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Professional Ireland :: Issue No.565 | Print |  Email
Sunday, 12 November 2006
October 4, 2006

Business and academic news for the global Irish community

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Customers left without service as Eircom pulls the plug on Smart

The latest body blow to Smart Telecom came on Monday evening when Eircom cut the beleaguered company's customers off its network, leaving some 40,000 subscribers without the ability to make outgoing calls other than to emergency numbers. Smart owes approximately €4m to Eircom for usage of its lines; close to half of this amount is in arrears, and a number of previous termination notices have already been extended. Following talks between ComReg and Eircom, the latter agreed to reinstate a limited service to Smart's customers for a further two weeks. Although Eircom was able to withdraw service without warning at 5:00pm on Monday, it claims that it will take up to three days to restore a limited service; only calls to landlines within Ireland will be allowed. Smart's customers now have two weeks to make alternative arrangements, by signing up with Eircom or one of its competitors unless, of course, it regularises its relationship with Eircom.

Smart, which is still awaiting resolution of its High Court battle over the regulator's decision to rescind its 3G licence award, recently started laying off staff and lost some high-profile executives, while monthly cash burn is running into the millions. At the time of writing, analysts are casting serious doubts on the company's future viability; Smart itself is saying little. On its website it apologised and said, "We expect to have full service resumed as soon as possible". Yesterday Smart asked that trading in its shares be suspended.

Banta contract relocation will mean up to 200 Cork redundancies

As many as 200 jobs will be lost at Banta Global Turnkey in Cork during 2007, following an announcement by the US multinational that it will move some of its Irish production to alternative facilities in the Czech Republic. The company, which carries out contract manufacturing and printing services for IT sector customers, told employees last week that one of its largest client contracts - said in reports to be Hewlett-Packard - will in future be fulfilled in Eastern Europe. Of the 350 people currently employed at the Hollyhill Industrial Estate facility, up to 200 may be involved in this contract; about 150 of these are understood to be permanent employees. A further 700 workers at a sister plant in Limerick will not be affected. The Wisconsin-headquartered company came to Cork in 1995; three years ago, a consolidation of its Irish operations saw 65 jobs lost in a Dublin closure.

Hermes SoftLab seeks Irish business, employees

The Slovenian IT company Hermes SoftLab has established a Dublin office under the management of former Enterprise Ireland executive Kevin Maher. He is predicting that more than 60 IT professionals will be recruited at the Irish operation by the end of next year. Described as "a major European player" in a press release, the company now has offices in Bosnia, Serbia, Austria, Germany, the US and this country. Its clients include Yahoo, BT, Ericsson, Walt Disney, BSkyB, Hewlett Packard, Siemens and Vodafone Ireland. That last relationship commenced three years ago, and the mobile operator remains a key customer, according to Mr Maher. "If you've used the Vodafone Online store, you're using our Hermes-developed technology", he explained. "If you've ever topped-up your son or daughter's pre-paid phone by text you're using Hermes-developed technology". The company specialises in near-shoring services for European and US customers.

MBO takes Swiftcall back into Irish ownership

Swiftcall Ireland has been purchased by its management team, CEO Tommy Tuite and CTO Fergus Kernan, for an undisclosed sum. The Dublin-based telecoms group, which offers international telephone calls to the domestic and corporate market, claims a database of 60,000 residential customers, which it says gives it a 33% share of the Irish call card market. Originally established by Tom McCabe in 1994, Swiftcall competed with Eircom before deregulation of the Irish market and with BT in Britain. It was sold to Japanese telecoms firm KDD, now called KDDI, in 1998; that entity will be retained as an interconnect partner, along with other telco players such as Eircom, Verizon and Cable & Wireless. Tommy Tuite commented this week that the company "is now Irish-owned and Irish-operated again, and will continue to offer the same keen level of personal service that it has offered for 11 years". Swiftcall currently employs 30 people at its Dublin headquarters on Merrion Road. It has recently invested substantially in a new switching infrastructure, and plans a brand relaunch prior to entering the broadband market later this year.

