The purpose of the European Funding Ambassadors is to increase each School’s participation and success rate in European funding calls
Dr Mike Kinsella, a lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)’s School of Science and Computing, was successfully awarded funding for research as part of WIT’s Research Connexions support scheme.
Research Connexions was introduced at WIT in 2019 as a research funding scheme aimed at increasing research activity in the Institute. Research Connexions provides the WIT research community the opportunity to apply for internal funding to enhance their research activity and to increase the quality of research at the Institute. WIT Research Connexions is supported by WIT’s successful application to the HEA under the Systems Performance Programme. The scheme comprises of thirteen possible funding Pathways designed to enable and support research activity across each of the Schools.
Dr Mike Kinsella secured funding under Research Connexions Pathway 1 – European Funding Ambassador. The purpose of the European Funding Ambassadors is to increase each School’s participation and success rate in European funding calls. Dr Kinsella was appointed WIT’s ambassador to the European University for Smart Urban Costal Sustainability (EU-CONEXUS). EU‐CONEXUS is a transnational European higher education and research institution that covers the smart urban sustainable coastal development from a global point of view.
We asked Dr Kinsella to describe what it was like taking part in the Research Connexions programme:
Support awarded through Research Connexions:
I received a buy-out of teaching hours, 3 hours per week for both Semester 1 and Semester 2 of the 2020-2021 academic year. This enabled me to engage in depth with the various activities, projects, committees and tasks associated with WIT’s role as an associate partner on this exciting EU-University initiative. This activity included identifying WIT personnel for various EU-CONEXUS roles, sitting on multiple committees, planning and organising a range of activities - from public engagement and new course development, to joint research and new funding applications.
Overview of current research:
My research interests and current research can be broadly categorised under the heading of “Green Chemistry”. For the past 2-3 years, I have been involved in marine related research. To date, this has focused on exploring the circular bioeconomy around finding novel uses for marine waste (waste shells) generated in the shellfish production sector, particularly strong in South East Ireland.
This research so far has led to one Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) funded Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAG) project focused on the identification of key marine waste materials generated in South East Ireland, and also key components which could be extracted from this waste. A second 4 year research project, funded through the WIT PhD Scholarship Scheme 2018, is looking at pharmaceutically relevant compounds and their extraction from shell waste. I am also interested in extraction and bioactivity testing of extracts from natural sources.
Another key strand of my research under the green chemistry field focuses on the design and synthesis of novel organocatalysts for sustainable methods of enhancing synthetic organic reactions towards biologically active and pharmaceutically relevant products. I am also focussed on making organocatalysts more useful on a production scale in the pharmaceutical industry, and the application of biocatalysts to industrially relevant chemical reactions.
I am also interested in novel analytical characterisation techniques including Liquid Chromatography– Mass Spectroscopy (LC-MS) for analytical and bioanalytical analysis and have recently secured funding for a new LC-MS system at WIT, an instrument which will be extremely useful for supporting marine, green chemistry and many other areas of research where identification and/or quantitation of compounds/metabolites or proteins is required.
Making a difference:
Through my direct engagement with EU-CONEXUS partners and their network, working as the single coordinator and point of contact for WIT, I will be more aware of, and in a position to engage more in funding applications. Examples of this include the Terraqua EU Green Deal application from January 2021 and also the Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters funding application of June 2021.
In addition, EU-CONEXUS has significantly broadened the networks available to me and to the entire WIT community, providing opportunities to build new projects and collaborate. Given that the focus of EU-CONEXUS is in smart urban coastal sustainability, and my background in marine related research, this role as WIT coordinator has significantly enhanced my research exposure and network in this particular area. This will enable me to approach researchers from any of the participating institutions going forward, if they are a good fit for collaborating on a research proposals and projects.
Building research capacity:
This coordination and meaningful engagement with EU CONEXUS has built research capacity for me and WIT researchers, enabling WIT to play a role in projects and leverage expertise and equipment present at partner institutions and companies. In addition, participation in EU-CONEXUS has given WIT researchers much broader opportunities to collaborate with the partner universities.
The regular EU-CONEXUS meetings provide a great opportunity for extensive networking and follow up in areas of mutual research interest. This will further enable international partnerships on projects.
Research For Society (RFS) is a separate EU-CONEXUS research project, which captures much of the research functions of the EU-University. We have multiple WIT staff on working groups of the RFS project, including library staff on open access, to research integrity and the research support unit.
Where to next:
I am planning to continue in the role as WIT Coordinator for the EU-CONEXUS project, leading to further engagement on new course development and new projects. The current funding for EU-CONEXUS will cease in August 2022 and we are hopeful that beyond this, WIT can become a full, funded partner of the EU University, and become even more embedded in the initiative, with dedicated staff working full time on the programme. In the interim, my focus will be to maximise the value of this collaboration for WIT, including new research proposals and projects and the establishment of a joint PhD programme.