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One of the World's Leading Mathematicians to Visit NUI Galway
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
NUI Galway's de Brún Centre for Computational Algebra is pleased to announce a forthcoming public lecture by leading mathematician Professor Efim Zelmanov, member of the Advisory Board of the Centre. Professor Zelmanov is recognised as one of the greatest algebraists of modern times. In 1994 he was awarded the Fields Medal, commonly known as the 'Nobel Prize' for mathematicians. His public lecture takes place at 3pm, Wednesday, 14 October, in the NCBES Seminar Room, Orbsen Building, NUI Galway. According to Dr Dane Flannery, of the de Brún Centre for Computational Algebra: "Professor Zelmanov is one of the most profoundly gifted mathematicians working in the world today. There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics, and the Fields Medal is recognised as its equivalent. This honour is awarded only to mathematicians under 40 years of age whose discoveries have revolutionised mathematics. We look forward to benefitting from Professor Zelmanov's insights when he visits NUI Galway". Born and educated in the former Soviet Union, Zelmanov received his doctorate from Novosibirsk State University in 1980 at the age of 25. His doctoral dissertation completely changed the branch of mathematics known as Jordan Algebras. In 2001 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and was at that time the youngest member in the Academy's Mathematics division. Professor Zelmanov holds the Rita Atkinson Endowed Chair in Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego. He was previously a Professor of Mathematics at Yale University. Professor Zelmanov was awarded the Fields Medal for his solution of the Restricted Burnside Problem. This fundamental and longstanding algebraic conjecture was the focus of intense research activity by many leading mathematicians throughout the 20th century. Professor Seán Tobin of the Department of Mathematics, NUI Galway, solved a special case of the problem in 1954. Dr Flannery added: "NUI Galway is fortunate indeed to have Professor Zelmanov visiting us. We hope that everyone who attends his lecture gains an appreciation of the nature of mathematical discovery and creativity". Further information is available from Dr Dane Flannery on 091 493587. -ends-
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Drive to Fill over 1000 Higher Education Places for Students with Disabilities
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE), aimed at all school leavers with disabilities, is being launched by the seven universities, Athlone IT, DIT, National College of Ireland and the Mater Dei Institute of Education. This supplementary admissions scheme recognises the impact of disability on educational attainment and on progression to higher education. Approximately 300 students accepted places through DARE in 2009. The eleven participating colleges aim to greatly increase this number in 2010 by offering on average 5% of first year places on a reduced points basis. Significant improvements have been made to the DARE scheme through funding provided by the government's Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The Disability Access Route to Education is now based on robust criteria, has a more streamlined application process through the CAO and is more student friendly. The purpose of the national launch is to make students, schools and organisations aware of the scheme and ultimately to encourage a greater number of applications. A dedicated website, www.accesscollege.ie, has been developed which contains full details of the scheme and will assist students in making their applications. Due to the impact of their disability students may not be able to meet the leaving certificate points for their preferred college course. HEA figures confirm that in the 07/08 academic year, only 1,389 or 4.2% of all new entrants to higher education indicated that they had one or more disabilities. The DARE initiative will play a key role in driving towards the HEA target of doubling the number of students in 3rd level with sensory, physical and multiple disabilities by 2013. Current participation rates are estimated at 15 -17 % for people with sensory disabilities and 14-16 % for people with physical disabilities. These participation rates are well below the current national entry rates of 55%. According to Maureen Dunne, spokesperson for the DARE scheme.. "Students with disabilities experience constant and complex challenges throughout their educational experience which makes it difficult for them to reach their full education potential. As well as health issues many students have low expectations of their ability to progress to higher education". There has been a huge emphasis in higher education in recent years on providing equality of educational