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Speech by the Taoiseach Mr. Enda Kenny TD, Presentation of the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal, 15 March 2017

 

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Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

It is a great pleasure to join you here to celebrate the scientific collaborations between our two nations.

I am delighted to acknowledge the strong scientific links and programmes which already exist, such as the US-Ireland R&D Partnership. These have forged very real and beneficial collaborative research projects between Irish and US researchers. They bring economic and social benefits to both countries, but also contribute to scientific knowledge and progress globally.

Over the past decade in particular, Ireland has been building a strong reputation as a world-class location for research, development and innovation.

Our leading agency Science Foundation Ireland will play a key role in implementing our strategy for research and development - Innovation 2020 including supporting new Research Centres, developing a large-scale PhD programme, and piloting Ireland’s first Challenge-based funding programme for STEM.

SFI is also the first European funding agency to implement a highly regarded National Science Foundation entrepreneurship programme. The project will support and cultivate entrepreneurship in the research community in Ireland. I am very happy to announce that 10 teams from 8 SFI Research Centres will embark on this training in the coming months.

I would like to commend those involved in both Science Foundation Ireland and the NSF for these efforts in bringing together this collaboration. I would also like to particularly acknowledge the attendance here today of Dr France Córdova, Director of the NSF.

I am also pleased to announce the signing of a new collaborative research partnership between Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland funded Irish Software Research Centre and the Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering at the University of Maryland. This is another example of transatlantic collaboration between centres of excellence in Ireland and the U.S. which should lead to problem solving of global relevance.

Presentation of St. Patrick’s Day Medal
However, to the reason why we are all gathered here today. I am delighted to present the St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal on behalf of Science Foundation Ireland, to two exceptional leaders. These awards celebrate the achievements of a distinguished scientist, engineer or technology leader, living or working in the USA with strong affiliations to Ireland.

Both recipients have had a huge impact in their own area of expertise and played pivotal roles in the development of researchers in Ireland.

Professor Adrian Raftery
I begin with our academic recipient. Dublin-born Professor Adrian Raftery has been described by his peers as one of the most eminent statisticians in the world. His work has resulted in the development of new statistical methods, focusing particularly on the social, environmental and health sciences.

Professor Raftery’s work to quantify statistical uncertainty in demographic projections has fundamentally changed approaches to population forecasting. This was demonstrated by the United Nations recently publishing a recalculation of world population projections, which directly incorporated Professor Raftery’s work.

He has also worked on a range of studies which have fundamentally changed our understanding of whaling populations, the prevalence of HIV/Aids and weather forecasting.

Dr Pearse Lyons
I would like to present this year’s Science Foundation Ireland St. Patrick’s Day Medal in Industry to Dundalk-born biochemist and entrepreneur, Dr Pearse Lyons. Dr Lyons is the first Irish scientist to have created a global business based on scientific research. With the aim of creating the next ‘green revolution’ to improve the health and performance of people, animals and plants, Dr Lyons founded Alltech, in 1980 with just $10,000 in capital.

He has subsequently led the company to where it is now with annual sales of $1.6 billion, trading in 128 countries worldwide and employing more than 4,200 people. Dr Lyons and his team at Alltech remain committed to innovation and development with three biosciences centres dedicated to research and education; two located in the U.S. and one in Dunboyne, Co. Meath. In late 2016 Dr Lyons and Alltech announced a new globally orientated agri-tech accelerator programme based at Dogpatch labs in Dublin.

Both recipients have been honoured by many international organisations and it is fitting that we acknowledge them today by presenting them with the SFI St Patrick’s Day Science Medal. I sincerely congratulate them both, along with their wives, Deirdre and Hana.

ENDS