Other ICT News: Triangle Computer Services, Commtech, TeamDBA, First Derivatives


Triangle Computer Services, an infrastructural integration IT group, has become the first company in Ireland to earn the Valued-Added Consultant (VAC) status from VMware, the virtualisation software multinational. The company's established installed customer base of VMware solutions includes BT, Allianz, BWG, Calor Gas and Beaumont Hospital. This accreditation is said to result from "extensive investment in people and training". MD Kieran McCabe commented: "Having the top VAC accreditation is important to us, allowing us to talk to enterprise customers and demonstrate our expertise across both theory and practice".


Commtech, a distributor of internet, networking and security solutions, has announced the availability of its Secure Computing SafeWord SecureWire 50 Identity and Access Management appliance. The remote access, authentication and compliance hub for SMEs provides secure SSL VPN-based remote access for as many as 50 concurrent users, with an add-on module that can accommodate up to 100. Commtech claims that any organisation which extends its information assets to internal and external users can benefit from SecureWire's simplification of access, management, and compliance.


Database administration specialist TeamDBA has launched a suite of database recovery and validation services, known as DataCheck. This is designed to guarantee the integrity of Oracle and SQLServer databases, allowing mission-critical applications to be fully recovered and restored in the event of hardware failure or human error. Sales director Kevin O'Connor said that the offering was developed in response to customer demand, adding, "It is critical that data be regularly checked for anomalies such as corrupt files which could prevent application accessibility". Pricing for the service starts at €1,250 for an annual contract. Founded in 2002, TeamDBA is a privately funded provider of outsourced database administration (DBA) skills.


Pre-tax profits at Newry-based First Derivatives rose by 80% for the first half of the year, to reach £1.7m. This was achieved on foot of a 52% surge in revenues, to £4.2m, as customers - principally US and British banks - purchased more of its software. First Derivatives offers sales and services for a Californian technology partner, which specialises in producing software for tracking foreign exchange, stock and commodity market price changes.


New partnership for Elan as Tysabri attracts mixed news flow

Elan Corporation, the Athlone-headquartered drugmaker, has announced an exclusive worldwide collaboration agreement with Transition Therapeutics, of Toronto, Canada, for the joint development and commercialisation of a therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer's disease. The agent, AZD-103, is a small molecule compound which is currently in phase I clinical development. Under the terms of the agreement, Transition will receive upfront payments of $15m, with possible milestone payments of up to $185m to follow. Elan and Transition will share the costs and operating profits of AZD-103 if successfully developed and commercialised.

Separately, Elan and its development partner Biogen Idec have revealed that phase III study data from Tysabri trials shows that the drug "significantly reduced the proportion of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with worsening cognitive function". This is likely to provide a further boost to the position of the treatment, which spent most of last year withdrawn from market after being linked with two fatalities in test subjects. Is has since been returned to sale on foot of Food and Drug Administration approval in the US and a range of positive tests results, similar to this latest. Elan today announced that the Canadian health authorities have granted approval to Tysabri for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

On the downside, US research firm Piper Jaffray last week slashed its estimates for worldwide annual sales of Tysabri, from a previous 2006 prediction of $123m to just $21m. The data was apparently backed up by feedback from medical practitioners who reported slower-than-expected adoption rates of the MS drug, said to be due to concerns over safety, reimbursement procedures and patient monitoring requirements. The Piper Jaffray report also suggests that Elan's current stock price is considerably overvalued.


Government approves An Post/Fortis banking partnership

Government approval has been given to An Post's proposed new retail banking partnership with the Belgian bank Fortis, which will see the State company's 1,400 offices across the country offer mortgages, insurance, credit cards and other related services. Exact details of the investment being made by An Post were not disclosed, although a statement said that both parties to the deal were making heavy commitments. An Post's existing financial operations, One Direct and Post Point, will be subsumed into the new joint venture, which will initially employ 250 people, rising to 500 in the next five years. Workers will be transferred from An Post under the same pay and conditions. Spokespeople for the new offering indicated that it will target areas where major banks are increasingly pulling out; there have been a number of high-profile and sometimes contentious closures of bank branches in rural areas in recent years.