opportunity for students with disabilities through dedicated disability support services. These services focus on supporting the student's transition from 2nd to 3rd level as well as the provision of supports based on individualised needs assessments to enable access and full participation by all students with a disability. These supports address the educational, technological and personal needs of the students and are funded by the HEA and the Department of Education and Science through the Fund for Students with a Disability, backed by the European Social Fund (ESF). According to Vivian Rath, science graduate and former UCD Student's union Vice President and Welfare Officer, "With the help of the Disability Support Service once I began university I started to forget about my disability and focused on my many abilities. The support provided allowed me to participate fully in all the college activities such as debating, wheelchair basketball, student societies and the students union". Support for the scheme: "DARE is an excellent support scheme which helps students with disabilities engage in higher education so that they can realise their full potential. Access should be universal but sometimes it's the little things that can get in the way. DARE assists prospective students in overcoming barriers in accessing education and in doing so helps create a more inclusive society which benefits everybody – able and disabled people alike". Caroline Casey, Social Entrepreneur, Founder of Kanchi and the O2 Ability Awards -ends-
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NUI Galway Students to Launch Booklet Investigating the Rights of Asylum-seekers
Monday, 5 October 2009
The Irish Times migration correspondent Ruadhán Mac Cormaic will speak at the launch of a booklet 'Asylum Seekers: A Reality Check for Ireland', which has been written by NUI Galway students. Ruadhán was the 2007 winner of the 'For Diversity, Against Discrimination' journalism award by the European Commission. The event takes place at 12 noon on Thursday, 8 October, in the Siobhán McKenna Theatre, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway. The booklet was produced by students as part of the service learning requirement in the M.A. in Philosophy: Ethics, Culture and Global Change at NUI Galway. The launch is in collaboration with the University's Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), the Refugee Information Service (RIS) and the Galway Refugee Support Group (GRSG). Primarily through a series of interviews, the students sought to better understand some of the most important issues concerning asylum-seekers, one of the most marginalised groups within Irish society. According to Lorraine McIlrath, Director of the CKI, which funded the production of the booklet: "Unfortunately, the students found that there is still a great deal of confusion with regard to asylum-seekers' rights and entitlements with specific regard to third level education. As Judy Irwin, the Co-ordinator of the Refugee Information Service in Galway proposes in the booklet, greater clarity and transparency is required in order to provide a satisfactory service for immigrants in Ireland". One of the guest speakers on 8 October will be Triona Nic Giolla Choille from the Galway Refugee Support Group. Speaking about the impact of the policy of Direct Provision which houses asylum-seekers in centralised locations, Triona said: "I think that one of the most negative aspects of Direct Provision is how it marginalises people physically. I think the other thing is by housing people communally for such a long period of time, it marks them as different and not part of 'us'. Furthermore, Asylum-seekers are a very visible marginalised group. I think that this has the potential to create racism and prejudice, and indeed I think it facilitates the development of prejudice". Admission to the launch and the booklet are free. All are welcome. For further information contact John McInnes, one of the authors of the booklet, on 086 8430399. -ends-
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Irish Marine Researchers Feature in EU 'Star Projects'
Friday, 2 October 2009
