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PEM secures capital funding to purchase a Materials Testing Equipment Suite

PEM Technology Gateway at IT Sligo is delighted to have been recently successful in attaining capital equipment funding from Enterprise Ireland to purchase a Materials testing equipment suite which will hugely benefit Irish Industries.

The Suite includes:

  • A Gas Displacement Pycnometer – This instrument will be used to determine the true volume and true density of solids and powders.
  • A Universal Hardness Testing System – An automatic desktop Universal Hardness Testing Machine capable of performing a wide range of test forces (up to 250kgf) on different hardness scales including Vickers, Rockwell, Brinell and Knoop.
  • A Micro Hardness Tester – This Instrument will be used to execute Micro Vickers & Knoop Hardness for values within the load range from 10gf to 2kgf. Availability of this equipment would expand our capacity to determine a material’s hardness or resistance to penetration when test samples are exceedingly small or thin, or when small regions in a composite sample or plating need to be measured.
  • A low force benchtop tensile tester – This Instrument will be used to execute low-force Tensile Testing on small components and assemblies, for example, testing of small medical devices which would be very useful given all the medical device manufacturers in the region.

This new suite of equipment will complement the 600kN Tensile tester we received funding for last year, the device will enable companies to test the strength of multiple materials.

PEM will be pleased to offer tensile testing services in the 400-600kN capabilities to Industry. The high capacity universal tensile testing machine will be capable of performing tensile and compression testing, as well as shear, flexure, peel, tear, cyclic and bend tests. The addition of this equipment to the PEM Gateway provides a unique service offering to enable Ireland’s heavy industry in specialist areas, such as:

  • Construction equipment
  • Heavy equipment
  • Automotive & Aerospace
  • Agricultural machinery

Should you have any questions about testing capabilities or if you would like any further information contact the team at PEM.

This article was first published on the PEM website

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CAPPA receives €88,000 worth of funding for new equipment

The Centre for Advanced Photonics & Process Analysis (CAPPA) is delighted to announce today that it will be receiving €88,000 worth of funding to purchase a new visible hyperspectral-imaging camera as part of the Enterprise Ireland capital equipment call. Heather Humphries on June 4 2020 announced the €6 million investment in equipment from Enterprise Ireland. CAPPA was one of 37 successful applicants to receive funding out of 105 eligible applications totalling €6 million. The winners were selected through a rigorous evaluation process based on eligibility criteria for the call that included, but was not limited to, a strong track record of industry engagement, a significant industrial need for the new equipment, and space to service and maintain the equipment according to international standards.

Hyperspectral imaging is evolving as a robust, rapid, non-destructive tool for chemical imaging-based quality control and process development and monitoring. Problem focused solutions based on hyperspectral imaging are more cost-effective and robust in comparison to more advanced, sophisticated spectroscopic methods. Development of the optimum method requires a fully featured system initially, after which the method can be transferred to an affordable, less sophisticated, application-focused set up tailored to the customer.

Visible Near infrared Hyperspectral Imaging (400-1000nm) can be used for a wide variety of inspection tasks in agriculture, food processing, medical devices, bio-pharma, medical diagnostics and health care. The visible region is particularly suited to the coloured samples typically found in food and agriculture. Often large companies can lack the expertise in specifying a hyperspectral imaging system. There is often a requirement for method development with aspects such as lighting, spectral bandwidth and spatial resolution. CAPPA will operate as a test bed for different inspection possibilities, and be able to specify the simplest unit that would solve the customer’s problem. This new equipment will provide a modernised and broader offering to CAPPA’s service offering with increased range, specificity and flexibility and enable new offerings such as advanced analysis capabilities, process development, monitoring and optimisation, new product development, quality control and contamination analysis.

You can learn more about the current facilities at CAPPA here and see case studies of the work CAPPA conducted with industries across different sectors here.

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WiSAR Receives Research Equipment Investment from Enterprise Ireland

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD recently announced the successful applicants of the Capital Equipment Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland through the Technology Gateway and Technology Centre Programmes. 37 successful applicants from across the Third Level Sector have secured over €6 million in funding.

The winners were selected through a rigorous evaluation process. Eligibility criteria for the call included, but was not limited to, a strong track record of industry engagement, a significant industrial need for the new equipment, and space to service and maintain the equipment according to international standards.