New DFIA name reflects nationwide spread of funds industry

The Dublin Funds Industry Association (DFIA) is to change its name to the Irish Funds Industry Association (IFIA), a move which it says reflects the growth of the industry nationwide. The DFIA was founded in 1991 as the representative body for the international investment funds community in Ireland. The Finance Act 2000 allowed for industry companies to locate outside the IFSC, resulting in a number of companies establishing operations in different parts of the country. Speaking at the announcement, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern noted the IFSC has been a major success story for Ireland since its inception in 1987. "However, it is important to recognise that the international financial services industry in Ireland is no longer a Dublin-only phenomenon", he added. Gary Palmer, IFIA chief executive, commented that the industry "now services funds with assets in excess of one trillion euro and employs almost 9,000 people. To continue and sustain this growth, the increased demand for resources needs to be satisfied, and the extension of Industry Company activities outside Dublin will assist in addressing this challenge".


Healthy early days for Aer Lingus shares

As reported last week, Aer Lingus shares commenced trading unofficially - on the so-called "grey market" - on Wednesday, September 27, priced at €2.20, towards the lower end of the indicative range. The official listing took place on Monday morning, at which point they opened at €2.48. Interest was strong on the initial flotation, which saw 514 million shares issued, giving a market capitalisation of €1.1bn, although this has of course risen since as the share price went up. Aer Lingus estimates that airline staff purchased some €25m worth of shares on the first day of trading, while Minister for transport Martin Cullen suggested that, despite fears that predatory institutions would dominate, 90% of smaller retail investors achieved their desired holdings. The Government retained a 28.3% stake, having previously said that it would hold onto the 25.1% required to give it a controlling interest. It is intended that some of this holding will be sold to Aer Lingus staff employees over the coming years; a further 0.4% will be distributed as an incentive scheme to shareholders in a year's time.

Ryanair hikes guidance, reveals new routes, takes on DAA

Ryanair last week issued revised profit guidance for the full-year, predicting an increase of 11%, as opposed to a previously forecast range of 5% to 10%. This would bring annual profits to approximately €335m. Chief executive Michael O'Leary indicated that the new guidance was based on better-than-expected growth in passenger numbers and the likelihood of higher average revenues per passenger over the winter. Ryanair is expecting to carry 42 million passengers this year.

The low-fares airline recently revealed that it is to order 32 more Boeing 737s; this will leave it with 281 of this particular aircraft in its fleet when the order is fulfilled. It is also to launch 17 new routes out of Girona Airport near Barcelona, starting from March of next year.

Earlier in the week, Ryanair made news of another kind when it launched a slew of challenges and complaints focusing on the proposed new €400m second terminal for Dublin Airport. In what could be a major obstacle to the DAA's plans for the project, Ryanair is lodging a planning objection, making representations to the Competition Authority over the cost of the development, and complaining to the European Commission over what it says is the Authority's monopoly position. Mr O'Leary, who says that Ryanair is offering to build a terminal out of its own finances for €250m, was trenchant in his criticisms of the DAA and its executives, saying they have "a long record of incompetence in building awful facilities that don't work".

Major European award for Aer Arann

Aer Arann, the regional Irish airline, was awarded the prestigious Palme d'Or honour last week by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) at an awards ceremony in Barcelona, Spain. The event, which forms part of the association's Annual General Assembly, was attended by over 600 international press and airline delegates. The Palme d'Or is said to be a special honour presented in recognition of sustained excellence and high business performance; it is held in perpetuity, and there are currently only two other holders: Air Nostrum of Spain and London City Airport. Aer Arann, which has held the ERA Bronze Airline of the Year Award for the past two years, was chosen from among 65 airline members across Europe for this accolade. The airline is currently operating more than 600 flights weekly, across 39 routes, carrying in excess of one million passengers per annum.

Other Tourism & Travel news: Rosslare GS, Killarney GS, Thirdforce/Fáilte Ireland


Several weeks ago, the Dublin Airport Authority sold seven of the eight properties in the famous Great Southern Hotel (GSH) chain to various businesses and consortia. The final hotel, in Rosslare, has now also been purchased, by accountant Hilary Haydon, who controls a number of property interests in the local area. The price paid, of between €4m and €6m, means that the DAA has now raised more than €270m through the GSH disposal.


Simultaneously, one of those previous buyers, Galway businessman Gerry Barrett, is to sell on the Killarney hotel, it has been revealed. The 152-year-old property will change hands for €40m, the same price Mr Barrett originally paid. Its new owners will be the Kerry-based developers Sunday's Well Properties and local hoteliers Janet and Pádraig Treacy.


Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism promotion body, has linked with the Irish e-learning courseware and testing provider ThirdForce to deliver a "Tourism Awareness Programme" in Irish secondary schools. ThirdForce has developed a range of interactive teaching and learning resources to support the programme, which includes a teacher's resource manual, a CD-ROM and an interactive website. Together these provide a comprehensive course on tourism, its importance to the Irish economy, and the opportunities for careers in this sector. Theo Teeder, business development manager at ThirdForce, commented: "We are confident that our experience designing and delivering innovative e-learning resources using a blend of technology, multimedia and pedagogy, will provide a unique learning experience that will engage pupils, lift performance and transform teaching".


Dublin-based talk radio station goes national

Newstalk 106, which was formerly focused on the Dublin area, last week became the first commercial talk radio station to broadcast nationally. It now expects to reach more than 92% of the population via its transmitter network, broadcasting between 106 and 108FM. A breakfast show commencing at 6.30am on Friday morning marked the national launch, under the terms of the station's new ten-year licence, awarded by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. The station is promising "real choice" in current affairs, news, sports, listener interaction, as well as talk and analysis covering both domestic and international issues. Newstalk is chaired Denis O'Brien and its chief executive is Elaine Geraghty. Presenters include Ger Gilroy, Seán Moncrieff, Orla Barry, Brenda Power, Eoin McDevitt, George Hook, Declan Carty, and David Norris.

The broadcaster became involved in a mini controversy when TV3 went to court and obtained a temporary injunction preventing its news anchor Claire Byrne from broadcasting on NewsTalk 106. It is claimed that Ms Byrne is under contract to TV3 and that NewsTalk 106 induced her to breach her contract.


Exchequer returns continue to exceed expectations

Exchequer returns remain remarkably healthy although a slight slowdown in the growth in tax take was noted in September. Tax income for the first nine months of the year came to €29.66bn, 12.2% up on the same period last year. The tax growth, combined with lower than expected Government spending, resulted in a deficit for the nine months of just €136m. For the same period last year, this figure was €1.12bn. The budgeted deficit for the full year is €2.93bn and no matter what happens in the final three months the outcome is going to be very much better than that. The biggest contributor to the growth in tax remains stamp duty, which is €687m ahead of budget expectations, although the growth eased in September due to a slowdown in the property market.

No change in Irish ranking for international competitiveness

Ireland has held steady at 21st place in the latest annual ranking of global competitiveness produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The 2006 survey found that this country performed well in the areas of market efficiency - our greatest strength, apparently - higher education and training, business sophistication and institutional quality. Our overall score was reduced however by a poor mark for infrastructure. Attracting most attention in coverage of this report was the fact that the US was demoted from first to sixth place, with Switzerland claiming its former title, followed by three Scandinavian countries and Singapore.

NCB reports a 37th month of manufacturing growth

The growth of the Irish manufacturing economy "remained robust in September", according to commentary attached to the latest monthly PMI from NCB. The headline figure for the measure, which assesses the economic health of manufacturing industries in this country, last month increased marginally by 0.1 points, to 54.2; this does, however, mark a 37th consecutive improvement, in that it remains above the no-change median mark of 50. Summarising the data, NCB senior economist Eunan King observed that output in manufacturing continued at a "respectable" pace, while orders growth held up, despite a deceleration in export demand, implying robust domestic sales. He noted also that input prices accelerated slightly while output prices continued to rise at about the same pace experienced throughout the year to date, concluding: "It seems a case of continued steady expansion".

New CSO data on national accounts shows mostly positive trends

The Central Statistics Office reports that gross domestic product (GDP) was up 5% per annum in the second quarter, while gross national product (GNP) grew by 9% on the same scale - although this latter figure reflects the unusually high profit repatriations of last year rather than a current boom, apparently. The data was contained in the CSO's Quarterly National Accounts, which also show a 6.7% year-on-year surge in consumer spending, 4.8% in Government expenditure and a 2.2% decline in capital investment. Net exports fell by €131m during the three months, suggesting that the increased consumer spending was largely on imported goods.

