Minister visits Birr's I-LOFAR telescope after launching regional enterprise plan

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Minister visits Birr's I-LOFAR telescope after launching regional enterprise plan

Minister visits Birr's I-LOFAR telescope after launching regional enterprise plan

Following the launch of the Midland Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 this week, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, travelled to Birr Castle to visit I-LOFAR and the STREAM Creative Suite Project.

One of the Regional Strategic Objectives in the new Midland Regional Enterprise Plan is to establish the STREAM Creative Suite in Birr Technology Centre. This project seeks to maximise the economic opportunities for the Midland Region from the I-LOFAR telescope.

Offaly Innovation & Design Centre CLG in partnership with Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Offaly, Offaly County Council and I-LOFAR has been awarded €458,240 from the Enterprise Ireland Regional Development Fund to establish “STREAM Creative Suite” in Birr Technology Centre.

Professor Peter Gallagher, Manager of the I-LOFAR Consortium briefed the Minister and guests on I-LOFAR telescope. I-LOFAR is the Irish Station in a European wide network of state-of-the-art radio telescopes. These telescopes use multiple antennas to measure radio waves. With the data of thousands of antennas together, now including the Irish antennas, powerful computers
create a virtual dish with a diameter of over 2,000 kilometres across Europe.

The telescope is used to study celestial objects such as our sun, black holes and magnetic fields. There are 52 LOFAR Stations across Europe, generating 3 Gbps per station, over 150 Gigabits per second, more than 6 Petabytes per year. I-LOFAR 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.

Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise in LEO Offaly explained that STREAM Creative Suite will 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. STREAM Creative Suite through its association with I-LOFAR, provides unique opportunities to be the regional/national hub for big data; research hub for the I-LOFAR Consortium and international LOFAR partners; a collaborative regional hub for industry-led training in data analytics; regional hub for research and industry collaboration.

STREAM Creative Suite will provide a central location and space, where research and education meets business. This data can be utilised for training purposes and for 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 cooperation 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.

Connecting 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, enterprising start-ups and FDI clusters in
Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore.

Minister Heather Humphreys spoke of her delight “to be here in Birr Castle to see first-hand the work of I-LOFAR and the future plans for STREAM Creative Suite.”

Minister Humphreys also commented: “I am also pleased that the Midlands Regional Enterprise Plan that I launched earlier this week will work in support of the STREAM initiative and that all regional stakeholders are 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 is sustainable in the longer term."

“The work on show here today and the plans for the future are very impressive and it is great see to 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.”

Offaly County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr. Danny Owens thanked 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, Ms. Anna Marie Delaney; Head of Enterprise/Offaly Innovation & Design Centre CLG, Ms. Orla Martin; Prof. Peter Gallagher, I-
LOFAR Consortium and Mr. Joe Hogan, Founder of Openet.