Two research projects led by NUI Galway scientists will be showcased by the European Commission at a press conference in Barcelona today (Friday, 2 October). The theme of the press conference is 'Oceans of Tomorrow: the Tara Oceans Expedition and Star Projects in EU Marine Research'. The briefing will feature EU funded marine research success stories and coincides with the arrival in Barcelona of the scientific exploration ship the Tara. The ship is on a three-year round the world mission to investigate climate change. At the event, the HABIT project on harmful algal bloom species will be presented by Dr Robin Raine of the Martin Ryan Institute at NUI Galway. Dr Anthony Grehan, a researcher with Earth and Ocean Sciences at NUI Galway, will introduce the CoralFISH project which is examining the management of corals, fish and fisheries in the deep-ocean. Dr Anthony Grehan led the deep-water expedition in May of this year which confirmed the existence of a major new coral reef province on the southern end of the Porcupine Bank off the west coast of Ireland. He believes that NUI Galway is making an important contribution to improving the sustainable management of marine resources in Europe through such projects. According to Dr Grehan: "Irish scientists have benefited enormously from participation in European funded projects in terms of access to large infrastructure and collaboration with leading European research teams". Also to be highlighted in Barcelona is a recently completed European research project carried out by an interdisciplinary consortium of marine scientists, lawyers and economists that included Drs. Anthony Grehan, Martin White and Ronán Long from NUI Galway. The HERMES project discovered new seafloor features and enhanced scientific knowledge of deep water coral reefs and canyons on the European continental margin and developed innovative science-policy exchange mechanisms. HERMES was recently selected by the European Commission as one of the top 40 projects from the entire European Union's Sixth Framework Programme for Research funded to the tune of €17.5 billion. NUI Galway's Dr Ronán Long, an international expert on the Law of the Sea, says: "The strength of exciting and innovative projects such as HERMES, HABIT and CoralFISH is that they place Irish researchers and students at the cutting-edge of European research on topics which touch every aspect of our lives such as marine environmental protection and the fight against climate change". -Ends-
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Young Irish Delegate to Participate in UNESCO Youth Forum
Thursday, 1 October 2009
The UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth & Civic Engagement, based at the Child and Family Research Centre in NUI Galway, has nominated a young Irish person to participate in the 6th UNESCO Youth Forum. The UNESCO Chair, in collaboration with its partner organisation Foróige, chose Sinéad Ward to represent Ireland at the Forum. The Roscommon native will speak at the plenary session of the Youth Forum on Friday, 2 October. The Youth Forum is taking place in Paris from 1-3 October as an integral part of the 35th UNESCO General Conference. The event brings together young people from around the world to exchange views on topical issues and to identify common opportunities and challenges. Sinéad (24) was a member of Loughlynn Foróige Club when she was younger, and now works with Foróige as a Project Worker in the Choices, Responsibilities, Ideas and Belonging (CRIB) Youth Project and Health Café in Sligo Town. Sinéad will address the Forum on the subject of Youth Participation in Ireland. Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth & Civic Engagement, NUI Galway, said: "We need to value young people now not later. It is crucially important to hear the voice of young people as we seek to emerge from the economic crisis. Not only do young people have the most at stake, but they also have important views to contribute to national and international dialogue on social and political issues". He continued: "We are delighted that Sinéad is participating in the Forum and that she will have the opportunity to exchange views with young delegates from all around the world on the importance of strengthening youth participation". The central themes of the Youth Forum reflect those of the UNESCO General Conference. The overarching theme is 'Investing out of the crisis: towards a partnership between UNESCO and youth organisations". -Ends-
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Lenihan Launches Science Foundation Ireland-funded Alimentary Glycoscience Resea
Thursday, 1 October 2009
(Leagan Gaeilge) Mr Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, today (Thursday, October 1st 2009) officially launched the Alimentary Glycoscience Research Cluster (AGRC) at NUI Galway. AGRC is an NUI Galway-led collaboration of research institutions and industry partners and was established following a grant earlier this year of €5.2million from Government through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Launching the Strategic Research Cluster, Minister Lenihan said: "The AGRC is dedicated to conducting invaluable study into key research areas that impact enormously on each of us, directly or indirectly at some point in our lives. Its multi-disciplinary team of 36 researchers, together with industry partners and Government agencies, is the physical manifestation of the Government's 'Smart Economy' aspiration, and over the next five years will work steadfastly towards unearthing ground-breaking discoveries of benefit to wider society. The participation