ESRI urges immigration "pause", predicts ongoing economic health

The Economic and Social Research Institute issued its latest Quarterly Economic Commentary this week, with its comments on the implications of the next wave of EU accessions attracting the most attention. The think-tank is recommending that the Government impose a system of restricted work permits on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria in order to allow time for research on the effects of continued immigration. The ESRI's Dr Alan Barrett argued that a "pause" in our currently "very liberal" policy is required to assess the current economic context.

Separately, the ESRI is predicting continued strong growth over the coming two years, with GDP poised to expand by 5.9% this year and 5% in 2007, while inflation slows to 4% and 3.6% on the same timescale. This could however be affected by the significant threat of an "economic correction" in the US which would, it is claimed, cause up to 90,000 job losses here.

House price moderation increasingly evident in newest data

The latest house price survey by Permanent TSB and the ESRI suggests that this year's European Central Bank interest rate rises may have initiated a trend of slowing house price growth. This fell to 1% for August, lower than at any time in the previous quarter; monthly growth rates across all market sectors were down consecutively for the first time this year. Permanent TSB's head of marketing, Niall O'Grady, said these readings are "pointing to the heat being taken out the market, and house price growth reaching the top of the curve". The average prices paid by a first-time buyer and a second-time buyer in August were put at €275k and €344k respectively; last December, the equivalents were €249k and €311k.

Other Economic news: Geldof addresses family business conference, Consumer Sentiment Index


Rock star and activist Bob Geldof made the weekend papers through his address to the second annual Irish Family Business Conference, where he described SMEs and family firms as "the absolute foundation of the economy". He also told attendees at the UCC event that family businesses often assume a "squirearchical role" in that they seek to give something back to the community. At the same event, Senator Feargal Quinn and the Swiss academic Joachim Schwass argued that multi-generational family firms should focus on serving and retaining customers rather than personal monetary gain; Prof. Schwass cited US research which suggests that "fun" businesses often outperform more practical enterprises which may be run along more conventional lines.


Consumer sentiment rose from 84.8 in August to 86.5 last month, according to the latest IIB/ESRI data, thanks largely to the fall in oil prices. This was apparently based more on consumers' assessments of future prospects, rather than their analysis of current conditions, however, as the sub-index reflecting respondents' feelings about their personal financial circumstances remained relatively downbeat. Economists noted that the overarching trend remains downward despite September's slight lift: the latest three-month moving average was down from 88.3 in August to 87.4.


Deloitte report throws spotlight on problems at ESB

The thorny topic of the energy market was the subject of much discussion early this week, due to the publication of a report by consultants Deloitte arguing in favour of the partial break-up of the ESB. The Government has, however, rejected such a proposal, with Minister for Natural Resources Noel Dempsey arguing that any division of the State-owned utility could weaken the company and threaten the security of future power supplies. Others suggested he was afraid to take on the unions. Mr Dempsey was speaking at the launch of a policy paper entitled, "Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland", the first such Government document in this area for close on 20 years. It outlines a plan to develop new interconnectors to the North, Britain and mainland European and also emphasises the importance of diversifying energy supply sources so that 305 comes from renewable sources by 2020.

According to Deloitte, outdated maintenance practices and exorbitant labour rates are costing the ESB an unnecessary €100m annually. This claim attracted considerable media attention, as did the controversy over the regulator's approval for a 34% hike in gas prices, which came into effect on Monday. Many commentators argued that this decision should be revoked, given that it was based on rising international gas costs which have since tempered.

Ann Heraty of CPL takes top award at 2006 E&Y Entrepreneur Awards

The top prize at this year's Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to Ann Heraty, founder of the recruitment group CPL Resources. This is the first time the award has been given to a woman. Ms Heraty, who will now proceed to represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur of the Year competition in Monte Carlo next year, also came top in the International category. CPL, which was founded in 1989, is now listed on the AIM in London and employs some 250 staff.