Dr. Jim Morrison, Director of the WiSAR Technology Gateway at LYIT, was successful in his application for funding to purchase an 8-axis high precision scanning arm used by industry to scan precision engineering objects enabling accurate 3D modelling from the scans. Eight-axis range of movement will enable complete rotation of the object being measured in real time, meaning that there should be no difficulty reaching around the object, and no need to move the arm into different locations within the process.

Speaking to Donegal Daily Dr. Morrison said that “The scanner allows for very precise measurement of complex objects and will enable industry in the NW to confirm that their designs and processes fit with the highest international quality standards. Companies within NW manufacturing (and across the Technology Gateway network) will now be able to avail of these services from LYIT with the back-up of skilled mechanical engineers from the Dept. of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering.”

The portable equipment will be made available to industry in the North-West through the WiSAR Technology Gateway at LYIT to assist with product inspection for quality control, reverse engineering, and process control.  It is anticipated that the equipment will be available to industry in early 2021.

For further details on the WiSAR Technology Gateway contact Stephen Seawright at info@wisar.ie, 074 918 6462

This post was originally published on the WiSAR website

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Meet the Team… Carol Faughnan TSSG Technology Gateway

In our ‘Meet the Team’ series, we bring you a range of staff interviews from across the Technology Gateway Network.

Today we introduce Carol Faughnan, Business Development Executive at TSSG, Waterford Institute of Technology

1. Tell us a bit about the TSSG Technology Gateway

The Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) is Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) ICT research wing. We act as a major driver in the emergence of a telecommunications industry globally. We recently acquired the title of one of the most successful ICT research centres in Ireland securing in excess of €100 million under EU Programmes and as part of our remit, we deal directly with industry partners in Ireland via the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateways, known as TSSG Gateway.

2. Describe your role?

As Business Development Executive at the Gateway I facilitate the engagement between industry partners and the researchers at TSSG. I do a lot of networking and engage with potential clients looking to develop ICT and IoT innovations. I also enable clients to access funding to accelerate this engagement via the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher and Innovation Partnership Programmes. In addition, I engage with a lot of global brands on Contract R&D projects which are ongoing at the Technology Gateway here at TSSG.

3. What’s unique about the Gateway and its presence in the South-East?

TSSG is one of three Gateways in the South East, all based out of Waterford Institute of Technology. Two of the research centres TSSG and PMBRC scooped an award at the Technology Ireland Industry Awards, the most coveted awards ceremony within the Irish technology sector, in 2019. The project, titled ‘Digital DNA Storage Infrastructure of the Future’, involves an infrastructure that supports encoding of digital transformation in DNA, which will lead to a new form of data storage for the future and will pave the way for many projects including in the Agricultural sector.

We have our own Datacentre and Mixed Reality lab on our stand-alone campus which is extremely unique in the sense that it is a one-stop-shop for industry to access knowledge and solutions in advanced mobiles services and service enablers such as:

  • Distributed & cloud-based mobile services
  • Next generation IP based voice and video
  • Virtual and augmented reality services
  • Location, context, smart space and social service enablers
  • Data science, AI and mining

4. How can companies get involved with TSSG?

Get in touch with myself or one of our team; Miguel Ponce De Leon, Technology Gateway Manager and Jim Prendergast, Business Development Executive, and we will listen carefully to what you need, help to carve out a product development roadmap and match you with the right teams and funding supports to get you where you need to be.

5. What are the main benefits for a company collaborating with TSSG?

The benefit of working with the Gateway is that we can offer Government funding supports as a research knowledge provider. If a company is looking to do R&D then it is beneficial for them to work with us both in terms of getting the best available expertise from researchers working on a wide array of global projects and also to leverage value that they get when they access funding through the Gateway and Enterprise Ireland.

6. How can you help a company prepare for an innovation project?

At the TSSG Gateway we can offer insights into niche markets and identify the best way for SMEs collaborate with our researchers. We can help to break down a very large and overwhelming project to maximise the funding available and carve out a product development roadmap. We look beyond the profane and use the latest technologies available to help bring the project to a new level of innovation with a view to disrupting existing industries.

7. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a company considering an innovation project?

Know your niche and do the market viability study to scope whether the project is going to have a viable industry need prior to investing the funds. Market intelligence on the part of the client is the most important thing in preparing for an innovation project. Our researchers are technical experts with a lot of industry experience. When a client comes to us with potentially disruptive industry knowledge this is the key to a very successful collaboration.