of leading Industry and government agency partners - Agilent Technologies Ireland Ltd, Alimentary Health, Biomining Inc. and Bristol Myers-Squibb, Teagasc and NBRT - illustrates the ambition and pharmaceutical expertise that the cluster possesses from the outset. According to Professor Lokesh Joshi, Lead Principal Investigator of the AGRC: "Glycosciences is a relatively new but important and rapidly emerging area of research, that is both industrially and clinically relevant. The AGRC is a globally unique and remarkable consortium that is exploring the roles played by complex sugars in host-bacterial interactions. This collaborative effort will aid in the discovery of novel diagnostics, therapeutics and nutraceuticals. The knowledge generated and technologies developed in this cluster will be highly applicable to other infectious diseases, as well as cancer, immune system, inflammation and neuroscience research. This is another example of NUI Galway's contribution to the national innovation strategy and the SMART Economy". Speaking at the launch, director general of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Frank Gannon, said "The Strategic Research Cluster model has proven, in a very short period, that the pooling of resources creates new opportunities which can potentially accelerate commercial outputs and other beneficial consequences. The AGRC has already built up considerable momentum around its specialized discipline." "This is an extremely important initiative for NUI Galway and a very exciting development for Glycoscience research in Ireland. The internationally leading consortium of academic and industry partners, led by Professor Joshi will ensure that Ireland is positioned as a global leader in this emerging research area", said Professor Terry Smith, Vice-President for Research, NUI Galway. AGRC is one of 18 SFI Strategic Research Clusters around the country involving unprecedented engagement between higher education institutions, commercial enterprises and a variety of agencies. Seolann an tAire Lenihan Grúpa Taighde Glioceolaíochta Bia atá á mhaoiniú ag Fondúireacht Eolaíochta na hÉireann in OÉ Gaillimh (View in English) Sheol Conor Lenihan T.D., an tAire Eolaíochta, Teicneolaíochta agus Nuálaíochta Grúpa Taighde na Glioceolaíochta Bia (AGRC) in OÉ Gaillimh inniu (Déardaoin, an 1 Deireadh Fómhair 2009). Is comhfhiontar idir institiúidí taighde agus comhpháirtithe tionscail atá san AGRC a bhfuil OÉ Gaillimh ina ceann feadhna air. Cuireadh tús leis an gcomhfhiontar i ndiaidh don ollscoil deontas €5.2 milliún a fháil ón Rialtas trí Fhondúireacht Eolaíochta Éireann (SFI). Ag seoladh an Ghrúpa Taighde Straitéisigh dó, bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag an Aire Lenihan: "Cuireann an AGRC roimhe staidéar an-tábhachtach a dhéanamh i bpríomhréimsí taighde a mbíonn an-tionchar acu ar gach duine againn, go díreach nó go hindíreach, tráth éigin dár saol. Is léiriú ina steillbheatha an fhoireann ildisciplíneach seo ina bhfuil 36 taighdeoir, mar aon le comhpháirtithe tionscail agus gníomhaireachtaí Rialtais, ar ardmhian 'Gheilleagair Ghlais' an Rialtais, agus as seo go ceann cúig bliana oibreoidh an grúpa seo gan stad gan staonadh chun teacht ar fhionnachtana úrnua a rachaidh chun tairbhe an phobail i gcoitinne. Léiríonn rannpháirtíocht comhpháirtithe móra an tionscail agus gníomhaireachtaí rialtais – Agilent Technologies Ireland Ltd, Alimentary Health, Biomining Inc. agus Bristol Myers-Squibb, Teagasc agus NBRT – an t-ardmhian agus an saineolas cógaisíochta atá sa ghrúpa ón tús. Bhí an méid seo le rá ag an Ollamh Lokesh Joshi, Príomh-Imscrúdaitheoir Ceannais an AGRC: "Is réimse measartha nua na Glioceolaíochtaí ach is réimse taighde tábhachtach é atá ag fás go tapa, agus atá tábhachtach ó thaobh an tionscail agus an leighis de. Is comheagras den scoth an AGRC nach bhfuil a leithéid eile ar domhan atá ag iniúchadh róil an tsiúcra choimpléascaigh in idirghníomhuithe óstbhaictéaracha. Cabhróidh an chomhiarracht seo le teacht ar nua-dhiagnóisic, ar nua-theiripigh agus ar nua-nútraiceodaigh. Féadfar an t-eolas agus na teicneolaíochtaí a chruthóidh an grúpa seo a úsáid le déileáil le galair ionfhabhtaíocha eile, agus beidh sé úsáideach chomh maith don taighde atá ar bun ar ailse, ar chóras imdhíonachta, ar athlasadh agus ar eolaíocht an néarchórais. Is sampla eile é seo dá bhfuil á dhéanamh ag OÉ Gaillimh le cur leis an straitéis nuálaíochta náisiúnta agus leis an gGeilleagar Glic". Ag labhairt dó ag an seoladh, dúirt ardstiúrthóir Fhondúireacht Eolaíochta Éireann, an tOllamh Frank Gannon an méid seo a leanas: "Tá sé cruthaithe ag múnla an Ghrúpa Taighde Straitéisigh, taobh istigh d'achar an-ghearr, go gcruthaíonn an roinnt acmhainní seo deiseanna nua a d fhéadfadh torthaí tráchtála a dheifriú agus a mbeidh torthaí tairbheacha eile orthu. Tá an AGRC ag obair go tréan cheana féin ina shaindisciplín". "Is tionscnamh thar a bheith tábhachach é seo do OÉ Gaillimh agus is forbairt iontach é maidir leis an taighde Glioceolaíochta in Éirinn. Cinnteoidh an comheagras seo de rannpháirtithe acadúla agus tionscail atá ar thús cadhnaíochta go domhanda, agus a bhfuil an tOllamh Joshi ina bhun go mbeidh Éire ina ceannaire domhanda sa réimse taighde úrnua seo", a dúirt an tOllamh Terry Smith, Leas-Uachtarán um Thaighde, OÉ Gaillimh. Tá an AGRC ar cheann de 18 nGrúpa Taighde Straitéiseach ar fud na tíre ina bhfuil comhoibriú nach bhfacthas a leithéid riamh go dtí seo idir institiúidí ardoideachais, fiontair thráchtála agus gníomhaireachtaí éagsúla. -críoch-