Taking the gongs in the Industry and Emerging categories were Richard Barrett of Treasury Holdings and Alan Scroope of Freeflow, respectively. Also established in 1989, Treasury develops commercial and associated residential properties; it currently has assets of €2.2bn and an international retail investment portfolio worth some €2.4bn. Tralee-headquartered Freeflow offers inventory asset management technologies to customers, employing 15 staff in Ireland and the US. It was set up five years ago in Mr Scroope's mother-in-law's house. Finally, former GAA president Seán Kelly was honoured in the special category of Social Entrepreneur of the Year award; chairman of the judging panel, Denis O'Brien, described his work as "one of the finest examples of social entrepreneurships in Ireland". Speaking glowingly about small Irish businesses at the awards ceremony, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mícheál Martin said that "their ambition, creativity and the contribution they make to the lives of Irish people should not be underestimated". This was the ninth year of the Ernst & Young competition.

Other General News: Unilever, MCD promotions, White Young Green


Unilever is to close its plant in Inchicore, Dublin, following "a detailed strategic review" of its European food operations. A total of 125 jobs will be lost in the move, reducing the food group's workforce to 250 employees. Management indicated that the site could not compete effectively with larger, more specialised facilities, and that further investment would not have been sustainable. Operations formerly based there - including the Knorr Soup factory and Lyons Tea production - will be transferred to other Unilever premises.


The Irish Times reports that MCD promotions is seeking to develop a €100m arena in Dublin, with a capacity of up to 17,000 people, for staging major international acts. MCD supremo Denis Desmond is understood to have commenced discussions and site evaluations for the "international leisure event village", which will also incorporate a 600-room hotel and various restaurant and bar facilities. According to the newspaper, the sites being considered are in Abbotstown, west Dublin (the State-owned land previously mooted as a location for a national stadium), the former Irish Glass Bottle plant and Ringsend, and sites in Coolock and Clondalkin.


White Young Green (WYG), the multi-disciplinary built, social and natural environment consultancy, has announced the creation of its Sustainability Bureau, which it describes as a one-stop-shop for clients, uniting all of the company's expertise on sustainable development. Launching the bureau in Dublin this week, group MD Ray Moore said that, in business terms, sustainability means "integrating environmental protection, social advancement and economic prosperity". He explained that the bureau will aim "not only to take the uncertainty out of complying with the growing number of legislative and sustainability requirements, but also to ensure added value results in the overall initiative or project." He cited examples such as the Sir John Rogersons Quay Remediation Project, the Portlaoise Water Supply and the Bio Diesel Plant at Kildorrery, North Cork.


Senior appointments at Murray Consultants

Irish Times journalist Mark Brennock has joined Murray Consultants as director of public affairs while Robert Marshall and John McGuinness, of the Fianna Fail press office and Fleishman Hillard respectively, are joining as consultants. Mark will leave his current position as chief political correspondent of the newspaper; a graduate of UCD and DCU, he has also worked with other well-known Irish publications. Prior to joining the Fianna Fail press office, Robert worked with McConnells Public Relations, Newstalk 106FM and on a freelance basis with a number of media organisations. He is a graduate of DCU and Griffith College Dublin. Finally, UL graduate John McGuinness brings technology, finance and sports sponsorship expertise from his years with Fleishman Hillard.


£1m awarded to QUB researchers

A team of researchers in the School of Physics at Queen's University Belfast, led by Anatoly Zayats, has developed a microscopic optical switch which they believe could be crucial to the development of smaller and less power-hungry optical transistors in the future. Nearly £1m in new funding, to support further research by the Centre for Nanostructured Media at QUB, comes by way of grant awards from the European Commission Framework 6 Projects (EC FP6) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in Britain.

Writer in Residence for QUB

A new Writer in Residence post in the School of English at Queen's University Belfast is to be supported by BBC Northern Ireland to celebrate the life and achievements of Louis McNeice. The post will be based in the Séamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at the university and will receive financial and broadcast support from the BBC for a period of three years.

Minister announces Beckett studentship

Speaking at Trinity College Dublin last week Minister for Arts John O'Donoghue announced details of the Beckett studentship valued at €10k per annum. The successful candidate for the studentship was also announced by the Minister; the award has gone to Nicholas Johns who submitted a dissertation entitled "On going on: the Ethic of Impossibility in the Performance of Samuel Beckett's prose".

