Lero researcher Professor Fergal McCaffery and Dr Anita Finnegan, co-founders of NovaLeah, were announced as winners of prestigious 2020 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Awards. The awards were presented by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, at the annual SFI Science Summit which took place virtually for the first time. 

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland congratulated the award winners, saying: “I am delighted to congratulate this year’s award winners on their inspiring success and dedication. The Science Foundation Ireland Awards recognise the expansive contribution that scientists make to our society and economy through innovative breakthroughs, industry collaborations, entrepreneurship, public engagement, and mentorship of the next generation. This year has been an eventful and challenging one for our research community.  I would particularly like to congratulate Prof Kingston Mills as our 2020 SFI Researcher of the Year. Well done to all, working closely together, the Irish research community continues to be impactful, inspirational and world-leading.”

This year there are eight categories in total, two categories with double awards and one joint award. 

Professor McCaffery a Lero Co-Principal Investigator and Dr Anita Finnegan were presented with the SFI Entrepreneurship Award 2020, which celebrates an entrepreneurial achievement of researchers. Professor McCaffrey and Dr Finnegan founded Nova Leah, a world leader in cybersecurity risk management solutions for connected medical devices. Nova Leah spun out from the Regulate Software Research Centre at Dundalk Institute of Technology. RSRC researchers have been part of Lero since it was established in 2005. Earlier this year, Dr Finnegan featured in the Lero 15 celebrations marking 15 years since the centre was established. Read more about Dr Finnegan’s experience with Lero here

The SFI Researcher of the Year Award recognises the accomplishments of a researcher who has contributed significantly to the Irish research community in the year of the award and/or throughout their career. The 2020 recipient is Professor Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology and Director Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin (TCD). 

Dr Matthew Campbell, Neurovascular Genetics laboratory, TCD, and Dr Lorna Lopez, Lecturer and Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, National University of Ireland Maynooth were both presented SFI Early Career Researcher of the Year 2020 awards. 

Professor Fergal O’Brien, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, AMBER SFI Research Centre and Integra LifeSciences was presented with the SFI Industry Partnership Award which celebrates a collaboration between an academic research group and industry.

Professor Brian O’Gallachoir, Chair of Energy Engineering, University College Cork, Director of MaREI, SFI Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine was the recipient of the SFI Best International Engagement Award 2020. 

Professor Luke O’Neill, School of Biochemistry and Immunology, TCD was presented with the SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication Award 2020. 

Professor Pat Guiry, Director of the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology, University College Dublin (UCD) and Professor Patricia Maguire, Professor of Biomedical Science, and Director of the UCD Institute for Discovery were named as winner of the SFI Mentorship Award 2020. 

Dr Niall Smith, Head of Research at Cork Institute of Technology / Head of Blackrock Castle Observatory was the recipient of the SFI Research Image of the Year Award.