8. What do you love most about your job?

I absolutely love my job. Meeting people and helping them bring incredible ideas to reality through academic collaboration is extremely rewarding. There is a certain chemistry where disruptive industry meets cutting edge research and it is a privilege to represent both equally, and offer funding supports to bring new projects to life.

Contact me on LinkedIn or email me at cfaughnan@tssg.org to arrange a meeting or have an informal virtual coffee.

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Meet Ms. Foram Dave: PEM Technology Gateway PhD Student Researcher

Meet Ms. Foram Dave, one of PEM Technology Gateways PhD Student Researcher’s. In this blog post Foram tells us about herself, her studies and her research topic “Laser Transmission Welding of Semi-crystalline Polymers and its Composites”.

Foram believes that the biggest prerequisite for brilliance is the inclination to learn. Only intensive and comprehensive research work in her field of interest will put her on the right track, to gain in-depth knowledge of advanced technology, and to achieve higher academic standards.

Polymer Science is a multidisciplinary area in which physics, biology, chemistry, and engineering are blended with an aim to improve the quality of human life. It also improves the technological advancements in many fields. It was this that made Foram take the Rubber Technology field during her undergraduate studies at L.D. College of Engineering, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (2009-2013). Foram’s Bachelor of Engineering thesis was based on the “Development of Pneumatic Rubber Coated Fabric Diaphragm”.

To deepen her knowledge in polymers, she pursued master studies in Polymer Science and Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (2014-2016). Her master thesis was about microbial degradation of the blends, where functionalized poly (lactic acid) was blended with poly (acetic acid). These blends are used for various biomedical applications such as regeneration and repair of bone and cartilage tissue.

Foram is deeply interested in Polymer Science as a lifelong career. She was recruited by Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd. in the automotive electronics department as a Senior Engineer (2016-2018). Dealing with sealants, thermal interface material, conformal coatings, and potting of an electronic control unit in the automobile sector. Gradually, she developed a strong ability to perform as an independent researcher as well as a team player.

Foram started her PhD at IT Sligo (Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering) in September 2018 under Dr David Tormey (Engineering) and Dr Richard Sherlock (Science). Her research topic is “Laser Transmission Welding of Semi-crystalline Polymers and its Composites”. It is an industrial based project along with Abbott diagnostics.

Laser Transmission welding (LTW) of polymers is a technique that is used to join polymeric components of varying thickness and configuration using laser sources such as a diode, Nd: YAG, CO2, etc. They are widely used in industries like automotive, microelectronics, aerospace, medical, packaging, optoelectronics, microsystems, etc. This technique requires one part to be transmissive to a laser beam and the other part to be absorptive to the beam as shown in Figure 1. The two parts are put under pressure while the laser beam moves along the joining line with defined parameters such as power, scanning speed, spot diameter, etc. resulting in diffusion of the two melted surfaces. The key advantages of LTW considering the industrial prospective are the reproducibility of the process due to no wear and tear of the tool and increase in productivity with better quality. It is a non-contact, flexible, and easily controllable process with almost no contaminations. Through laser, a localized and narrow heat zone can be created. However, there are various investigations still going on in this field.

Figure 1. Schematic diagram of Laser Transmission Welding (LTW) of plastic

The specific objectives of the present work are the systematic study on the effect of Carbon Black(CB) and laser welding parameters on the thermal, morphological, mechanical, and optical properties of the welded polymer samples during diode laser transmission welding of poly(propylene) (PP). Various polymer characterising techniques (DSC, TGA, FT-IR, SEM, XRD, UTM, etc.) will be utilised for the pre- and post-welded samples of PP composites.

Other objectives are:

  • Understand the phenomenon of inter-diffusion and melting of the semi-crystalline polymers
  • Determine whether the processing conditions of injection moulded samples significantly influence the key properties of the laser-welded samples of PP and its composites
  • Optimising the laser parameters (laser power, scanning speed, and clamping pressure) and dosage of CB for good weld quality
  • Analysis of variance (ANOVA) method will be utilised to find the statistical significance of the laser operating parameter(s) and CB.
  • The present work aims to eliminate the issues faced by the industry during the laser welding process and improve productivity by scrap rate reduction and improving the weld quality.