Third biotech conference at UCD

BioIreland 2006 takes place from November 12-14 in University College Dublin's O'Reilly Hall. This is the third in a series of conferences profiling the island of Ireland as a location for the development of the biotech sector; the theme of this year's event is "Inspire, Invest, Innovate". Registration and further details are available online at:

New suite of software products displayed at NUI, Galway

Last week at the Enterprise Ireland Informatics Technology Showcase in Dublin, NUI Galway presented Hazard IQ, a suite of software products for accurate, rapid identification and quantification of materials, including illegal narcotics, explosives and medicines. The technology can be used in many different practical applications such as airport security screening, poison testing at accident and emergency departments, and on-the-spot forensics analysis. The intelligent software has been developed at NUI Galway by Dr Michael Madden, Department of Information Technology, and Dr Alan Ryder, Department of Chemistry and the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science.

GMIT launches Innovation Awards Scheme

On Monday Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology formally launched its GMIT Innovation Awards scheme at the institute's Castlebar campus. The scheme was launched by founder Éamonn Fallon in the Innovation Centre on campus and guest speakers included Julian Ellison of Tablane Technology and Intime Media, and Michael Lyons from Shell LiveWIRE. Entrants for the awards are asked to submit a business idea by Friday December 15, with the winner and runner-up to be announced in February 2007.

Hamilton Walk scheduled for Maths Week

As part of Maths Week 2006 the staff and students of the Department of Mathematics at NUI Maynooth will set out on a three-mile walk to commemorate the day on which mathematician William Rowan Hamilton created the quaternions. The walk will begin at Dunsink Observatory and continue along the banks of the Royal Canal to Broombridge station where a plaque marks the spot where Hamilton scratched his formulas for the quaternions. See online for further details of Maths Week 2006.

UU students feature in awards for British and Irish students

At the Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year Awards, for students from Britain and Ireland, Emma Coates of University of Ulster won the title of Best Food, Nutrition and Health Student for her research into the effect of sulphide in causing colon cancer. Fellow student UU Carol Wilson, who was also shortlisted for this award, was awarded the ABBOTT Nutrition Prize for Best Human Nutrition Research Project, and the SCI Prize for Best Overall Human Nutrition Student. The awards were presented at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Inaugural winner of UCD Conway Festival of Research medal

Jean McBryan, one of 14 finalists selected to present their research to delegates at the 6th annual UCD Conway Festival of Research, was awarded the inaugural UCD Conway Festival of Research medal for her research on CITED1, a gene involved in breast development during puberty. Keynote speaker at the conference was Professor Sir Dillwyn Williams of the University of Cambridge, and delegates also heard Professor John Savill of Edinburgh University.

Honorary conferring at WIT

Sahar Hashemi, co-founder of Coffee Republic, is to receive an honorary fellowship from Waterford Institute of Technology on October 11. Ms Hashemi and her brother Bobby opened the first of their coffee bars in London 11 years ago and now have 44 coffee and deli bars. She is being honoured for epitomising the entrepreneurial spirit, having given up secure employment as a lawyer to pursue her vision. Ms Hashemi has been listed as one of the 20 most powerful women in Britain.

Medical schools sign research agreement

The heads of the five medical schools in the Republic have signed an agreement aimed at creating a single national clinical research network. This recommendation is also believed to be contained in a report from the Advisory Council on Science, Technology and Innovation which is due to be published with a few weeks. The Irish Clinical Research Infrastructure Network is now seeking funding from the Health Services Executive and the Health Research Boards.

NUI Galway and UU in medical school collaboration

NUI Galway and the University of Ulster's Magee Campus in Derry are to set up a cross-Border medical school which will offer a four-year programme for graduate entrants with a five-year course available in Galway. The training provided will also involve hospitals in a number of centres including Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Coleraine, Derry, Enniskillen, Letterkenny, Omagh, Roscommon and Sligo. The new medical school is following recommendations laid out in the Government's Fottrell Report on the provision of medical training at both graduate and undergraduate levels.

UCC president responds to financial queries

Professor Gerry Wrixon, president of University College Cork, has issued an open letter to all staff in response to that sent out recently by Professor Des Clarke warning that the university has serious financial problems. Prof. Wrixon denied that such a situation existed, saying that Comptroller and Auditor General carried out a yearly audit and was satisfied with the viability of the university. Prof. Wrixon's predecessor, Dr Michael Mortell, refused to express an opinion on whether the university was in financial difficulty but he did suggest that claims made by someone of the calibre of Prof. Clarke deserved investigation by a respected independent expert.



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