Substantial state funding has been made available by the government (Republic of Ireland) in recent years towards ‘fourth-level’ postgraduate research in all sectors including engineering. This move towards research and innovation supports the goal of Ireland becoming a knowledge-based economy.
Academic research for engineers
All academic institutions offering honours engineering degree programmes have active research groups on campus covering a variety of research topics. The biomedical, renewable energy and ecology/environmental fields are some of the areas which offer great scope for further research, as do the broader electronic and digital media/communications sectors.
Gerry Byrne’s guide to the engineering profession in Ireland, 'Engineering Your Career', includes an extensive listing of the numerous research areas in the various educational institutions in Ireland. College websites should also provide you with a good idea of the areas of research in institutions. You should also consider academic institutions around the world, particularly if you cannot find a college in Ireland carrying out research into your area of interest. Check out postgradireland.com/engineering for information on postgraduate research programmes in the Republic and Northern Ireland, as well as the course search at postgradireland.com.
Research programmes at third level can be Masters degree programmes or PhD/Doctorate level. Masters research programmes on average take 18 months to complete and require a dissertation on the student’s original research topic. PhDs in engineering are typically completed over a three to five year period and involve high-level research culminating in the presentation of research findings.
Innovation centres – a link with business
Specific ‘innovation centres’ also offer researchers, particularly those at post-doctorate level, the chance to take their research further. These centres, which usually have links with external bodies or industries, typically have a business focus and hence can provide the researcher with a greater understanding of commercial realities.
Funding for research
The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) is the main body providing funding for research in the engineering areas in Ireland. Other state bodies providing funding in recent times include Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Marine Institute and the National Roads Authority. Private sector bodies can also provide support for research taking place in the various academic institutions. Graduates should also look to R&D departments in industry for opportunities.