The largest ever Irish public-private research programme was launched yesterday.
The Advanced Materials and Bio-Engineering Research (AMBER) Centre is the first of seven research initiatives being funded by the State through Science Foundation Ireland at a total cost to taxpayers of €200m.
The "centre" will not be based at any one place. In practice it will manage and provide funding to researchers at Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons.
Projects backed by AMBER will support 99 jobs at the three universities. The Government has invested €35m while 18 private companies, including Intel, drug manufacturer Merck and bottling company SABMiller, have provided another €23m.
Research and Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock called it a "smart investment for taxpayers". However, no figures were given on the return expected from this investment – for example, the number of licences or patents it is required to generate.
The AMBER Centre has been set up to develop chemicals and raw materials that are useful to companies in sectors like information and communications technology.
One project that will be developed through the AMBER Centre is a new material, a type of nickel oxide developed using nanotechnology, which cheaply and easily extracts hydrogen and oxygen from water. This makes hydrogen-powered products, like cars, far more commercially viable.
"It's a great day for science," said Mr Sherlock at the announcement.