Caitríona Farrell investigates how UCD’s pool of scientific talent is helping society tackle its big issues
The first year of Innovation Dublin has undoubtedly launched scientific research in UCD to a heightened level of professionalism and originality. The festival has already been pencilled into next year’s calendar, having established itself as a mainstay affair.
The profile of research in UCD was raised tremendously last week, creating new links and networks between researchers, representatives from industry, and the general public. In the present economic climate, mounting concerns demand a better comprehension of the environment, science and technology. In the 21st century, escalating problems are emerging on a day-to-day basis, and so Innovation Dublin claims that science plays a predominant part, gearing society towards sustainable and viable solutions.
Enterprise by definition is seeing a need, a want or an opportunity, and doing something about it. It is the basic everyday rituals and informalities that we all stumble across when we are quick enough in identifying faults, seeing a need for improvement and spotting a niche. Innovation Dublin celebrates this, the “doing something about it” aspect, of society.
The days when the entrance to Plato’s Academy read “Let no man enter who does not know mathematics” are fortunately long over. The whole of science isn’t rocket science, but rather applied thinking.
Addressing some of the world’s pressing issues involves looking for simple changes that affect every walk of life – for example, evolutions to the world of finance, or climate change. As climatic factors are varying and shifting non-uniformly, the future is unpredictable – and as a result, we need to engineer our lives to be more adaptable to change. Change has always been around, and is a major component of scientific thinking – as Heraclitus quoted, “All things are in a state of change, nothing remains the same.”
Last week, UCD’s Science block was not alone in being referred to as ‘the hub’ of scientific activity: the whole of campus, and Dublin city in general, are considered to be prime incubators in the development of new innovation. In many cases projects have been interdisciplinary, highlighting the scope of research that encompasses different domains of the science and technology fields. For example, a collaboration between UCD’s School of Computer Science & Informatics and the Conway Institute has established software for use in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology market.
Another particularly eye-catching project on display, ‘Sentiment Analysis Tool for the Irish Media’ by the Machine Learning Group and Clique, garnered a lot of attention amongst the assemble press. This project monitors the balance between positive and negative economic news published by different media sources – in the absence of George Lee, RTÉ News is currently (statistically speaking) the most positive news source on economic developments. The University Observer, sadly, has yet to be included in the group’s research.
One of the project’s aims for the moment is to analyse press coverage so as to predict the end of the current recession; given time, it could possibly transform our ideas on journalism and serve as a better forecast of the future state of the Irish and international economies.
Elsewhere, in the world of video gaming, Evolutionary Gait Animation are leading a movement moved away from the clunky, artificial, virtual world. Using an approach based on theoretical physics, the company aims to add a new dimension to the gaming industry by proving a more realistic user experience through real-life physical interaction. If you think things are ‘real’ with the Wii console, think again – these guys believe there’s plenty more realism to come.
TRIL was another enthusiastic group, improving the safety and welfare of the elderly by using sensor technologies in order to make domestic life for elderly people safer and more efficient.
Similarly, at Entrepreneurial Universities last week, the ‘Bettie’ programme was identified as a unique solution for bridging the gap between the Bebo generation, who use web-based services to blog and keep in contact with others, and the elderly. By using custom-built hardware accessible to older people, Bettie allows the elderly to stay in contact with their children and grandchildren.
Innovation Dublin incorporated an exciting and fresh ensemble of science-meets-commerce. Although the cutting edge research went well over this writer’s head at times, all in attendance were left in no doubt that innovation is the answer to stimulating a more thriving ecosystem. Merging logic with a spark for creativity, researchers have developed a medium for venting their ideas and works. That medium being Innovation Dublin, where white lab coats meet pinstriped suits, and conferences meet laboratories.