Skip to main content
Gaeilge English

Safeguarding the Future with Scientific Innovation

Our literary and cultural legacy is well known across the globe, but did you know that modern medicine and machinery would not be what it is today without the innovation of the Irish?

From a cure for leprosy to the submarine, armoured tanks and even the induction coil, Irish inventors and scientists have been at the forefront of innovation for longer than you might think. Read on to learn more about our proud tradition of scientific innovation, and how it's inspiring today’s innovators.

Agricultural Innovations

The modern tractor - popularly regarded as having been invented by Co. Down man, Harry Ferguson - changed the face of farming in the last century. And as modern agriculture creaks under the weight of a massively expanding world population, it could well be Irish innovation that clears the path to sustainability for the generations ahead.

At University College Cork's Environmental Research Institute, Marcel Jansen and Alan Morrison are acutely aware that the world’s population is set to increase by 2 billion within the next three decades and the available land needed to grow crops to feed these extra mouths is decreasing. The solution that Jansen and Morrison are working on is a state-of-the-art LED technology that will act as an affordable and effective replacement for natural sunlight.

Given that agriculture accounts for 66% of Irish used land and creates 30% of the country’s greenhouse gases, this is a solution that could streamline current food production processes making them more sustainable, more affordable and more productive. Want to know more about Ireland’s pioneering approach to food sustainability? Check out Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme to find out how producers, retailers and food service operators are coming together to help build a sustainable future for the industry in Ireland.

Memory Lanes

When Vincent Barry discovered a cure for leprosy, he saved the lives of more than 15 million people. When Trinity College Dublin neuroscientist Professor, Tomas Ryan, put forward research suggesting that all learned memories are hardwired into our brain cells, he gave new hope to the one in three people over the age of 65 who suffer from some form of dementia.

According to Prof Ryan’s research, which is carried out in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, every memory we have ever formed remains in our brain, and when we cannot retrieve them they aren't gone, but simply misplaced. Using this information, researchers have successfully “mapped” where certain memories are stored and are setting out to rebuild the damaged roads that lead back to these memories. Though restoring them entirely is a long way off, the fact that they remain in the brain and may one day be recovered, should hopefully provide some small comfort for amnesia sufferers and their families.

Science Foundation Ireland

For more examples of the innovative work in Ireland and to learn more about these projects, look no further than the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Visit their website to catch up on recent research projects, upcoming events and where to find a nearby SFI research centre.