Big Science: An Irish Grand Challenge

This is an ongoing collaborative project including representatives from University College Cork, MIT, University of Maryland and the Tyndall National Institute. It is part of a larger initiative that hopes to develop the concept of bringing big science to Ireland.

The Challenge

This initiative seeks to explore the role of large-scale science facilities or an Irish Scientific Grand Challenge as a driver of socio-economic growth in Ireland. This is an important issue for the future of Irish science and technology policy.The aim of this project is to examine the benefits to small EU countries like Ireland of establishing large-scale science facilities, in terms of scientific and technological output and economic growth, as well as looking at the alternatives for the large investments involved.

The aim of such a facility would be to move the Irish research agenda ahead to a point, where it can go beyond providing for its own research and development needs, creating an international hub that serves the needs of the larger European and global research community, financed by an international consortium of nations. Well-known facilities of this type include CERN and ITER, each of which brings enormous economic impact to the regions and countries in which they are located. A successful facility or challenge of this type would not only bring a wide range of talent and technological expertise to Ireland, but would result in very significant international investment in Ireland during its construction and operation. Clearly this is a major long-term project, but in these times of financial adversity, it is especially important not to lose sight of the longer-term development needs of Ireland and its technology base.

The workshop report can be found here.

“The idea of building the world's largest scientific instrument in Africa caught the imagination of people across the continent. The rest of the world was initially skeptical, but the outstanding work done to establish a protected site in South Africa's arid Northern Cape Province and to build the MeerKAT precursor telescope won everyone over.” Bernie Fanaroff, South Africa: Think Big
Director of the Square Kilometer Array, South Africa

“Impact and innovation will flow from a coalition of the willing, not the straitjacket of international policy and coordination. Multinational programmes are not the answer, nor are academic memoranda of understanding. To maintain the dividend that governments garner from research excellence, they must ensure that universities and their researchers have the resources, facilities and incentives to create and sustain flourishing partnerships.” Jonathan Adams
Nature (30 May 2013)

Steering Committee

The steering committee comprises:

  • Richard Milner, MIT
  • Pat O'Shea, University of Maryland
  • Stephen Fahy, University College Cork
  • Mary O'Regan, Tyndall National Institute


For further information please contact Mary O'Regan