LTW opens novel product layouts with assured weld quality. When tool cost, consumable cost, and expenses with respect to wear and tear are considered, LTW scores to be an economical technique of joining parts which are compatible with automation. The project-specific cost seems to be one third lower due to a high degree of system flexibility and integrated process control. The parts are joined within seconds without the application of any joining agent. Moreover, it does not involve post-processing like curing, finishing, etc. which saves time, workforce, and post-processing equipment expenditure. This allows designers and manufacturers to recommend LTW as an emerging technology for joining complex geometries.

To understand and learn about laser processing and become familiar with polymer characterisation techniques, initial trials were carried out using a CO2 laser on poly (lactic acid) (PLA). A conference paper presented in the 17th International Conference on Manufacturing Research ICMR 2019 based on the “Bulk modification of poly (lactic acid) by CO2 laser radiations” which has been published in Advances in Manufacturing Technology XXXIII (doi:10.3233/ATDE190065). Foram also received an opportunity to present her work on “Laser Transmission Welding of Polymers & its Composites” in IMC:36-Irish Manufacturing Conference at Trinity College, Dublin.

The project is a cross-border collaboration along with ulster university, Jordanstown and NIACE, Advanced Composites and Engineering, Belfast. It is EU INTERREG V funded project with academic partners North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NWCAM).

Eighteen months of Foram’s research has been at IT Sligo. The professors, supervisors, and all the staff members have been extremely helpful and always motivating Foram to grow further and have her own ideas for implementation. Foram feels’ that such encouragement is exceedingly rare. Together with the sound academic foundation and industrial experience, she wishes to achieve her ultimate goal of doing research in Polymers and pursue a PhD degree.

This blog was first published on the PEM website

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CAPPA Assisting with Defining NSAI Standards for Barrier Masks

CAPPA Technology Gateway are delighted to announce that Researcher Dr Steven Darby was recently part of the team, which worked to define The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) standards for barrier masks. The NSAI standard for barrier masks was recently published and provides important information for manufacturers and consumers in relation to barrier masks. The specification was developed in response to a request from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and with the view that many Irish manufacturing companies are trying to change their production lines in response to the current pandemic.

The NSAI developed this Specification Written in Fast Track (SWiFT) to address an urgent need for a consensus – based specification for non – medical and non – PPE masks (barrier masks) for the general public. Used in conjunction with relevant public health advice, these barrier masks may contribute to the prevention of the spreading viral (e.g. COVID – 19) infections. This work had to be completed within a very tight timeline due to the urgency of the project. This specification was developed using existing specifications from NSAI colleagues in France, Belgium and Spain.

Cork Institute of Technology staff, Dr Steven Darby, (CAPPA) Dr Niall Smith (Head of Research, CIT), Professor Roy Sleator, Alan Giltinan, CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, along with contributed as experts in the development of the document. Commenting on the publication, Dr Niall Smith said: “It is gratifying to see members of the CIT research community playing a thought-leading role during the Covid-19 emergency. Further developments in the manufacture and use of masks can be anticipated as we gain a better understanding of the transmission pathways for the virus.”

CAPPA is committed to providing its facilities and expertise in every possible aspect to help with the fight against COVID – 19. Even though we are restricted with what we can do, we are still available to speak with you regarding research projects, proposals and product solutions. If you wish to speak with a member of the team contact them here or email cappa@cit.ie.

This post was originally published on the CAPPA website

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Proactive Response by SEAM & 3DWIT to Current Global Public Health Crisis

SEAM & 3DWIT delivering 3D printed face shields to National Ambulance Service (Dublin)

SEAM Technology Gateway have responded to the current global public health crisis by offering their unique skills and experience to companies and those working on the front line. From its Waterford IT base, SEAM provides engineering material solutions in sectors such as biomedical devices, pharmaceuticals, micro-electronics, precision engineering & construction sectors. In recent weeks it has come together with its Additive Manufacturing training centre 3DWIT to provide a range of services to those who need it most.

True to its dedicated commitment of providing continued service to industries, SEAM laboratories has remained open throughout the lock down period,  with its team of researchers and engineers providing vital assistance, support and expertise to companies in the Medical Device and Pharma industry who may require assistance at this time. Whilst the team at 3DWIT have developed a supply line of much needed face shields, necessary to protect our frontline workers. To date SEAM-3DWIT have printed numerous face shields and have delivered to National Ambulance Service in Dublin, various nursing homes and health centres in Waterford and its surroundings, GP surgeries, UHW (University Hospital Waterford) consultants, etc.

