Birr Telescope to create jobs

Birr Telescope to create jobs

Left to right Professor Peter Gallagher, I-LOFAR Consortium, Minister Heather Humphreys, Ms Anna Marie Delaney, CE of OCC and Ms Orla Martin, LEO

Karen O'Grady


Karen O'Grady


It's hoped 60 jobs will be created along with the training of 360 people in data analytics and related fields in the next three years as part of the exciting new STREAM creative suite, to be located in Birr, revealed the Head of Enterprise of the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Offaly last week.

Offaly Innovation & Design centre CLG in partnership with LEO Offaly, Offaly County Council and I-LOFAR were awarded almost €500,000 earlier this year from the Enterprise Ireland Regional Development Fund to establish the STREAM creative suite. These jobs and training are being targeted directly and indirectly as part of development of this suite, to be established in Birr Technology Centre and is aiming to make Birr a regional/national hub for “Big Data”,

Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise in LEO explained details of the STREAM Creative Suite last week when Minister Heather Humphreys visited I-LOFAR and met with the STREAM Creative Suite partners at the I-LOFAR education centre, located in Birr Castle Demesne.

One of the Regional Strategic Objectives in the Midland Regional Enterprise Plan is to establish the STREAM Creative Suite in the Birr Technology Centre and seeks to maximise the economic opportunities for the midland region from the I-LOFAR radio telescope. And, following the launch of the Midland Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020, Minister Humphreys stopped in Birr on Wednesday, Februray 6.

Addressing the Minister and guests, Ms Martin said the suite would be a “natural extension” to the I-LOFAR project. “It will bring together researchers and practitioners in areas such as the visual arts, multi-media, technology and astronomy, who share a common interest in “Big Data”.

“This is an exciting project for us and I think, there will be a lot of impact that will come about from this. We are targeting 60 jobs in the next three years, both directly and indirectly. We are also targeting the training of 360 people in data analytics and related subjects.”

The Minister heard how the suite through its association with I-LOFAR, provided unique opportunities to be the regional/national hub for “Big Data”, a research hub for the I-LOFAR consortium and international LOFAR partners, collaborative regional hub for industry led training in data analytics and a regional hub for research and industry collaboration.

According to Ms Martin, connecting the STREAM creative suite with Athlone IT and IMR in Mullingar and back through the Junction Business Innovation Centre in Tullamore will create a new and dynamic hub for research and economic development in the midlands. It will harness cutting edge research, advance manufacturing, industry led training initiatives, enterprise start ups and FDI clusters in Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore.

Later, Minister Humphreys spoke of her delight at being in Birr to “see first hand the work of I-LOFAR and future plans” for the creative suite. Continuing, the Minister said she was pleased the regional enterprise plan she launched earlier that day would work in support of the STREAM initiative and that all regional stakeholders were on board and signed up. “The midlands regional enterprise plan sets out a number of key strategic areas where regional stakeholders working together will provide a basis for future enterprise development and job creation that's sustainable in the longer term.”

“The work on show here and the plans for the future are very impressive and it's great to see the midlands at the cutting edge of research into big data, science and technology. Through the regional enterprise development fund, my Department is backing this project, which will build on the benefits of collaboration and the synergies that can be generated from people sharing ideas, experience and innovation.”

Cllr Danny Owens, Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, thanked the Minister Humphreys and guests for taking the time to visit and he acknowledged the collaborative efforts those who made the successful application, Offaly County Council's Chief Executive, Anna Marie Delaney, Head of Enterprise/Offaly Innovation & Design Centre CLG, Orla Martin, Prof Peter Gallagher, I-LOFAR Consortium and Joe Hogan, Founder of Openet.

Earlier, Prof Gallagher briefed the Minister and guests on the I-LOFAR and its state of the art education centre. The telescope is used to study celestial objects such as the sun, black holes and magnetic fields. There are 52 LOFAR stations across Europe, generating 3 Gbps per station, over 150 Gb per seconds, more than petabytes per year. I-LOAR in Birr is the primary (currently only) access to the biggest source of “big data”.

“In addition to the benefits of having a cutting edge science project in Offaly, having the I-LOFAR telescope in Birr opens up new possibilities for research, jobs, tourism and science education,” he enthused.

Meanwhile, it's hoped the creative suite will provide a central location and space, where research and education meets business and this “Big Data” can be utilised for training purposes and proving algorithms for many sectors. Professors and researchers of universities affiliated with the international LOFAR network together with software developers and data analysts from companies operating within or in co-operation with companies based in the midland region will have the opportunity to use the STREAM creative suite, either through regular hot desk usage or through the establishment of a base there.

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