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Young Women in Engineering 2009 Award for NUI Galway Student
Monday, 30 November 2009
First-year NUI Galway engineering student, Clíona Flood, was presented this week with a scholarship by Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation. Clíona was the recipient of a Science Foundation Ireland/DELL Scholarship – Young Women in Engineering 2009. The scholarship aims to attract and encourage more high-achieving young women into third-level education in engineering disciplines. Now in its third year, the scheme focuses on young women entering designated engineering degree programmes. Clíona who is originally from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, will receive an annual award over four years of €2,000, and a DELL notebook computer. In addition, to help develop her career, she will have the assistance and support of a mentor, and one summer's research-internship in an academic research laboratory or an industry R&D laboratory. Originally from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Clíona is studying Undenominated Engineering at NUI Galway. The degree includes all disciplines of engineering and informatics in first-year, before a specialist field is chosen in second year. NUI Galway has a long tradition of encouraging female engineers; Alice Perry graduated with a first class honours degree in Civil Engineering in 1906. It is understood that she is the first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering in Ireland or Great Britain, possibly even in the world. Professor Padraic O'Donoghue, Dean of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: "We are very proud of Clíona and her success. The ethos of the College of Engineering and Informatics is to encourage students to develop their innovative and creative skills". Applications for this SFI scholarship were received from eligible candidates nationwide and were extremely competitive, with a total of ten awarded. -ends-
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Unique Language Planning PhD Programme Launched at NUI Galway
Monday, 30 November 2009
-Focus on the requirements of Irish speakers- Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív T.D., has officially launched two PhD programmes dealing with minority language issues within the Irish-speaking community. The research programme, run by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in conjunction with NUI Galway's School of Health Sciences, is funded through research bursaries from An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG). Speaking at the launch Minister Ó Cuív said: "The strategic collaboration between the University, the State and the community is contributing to the groundbreaking work undertaken by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge and NUI Galway for the benefit of the Irish-speaking community through teaching, research and consultancy work. It is intended that these research findings will be used to provide more effective advice to that community and to help Gaeltacht bodies tackle the complexities of bilingualism". NUI Galway President Dr James J. Browne congratulated Sarah Anne Muckley and Ciarán Lenoach, the students who were successfully awarded the COGG bursaries. He thanked COGG for supporting these research projects and for providing the research scholarships to enable NUI Galway award them to competent students undertaking research in this area of study. "These research proposals reflect the great progress Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge has made in developing Irish-medium education. We are happy that an tAcadamh, the School of Health Sciences (Speech & Language Therapy) and the Health Service Executive are cooperating to gain an understanding of the requirements of Irish speakers, and the requirements of Irish speakers with special needs, in particular". Speaking at the launch, Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Aonad na Pleanála Teanga, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta, Gaeilge, said: "This is the first PhD programme with which Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge is associated. The two PhD research projects are part of a pioneering research programme