidney disease.

By 2040 the disease is predicted to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide.  For theresearchers, the benefits of this type of partnership are obvious “it gives us a critical mass and working with other investigators allows us to tackle questions at scale”, says Professor Peter Maxwell.  Dr Eoin Brennan agrees “there is so much synergy when everyone has distinct areas of expertise, for example the US is at the forefront of ground breaking bioinformatics.”

US-Ireland R&D partnership

In fact, the model of the US-Ireland R&D partnership has been so successful, it is now used as one example of best practice internationally to foster collaboration between nations.

Grainne Lennon, International Funder and Collaborations broker in InterTradeIreland says, “the success rate for proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation in America, through the US-Ireland R&D partnership is higher than the agency wide success rate. We are delighted so many local researchers are successful in securing funding and it speaks to the extremely high calibre of projects across the island.  Cross-border collaboration is vital to exchange ideas and promote growth. Moreover, programmes like this also help develop the leaders of science across the island who will bring forward enhancements for the future around disease prevention and health.”

The latest phase of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership aims to tackle global challenges facing the agri-food sector. If you would like more information visit

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