On Thursday the 7th of February 2019 the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland announced €4.5 million investment in research commercialization to positively impact the economy and society through the Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA). The program provides project development funding and training in entrepreneurship skills to third-level researchers, to support them in exploring commercial opportunities associated with their research. Researchers will demonstrate if an applied research project is technically feasible and has potential for further commercial development. 

The process for the TIDA award was very competitive, proposals were independently reviewed by a three-person panel of experts. CAPPA’s Dr Robert Sheehan won one of 38 research positions that will be supported through the scheme for twelve-months. He was awarded €125,500. CAPPA is delighted to have Dr Sheehan researching this area as part of the ongoing work in the nanophotonics group at CAPPA. When asked about receiving the TIDA award Dr Sheehan said “My TIDA award is a fantastic opportunity to build on and enhance existing research and explore commercialisation avenues.”

Dr Sheehan’s project aims to develop an athermal laser for deployment in data centre WDM transmission systems. The project was motivated by the need to enhance the delivery of internet based data services. More and more people are using online entertainment services such as Netflix and YouTube. To ensure everyone can watch their favourite shows without delays or buffering interruptions we need to develop the system over which data is sent with more laser technology. Currently, laser technology is not being used too much since it is expensive and uses a lot of electricity. The project aims to create low-cost lasers which operate without cooling, power consumption due to cooling being one of the primary cost barriers preventing wider option of laser technology in data centres. Lasers can be put into data centre systems to allow higher volumes of data to be transmitted which will prevent delays and buffering interruptions from occurring in the future.

Dr Sheehan will participate in the new SFI Spark Pre-Accelerator as part of the TIDA program. This is an intensive five-day program delivered by the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs. This will support STEM researchers to develop skills in areas such as evidence-based entrepreneurship, innovation and design thinking and facilitates mentoring and networking.

You can learn more about the work of CAPPA researchers here and the work conducted with industry here.