that will deal with relevant minority language issues within the Irish-speaking community. This research is central to the work of Aonad na Pleanála Teanga and shows how research projects in that unit are developing". The aim of the first PhD programme is to develop appropriate Irish assessments that are suitable for the way Irish is spoken as a minority language. This research will provide assessments for speech therapists who work with native Irish speakers. The second PhD will analyse the complexities of bilingualism in a minority language community such as those faced by Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas. An important objective of NUI Galway is to develop transdisciplinary study and research and to resolve common issues through examination by the application of different perspectives and understandings. Minister Ó Cuív added: "A consistent and coordinated strategy is needed to ensure that the services available to people whose home language is Irish are the same as the services available to their English-speaking counterparts. The community and the state are cooperating to ensure that this groundbreaking step in the development of services and resources will succeed so that systems will be put in place to provide as complete a service to families who are raising their children through Irish as the service provided to families who choose English as their household language". -Ends-
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Threats Posed by Climate Change to Coastal Regions Targeted by New Project
Monday, 30 November 2009
The threats posed by climate change to coastal regions in Western Europe are to being investigated by NUI Galway experts together with teams from universities in France, Spain and Portugal. Along with local and regional authorities, the universities have founded the 'Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management' (ANCORIM). This initiative has been granted €1.9 million by the EU for a three-year project to bridge the gap between the climate change scientists and coastal zone decision-makers. In Ireland, an assessment of the current planning practices in the Border-Midlands-West region has begun to ascertain how, if at all, are considerations of climate change being included in planning decisions. The ANCORIM team will look at managing and preventing the risks associated with climate change in regards to shoreline erosion, rural and urban coastal land planning, and economic activities such as fish farming. The work at NUI Galway is being led by geographers with the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and will involve local communities in the western region through Mayo County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta. Dr Martina Prendergast, Development Manager of the ECI, says: "As a nation we need to realise the importance of 'climate-proofing' our policies. The ANCORIM project is about supporting the futures of coastal communities all along the Atlantic rim of Europe. The support of the community is key to the success of this project, and locally we will be making the most of our close links with the Gaeltacht". The involvement of high-risk coastal communities in the project will be facilitated through focus groups, interviews and other consultative means. NUI Galway's Professor Micheál Ó Cinnéide says: "This work is all the more important because it is well known that societies around the world tend to underestimate risks associated with many natural phenomena such as floods, droughts and earthquakes. Unfortunately, risks to coastal zones associated with the changing climate are currently incorporated in decision-making largely on an ad-hoc basis only in many countries. Planning guidelines that incorporate the risks of climate change need to be put in place". Professor Ó Cinnéide added: "This is not a shortcoming of the planners, or of climate change researchers and scientists. However, the scientific information does need to be made more accessible, and its implications for coastal communities need to be spelt out. As part of this project, we will be compiling sets of best practices and working with the decision-makers as to how these should best be incorporated into current policies and practices". Ireland has already seen the dramatic effects of coastal erosion, especially in County Wexford where some areas are losing more than two metres of shoreline each year due to erosion. It is in situations like this, where coastal land planning decisions would need to incorporate the effects of increased storminess and higher sea levels on rates of shoreline retreat. Dr Kevin Lynch, a coastal geomorphologist with the ANCORIM team at NUI Galway, explains: "Although coastal erosion and flooding is increasingly being seen as a major threat in Ireland, for the most part the response has been to provide engineering solutions such as building sea walls and using filled gabions to stabilise the shoreline. Engineering solutions have been shown to be unsustainable due to high costs and detrimental impacts on our natural heritage. Alternative solutions need to be advanced to combat impacts of climate change on our coastlines. Adapting and planning for coastlines to change naturally may be something in which we will have no choice". -ends-
