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Trinity and Microsoft team up in bid to boost quantum research

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Microsoft will fund quantum research PhDs at TCD and provide scholarships for women in a new quantum science and technology master’s course.

Microsoft Ireland and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have teamed up in a bid to accelerate advancements in quantum tech and train new leaders in this field.

The tech giant has said it will provide funding to support PhD students working on cutting-edge quantum research at TCD. It will also establish a scholarship programme for women in the master’s course in quantum science and technology at the university, which will start in September 2021.

The collaboration is expected to support research teams in the TCD School of Physics and also encourage interactions with private sector research to boost activity in this field in Ireland.

‘Focused mechanisms will help us attract more females not only into the area of next-generation quantum technologies but also wider STEM-related industries’
– CATHRIONA HALLAHAN

Prof John Goold, who will direct the new MSc course, said that teaming up with Microsoft will help advance an area of research that is “blossoming and promises to revolutionise technology” in the coming years.

“We are also delighted that Microsoft is supporting a female-only scholarship programme for the new MSc in quantum science and technology,” Goold added.

“As diversity has grown in my research team at Trinity, we have been more creative in pursuing and delivering high-quality science. Female uptake in certain STEM subjects remains low but initiatives like this are helping to drive positive change.”

Quantum computing is an area of tech that is still in its infancy, but promises to solve problems in seconds that would take today’s fastest computers thousands of years to solve.

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With this technology, it could be possible to solve computational problems far beyond the reach of traditional computers – something that could have applications across a range of industries, from developing pharma advancements to tackling the climate crisis.

Cathriona Hallahan, managing director of Microsoft Ireland, said that quantum computing is an area of focus for the company as it presents “unprecedented possibilities” to solve some of society’s most complex challenges.

“That is why we are so excited to team up with the team at Trinity to put a focus on advancing research in this area and help to position Ireland as a leader in quantum technologies,” she added.

“The introduction of the female scholarship programme is a welcome one and I believe more focused mechanisms such as this will help us to attract more females not only into the area of next-generation quantum technologies but also wider STEM-related industries.”

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said that seeing Ireland at the forefront of quantum research is “tremendously important” and that bringing more diversity into cutting-edge science is “crucial” for Ireland’s higher education system.

Applications are now open for the scholarship programme.

Another industry-focused tech education initiative was announced earlier today (11 June). Manufacturing company Thermo King and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology have teamed up on a new bachelor of engineering degree in automation and robotics, which will give students hands-on experience in this area.

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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