Four members of the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)’s faculty were recently honoured at the WIT 2021 Research Excellence Awards.

The aim of the awards is to recognise the outstanding contributions of WIT academic and research staff to high quality, innovative research that enhances the reputation of the Institute both locally and internationally. 

This year the awards were extended to four categories, in addition to the existing Excellence in Research Supervision award introduced in 2005, to acknowledge the commitment and excellence of our research community in driving innovation and impact across all disciplines.

Dr Geraldine Canny, Head of Research at WIT, spoke of the importance of these awards and acknowledged the impressive work of our researchers, “As a newcomer to the Institution, it was a pleasure to design these awards. The process allowed me to gain insight into the excellent research that is being conducted in diverse areas. I am delighted that colleagues at different career stages, in four schools across WIT, are being recognised for their achievements.“ 

Dr Kate McCarthy, Department of Arts, School of Humanities, won the Early Career Researcher award category. Kate’s teaching, research, and practice explores and challenges exclusionary and gendered narratives. Her research outputs take many forms including theatre practice, workshops, community engagement projects, public talks, podcasts, as well as publications. As a practitioner, Kate has facilitated and devised numerous contemporary performance projects in Ireland and in the UK, ranging from youth theatre to site-responsive and street theatre, to drama and theatre education projects.

The Established Researcher award was presented to Dr Pat Lynch, Department of Management and Organisation, and Co-founder and Director of RIKON.  Patrick has been researching and teaching innovation management and market analysis for over 15 years in WIT. As Director of RIKON, Patrick has amassed considerable industry, consultancy and applied innovation research experience in both management and delivery capacities spanning innovation processes and framework development, market and business research and analysis, new product and service development and business modelling and development and market development.

The winner of the Research Impact award is Dr Ramesh Raghavendra of WIT’s School of Engineering, SEAM Centre Director & Founder of 3DWIT. Dr Raghavendra has been a Principal Investigator on numerous Advanced Manufacturing related industrial projects including two large Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership projects to the value of €1.1m and €400,000 with MNC, SME and LEO companies based in Ireland. In his present role as SEAM Director, Ramesh is responsible for overall operational aspects and was instrumental in relaunching the centre in 2009.  Within ten years of launching of SEAM, Ramesh has established collaborations with over 235 Irish based industries and successfully managed to deliver over 3000 directly funded Industrial projects.

The award for Research Supervisor went to Dr Brendan Jennings, Department of Computing and Mathematics. In his 15+ years in Waterford, Dr Jennings was instrumental in delivering a vibrant, well-regarded research programme on communications network management. He has been Principal Investigator on research grants totaling over €9m. From 2014 to 2019 he was WIT’s first Head of Graduate Studies, leading the introduction of Structured PhD programmes and research student structures and supports across WIT. During 2020 Brendan was the Interim Director of CONNECT, the SFI Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications. Brendan has recently joined Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), as the university’s first Vice President for Research and Innovation.

Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD congratulated the winners during a recent award ceremony, and added: “It is clear that research and innovation investments not only embed existing operations and employment, but pave the way for future investment and job creation in Ireland.

“They also have the potential to deliver progress in society, improve our way of life, and help us better prepare for the challenges.

“Our ability to provide solutions and benefit for society will be driven by the talent of our people in our higher education institutions.

“The researchers, staff and students of WIT are important stakeholders in this knowledge economy, and specifically the Irish research and innovation ecosystem which we are all striving to further develop in this country.”

The design of the awards and evaluation process was conducted by Dr Canny and administered by Jo Holohan, Projects Manager, Research Support Unit. Nomination rules, processes and strict evaluation criteria for each category were distributed to all researchers and nominations for award categories 1-3 were evaluated by external experts. Final decisions were reviewed by a panel comprised of the Head of Research, Assistant Head of Graduate Studies, Dr Lawrence Siry, the RSU Projects Manager, and chaired by an external representative Dr Conor O'Carroll who commended the rigorous process WIT had put in place.

Dr Geraldine Canny and Dr Mark White, Vice President of Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies, would like to congratulate all the nominees and winners of this year’s awards.