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Experts Call for National Strategy to Develop Creative Sector
Monday, 30 November 2009
The Western Development Commission (WDC) and the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) at NUI Galway have called for the development of an integrated national strategy to develop the creative sector and drive the future of the smart economy. The call was made at a seminar entitled 'Creative Industries, Innovation & the Smart Economy' held at NUI Galway and attended by policymakers and practitioners from the creative sector. The Smart Economy Framework, launched by the Government in December 2008, specifically identifies the creative, cultural and arts sector as important for national recovery and building a more knowledge and innovation intensive economy. Speaking at the seminar Lisa McAllister, WDC Chief Executive, said: "Creativity should be firmly placed at the core of the smart economy where wealth creation will be increasingly driven by ideas, intangibles and the creative application of Information and Communications Technology. Although we are conscious of the current economic constraints, the WDC believes a national policy to develop the sector will deliver long term economic results for the Western Region and for the national economy. We also believe that future policy decisions should include investment in infrastructure so that the creative businesses who locate here can access international markets, both physically through air, road and rail links, and virtually by way of fast, cheap broadband to reduce any sense of peripherality". Dr James Cunningham, Director of the Centre for Innovation & Structural Change at NUI Galway, said: "The nature and organisation of innovation activity is changing and the development of an internationally competitive creative industries sector complements and helps sustain private and public sector investment in research, development and innovation (RDI). Development of a national policy for creative industries would provide a focus for enabling action and a recognition of the importance of creative industries to Irish society and business". Dr Cunningham added: "Policy supports and investment in the development of creative industries would strengthen, deepen and broaden the skills and talents of individuals and organisations. This would also support, in a sustainable way, the broadening of innovation capability and capacity which is a critical element of building a smart economy". The seminar heard of research carried out by the WDC to investigate the size of the creative sector in the Western Region and to identify the key issues faced by people working in the sector. It estimated that in 2008 there were 4,779 creative businesses operating in the Western Region, directly employing over 11,000 people. This generated an annual turnover of €534m and directly contributed €270m to the Gross Value Added of the regional economy. The research also showed that creative businesses in the Western Region tend to be small scale and that there is a high level of entrepreneurship among creative people with 39% of them self-employed. The Western Region is predominantly rural with 68% of the population living in rural areas and the region having few large centres. Creative talent is seen as an asset in a rural region and the seminar heard calls for policies to retain and attract creative talent because creativity is one of the key areas for potential economic growth. Ms McAllister added: "The presence of a strong creative sector in a region can also drive creative thinking in other sectors as well as stimulating new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things". Professor Robert Huggins from the University of Wales and Director of the Centre for International Competitiveness presented international evidence of the links between competitiveness and creativity. He explained how competitiveness is increasingly being measured in terms of creativity, knowledge and environmental conditions, rather than purely on accumulated wealth and that creativity is not a purely urban phenomenon. The seminar heard that Creative Industries and the Smart Economy are relative newcomers to policy debates and that the old dichotomy that separated 'cultural industries' from 'economic industries' is waning, as research highlights the contribution of the innate creativity often found in rural areas to the economic performance of regions. -Ends-
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