SEAM & 3DWIT delivering 3D printed face shields to Nursing homes, health centres & clinicians in Waterford

Focus has now been turned into design & mass producing of HME (Humidity Moisture Exchanger) integrated full face mask for consultants who deal with Covid patients and also for other frontline medical staff.  A consortium headed by SEAM and comprising UHW consultants and few companies are looking to mass produce this face mask locally.

On the importance of providing vital services to the medical and pharma industry as well as those working on the frontline, Technology Gateway Manager Dr. Ramesh Raghavendra said ‘it has been very gratifying to be able to assist who needed most during these unprecedented pandemic times and I am grateful to my staff for their assistance and commitment’.

To find out more about SEAM Technology Gateway check out their website and follow them on Twitter for all the latest news.

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Agile Innovation support moves online with a range of innovative Webinars

Discover your next big opportunity at this innovation learning and networking online event.

  • Be inspired by peers.
  • Engage in creative conversations and playful challenges and find out how Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund can help you develop new products, processes and services, ways of working and business models

Facilitators:

Enterprise Ireland’s In-Company R&D Supports team, will detail the Agile Innovation Fund, what it’s for, eligibility criteria, the application process and how to access our funding supports.

Fergal Brophy is an Entrepreneurial Specialist at the Innovation Academy, University College Dublin and Founder/MD at Open Innovation Services. His focus is on facilitating and mentoring innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for Corporates, SMEs and the undergrad/postdoc start-up community

A guest company will be speaking on their successful R&D activity.

Dates and registration links of upcoming webinars are below:

  • Tuesday 19th May:
    Time: 10.30am – 12.30pm
  • Wednesday 27th May: Register here
    Time: 10.30am – 12.30pm
  • Wednesday 3rd June: Register here
    Time: 10.30am – 12.30pm
  • Tuesday 9th June: Register here
    Time: 10.30am – 12.30pm

Agile Innovation Fund

Offering fast-track approval and a streamlined online application process, the new Agile Innovation Fund allows companies to access up to 50% in support for product, process or service development projects with a total cost of up to €300,000. The funding is ideal for Irish companies that need to rapidly develop solutions or are planning a first R&D project and open to eligible clients of Enterprise Ireland, Údaras na Gaeltachta and the Local Enterprise Office. The process has been streamlined for eligible companies with a short online application and fast-track approval. Clients of Enterprise Ireland, Údaras na Gaeltachta and the Local Enterprise Office should contact their Business Adviser in advance of submitting an application.

The Agile fund is part of Enterprise Ireland’s wider Innovation Offer, which includes funding and supports for collaborative research, increasing the innovation capability of companies and funding for large R&D projects.

Further information is available on the Agile Innovation Events web page.

Contact: R&D Unit, Enterprise Ireland,
Tel: 01 727 2120
Email: rdcoreunit@enterprise-ireland.com

 

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TSSG update their company engagement strategy to support businesses online

The Technology Gateway in the Telecommunications and Software Systems Group (TSSG) is a partnership between Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and Enterprise Ireland which offers supports to Irish companies through various funding and technical mechanism. It’s business as usual for the TSSG team as they continue to work with innovative companies as the world prepares itself to step out of the shadow of COVID-19.  

TSSG is the ICT research and development wing of WIT and employs over 90 software developers, engineers, UX/UI designers and PhD researchers. Dedicated to research in specific focus areas such as Networks & Cloud Computing, VR/AR, Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, Data Mining and Software System Architecture and Engineering, the TSSG is one of the leading ICT research institutions in Ireland.  

With over 700 project partners, TSSG researchers have their finger on the pulse with new and cutting-edge technologies in the areas of Future Health, Precision Agriculture, Smart Energy, Intelligent Transport Systems & Molecular Communications and Computing. Almost half of the projects currently active in the research centre are direct industry projects working to improve Ireland’s status as a leader in tech start-ups.  

Enterprise Ireland, in a bid to extend access to this expertise, have come up with ways for Irish businesses to engage with the researchers and projects in TSSG.  One of the ways in which you can begin to engage with our experts is through the Innovation Voucher Programme.  

Innovation Voucher Programme 

The TSSG Technology Gateway and Enterprise Ireland can provide supports with a value of €20k maximising the Innovation Voucher Programme. This is a three phased programme which aims to bring you as close to a click-through-demo prototype as possible. The three phases may be used according to your business needs and is fluid to your project development roadmap. Our expert team of UX/UI designers were finalists in the 2019 UX Awards in the ‘UX Achievement in Financial Services’ category for a UX/UI wireframe they developed for a fintech client using the Innovation Voucher Programme. Your company can achieve the same results by following the process outlined in this article which is currently being offered online as the TSSG team continue to work remotely; the only difference is conversations and workshops are conducted via ZOOM or Teams.  

