As the pandemic hit Ireland, our people had a clear realisation of a common goal. Almost overnight, there was total focus – all minds homing in on one challenge. This mobilised our capabilities and resources across the research and innovation ecosystem.
Our research institutes created response groups and reimagined their activities to focus on Covid-19. People opened the laptop on the kitchen table and got to work. Traditional timelines went out the window. Knowledge and information were shared freely, with blueprints and opensource software posted online.
In Galway, our sense of place came to the fore. A city renowned for creativity, and at the epicentre of a global medtech hub, we felt it so sharply. We were fortunate to have so many connections, local and global, through partnerships and alumni.
These collaborations refocused the ecosystem of researchers, students, entrepreneurs, start-ups, spin-outs, SMEs and large corporates. Our response became a symbol of globalisation for good. Covid-19 can be viewed as one of a plethora of mega- challenges which we are living through but can be tackled with targeted excellence in research and innovation.
The hyper connected world and all its benefits have brought a more frenetic pace of life, growing societal inequalities, increased environmental destruction and resultant losses in biodiversity. The climate crisis, biodiversity loss, marine pollution, migration and the refugee crisis have also been growing in significance. Unless we collectively wake up and act, any of these problems have the potential to become existential.
There is a fable about a frog in a pot of water being brought slowly to the boil. The frog ultimately dies because by the time it realises that the water is too hot, it is no longer able to escape. With most of our mega-challenges we are at times very much like that frog. Covid-19 is more urgent.
Prof Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research NUI Galway -
While we are hopeful of an effective vaccine and therapies we must remember the other challenges. There is no quick fix for the global challenges we face, but we can face them together and find solutions through alliances such as Enlight European University Network.
This need for an open and inclusive approach has been underlined throughout the Covid response. No one can do this alone. As we look to the future and the EU’s next research and innovation framework, Horizon Europe, we see the shift toward collaboration and grand challenges – a sense of purpose.
Covid is a crisis. There are other crises. But we know we are resilient, innovative and motivated to find solutions to help ensure a better future for all. We are the seekers, the investigators, the explorers, the entrepreneurs, the creators, the learners, the teachers, the mentors, the collaborators, the change-makers.
In this edition of Cois Coiribe we can only highlight a fraction of the activity to date. There is so much more but our research community has been outstanding in its Covid response. The remarkable collaboration of academia and industry and the relentless drive for the collective good is a valuable lesson which should be a hallmark of our future at NUI Galway.