Phase One:  

Innovation Sprint: Using your first voucher worth €5k (you pay the VAT only) enables you to work with a panel of experts cherry-picked according to the skills required for your project.  This can be done as successfully online as it is in person. A Sprint workshop can be used to brainstorm your business needs and match those needs with new technologies. (The steps taken to perform the Sprint are highlighted in the image below.) 

Output: Report outlining a technical strategy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sprint process outlined and the Sprint team during Step 4 of the process; brainstorming a prototype  

Phase Two:  

Using the second innovation voucher (worth 5K – you pay the VAT only) you can take the technical strategy and map this into a UX/UI design strategy and align the needs with that of your user.  

This phase brings life to the strategy outlined in the report from phase one.  

Output: UX/UI Strategy – A set of wireframes and user journeys.  

Example UX/UI Strategy 

Phase Three:   

Using the third and final Innovation Voucher (worth €10k, €5k matched by Enterprise Ireland) you will receive a click-through-demo prototype of the application, dashboard, data analytic framework or whatever platform would need to be built. 

Output: Demo Click Through Prototype  

Shown below, the user journey can be explored by clicking though the steps to review the application and view the clients’ experience. 

Screenshots of the click-through-demo prototype 

Next Steps 

  • The demo prototype is a useful tool that you can use for pitching this idea to investors or, if you are an Enterprise Ireland client, you can benefit from the Innovation Partnership Programme (IPP) in order to access funding towards building out the application. The Innovation Partnership Programme offers up to 80% funding by EI and 20% by you, the industry partner and TSSG can continue to develop your solution and realise your goal.  
  • To qualify for the IPP, you must:  
  • Have an Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor (DA) to support your application.  
  • Your business must be in positive EBITA to support the commercialisation of the new platform. 

The Team 

For more information and for support in your application contact the TSSG Technology Gateway team who have been guiding companies through this process for many years. Miguel, Carol and Jim will be delighted to have a friendly chat and advise you on the supports and funding options available. They can also arrange to show you a live demo of a click-through-protype.

     

     Miguel Ponce De Leon               Carol Faughnan                     Jim Prendergast
      miguelpdl@tssg.org            cfaughnan@tssg.org              jprendergast@tssg.org

This post was originally published on the TSSG website

 

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COVID-19 Treatment Research at TSSG Research Centre

The global pandemic (Covid-19 or SARS-COV-2) has so far killed thousands of people and continues to threaten many more in the very near future. Daily routines have changed for most of the worlds citizens while economies and stock rates plummet the world over. This unified enemy is like nothing the modern world has seen before and, while the negatives mount, many are taking solace in the positives. One such positive is the outstanding community effort from international researchers.

As we are sometime away from administering a vaccine, researchers from various disciplines are working at full capacity around the globe to develop novel solutions to diagnose and treat patients suffering from the virus, as well as preventing from spreading it further.

TSSG are among the broad team of global researchers contributing to the battle against this invisible threat. Their multi-disciplinary research model has the flexibility to re-focus projects with the potential of creating innovative solutions to treatment, prevention and assisting the often-difficult social distancing measures currently in place.

By applying their extensive expertise in information communications technology (ICT), researchers in TSSG are working together to develop both short as well as long term solutions for COVID-19. By incorporating their experience in molecular and bio-nano communications, sensor technology and blockchain, the team in TSSG along with partners in USA and Finland are working on six possible solutions to various issues. Read how TSSG researchers are Integrating COVID-19 technology with society here.

Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, Director of Research in TSSG, praises his team “We are incredibly proud of how fast our researchers have refocused their strategy and joined together in an attempt to contain this virus. Solving these challenges requires rapid responses and creative solutions and we are hopeful that many of our novel concepts will produce promising results.”

The COVID-19 related projects TSSG researchers are investigating are just the beginning when you consider that studies such as these take years to see results. Many of these initiatives, particularly the research into possible treatments are a long-term effort to overcome not just this virus, but possible illnesses to come.

COVID-19 Treatment Research

This virus knows no boundaries. Breathing difficulties and shortness of breath are a key indicator of the illness and fatality rates are high among people with underlying health issues such as asthma. Reducing the long-term effect of a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 is paramount. The number of patients leaving hospital to continue their recovery at home without the need for ventilators or oxygen is ever increasing however researchers have asked the question: What does this mean for the health of the lungs? Does this have a lasting effect? Experts from TSSG, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), USA, and the University of Tampere (UTA), Finland are investigating.

Treating Lung Tissue Damage due to COVID-19

Recent analysis of patients suffering from COVID-19 have found that stem cells can be used to repair lung damage as well as control the immune system to suppress cytokine storms (body starts to attack its own cells rather than the virus). Based on this, this specific research is looking at a new delivery mechanism of stem cells encapsulated into a polymer container into the lungs via a ventilator. Once in the right location, the nanoscale devices can be broken down using ultrasound signals emitted externally from outside the body. This will allow precise delivery of the stem cells to the damaged location within the lungs therefore aiding cell and subsequently patient recovery. The nanodevice will remain dormant in the lungs in the event a patient is re-infected.

Researchers: Bruna Fonseca (TSSG), Dr. Michael Barros (University of Tampere, Finland), Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam (TSSG), Prof. David Borkholder (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA), Dr. Mark White (WIT) and Dr. Lee Coffey (TSSG, PMBRC)

(A) Illustrates MSC deposited into the alveoli of the lungs, and (b) illustrates the ultrasound signals emitted to break the polymer casing of the nanodevice.

Molecular Communication modelling of COVID-19 in the Respiratory System

When the COVID-19 virus enters the respiratory system, it uses the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), found in the respiratory system, to bind and enter cells. Once COVID-19 has entered the cell the proteins within the virus will block the innate response of the immune system and replicate before being released into the body.

Depending on different factors such as the compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions, the severity of the COVID-19 infection could vary from mild to critical.

Molecular communication model of COVID-19 virus propagation in the respiratory system.

Researchers in TSSG are studying the unpredictability of the virus within the respiratory system to identify the varying levels of infections in patients using an emerging paradigm knows as molecular communications. Molecular communication uses theory from communication engineering and networks to enables us to characterise biological communication processes. In other words, the theory will allow researchers to build a mathematical model to characterise the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the respiratory system. The model created by TSSG primarily characterises the propagation of virus particles through airway tracks and their deposition on the airway surfaces in the respiratory system. This is modelled by considering the flow of air in the upper (e.g., trachea) and lower (e.g., alveoli) regions of the respiratory system, respectively.  This aim of researchers is that this model would give insights to possible treatments for COVID-19 and future life-threatening viruses by designing vaccines depending on the level of infection in different organs.   

Researchers: Dixon Vimalajeewa (TSSG), Prof. Donagh Berry (Teagasc), Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam (TSSG)

Clinical Data as a Service platform (CDaaS)

Figure 1 Overall workflow of the Machine Learning (ML) system in CDaaS

The global problem of antibiotic resistance is fast becoming one of the major scientific issues of modern times. The development of new antibiotics is slow and difficult work, but bacterial resistance is decreasing our arsenal of existing drugs posing a catastrophic threat as ordinary infections become untreatable. This is a particularly evident in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, there is no efficient and fast technical solution to overcome this phenomenon, rather the diagnosis is based on clinical examination in a doctor’s clinic or in hospital, in addition to some biochemical tests in labs which might take up to a few days to get the results.

CDaaS uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to provide infection identification of either bacterial or viral causes, based on samples provided to the CDaaS system by the Point of Care (PoC) givers i.e. GPs or consultants. The CDaaS (Clinical Data as a Service) platform gives GPs, surgeons and third parties access to synthesised diagnostic medical data allowing them to determine an early and accurate infection diagnosis solution.

The heart of CDaaS is an AI machine learning-based system that provides the critical analysis for submitted biomarker samples, i.e. blood pressure, body temperature, based on multiple indicators within the samples.

CDaaS focuses on extending the market around lab-on-a-chip devices while enabling the creation of a mobile application that can assist medical doctors in assessing the nature of infections in the GP practice or hospital setting. This will be imperative to the rate of diagnosing patients with COVID-19 thus reducing the spread of the virus.

Researchers: Martin Tolan (TSSG), Yahya Almardeny (TSSG), Peter Scanlon (TSSG) Frances Cleary (TSSG).

This post was originally published on the TSSG website