URMAN and the All Island Research Excellence Network (AIREN)

By Aidan McElwaine, Research Programmes Team and Caroline Treacey, College Research & Innovation Manager, UCD College of Engineering & Architecture.

I’d like to expand on this exciting initiative which was briefly highlighted in the May edition of the WST Newsletter.

As you know, URMAN (UCD Research Managers and Administrators Network) is a Community of Practice with over 160 members across UCD, which runs regular events throughout the year to share knowledge, promote best practice and support our members.

In conjunction with colleagues from QUB and Ulster University, URMAN was successful in an application to InterTrade Ireland for funding to establish what will eventually become an All Island network for Research Managers and Administrators.

Work began some months ago with the establishment of a project team, to develop a series of events over the course of a two year period, with the first event which took place in May, followed by a second event in June, and advanced planning has already been completed for the next series of events in the Autumn and beyond.

The initial application envisioned a pilot phase involving the three founder Universities, promoting engagement amongst colleagues to gradually build a network, with a view to later expanding this to include participation from other Universities and HEIs across Ireland, eventually leading to an All Island Conference, which will be open to all.

However, such has been the exceptional interest in the AIREN network from colleagues across the island even at this early stage, that we have opened up the events to all interested parties, and this has had very impressive results already in terms of participation, with 132 people registering for our first event in May (“Organisational Structures for Research Management & Development”).

Such was the success of this first event, that our next event on the 30th of June attracted 280 people from across the island to register, an impressive number by any standards, which demonstrates the demand for and interest in an All Island network of this nature.  This workshop was on the theme of “North South Research Collaboration Opportunities”.

Each event consists of a two hour online programme involving short presentations from a number of speakers.   We have managed to attract a high calibre of informed speakers, which has been key in generating such a strong level of participation to date.

For example, the most recent event on 30th of June on North South Research Collaboration was opened by Paul Hannigan, President of Letterkenny Institute of Technology, who highlighted the importance of building cross border relationships and spoke about the particular value of Science Diplomacy in helping overcome some of the current challenges which have emerged as a result of Brexit.

He was followed by Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director of SFI, who highlighted how there are already many successful collaborations between Researchers, and between Funding bodies across the island, and emphasised the importance at this time of continuing to build on these.

Michael Darcy, a member of the Interreg VA Programme Monitoring Committee, spoke about the PEACE Plus programme for 2021-27 which is currently being developed and is expected to launch before the end of the year with a fund of €1bn available to support North South Collaborative initiatives.

Jon Brookes from the UK Research Office provided an overview of the Hozizon Europe programme, focussing on North South collaborative potential.  Roxanne Nikolaus from the NSF (National Science Foundation) and Sarah Scharf from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) presented on a number of collaborative opportunities, with particular focus on the US Ireland R&D partnership programme.

Similarly, our first event which took place on 12th of May included a strong panel of speakers who presented on the theme “Organisational Structures for Research Management and Development”.

The event was opened by Kerry Curran, Director of Strategy & Policy in InterTrade Ireland, and was followed by Wendy McLoone (QUB) Peter Scott (UCD) and Tim Brundle (Ulster), who drew on their experience in leadership positions in their respective Universities to share valuable insights on the varying approaches and models that exist in terms of research management and development structures, and participated in an interesting panel discussion on a range of related issues.

The final talk was from Lorna Wilson, Head of Research Development at Durham University, who shared her perspectives on the challenges the research management and development profession face, and highlighted the importance of a number of tools, including networking and mentoring, in supporting career development.

Since these initial two events, interest in the AIREN network has continued to grow, no doubt assisted by the announcement last month by An Taoiseach Micheal Martin TD and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD of  €40 million funding for a North South Research Programme


This 5 year programme aims to build research collaboration across the Island, and the AIREN network will be very well placed to contribute to this initiative.

The next AIREN event takes place on Wednesday 8th September from 2-4 p.m.  via Zoom:

‘Governance & Management Structures of Large-Scale Research Centres / Programmes’

This AIREN Event will give an overview of the governance and management structures large-scale research centres / programmes have in place – sharing perspectives from the PI, Operations Team members, and the PhD Researcher experience. Centres / Programmes presenting are sponsored by various funding mechanisms including programmes run by Funding Agencies (SFI, EPSRC, and NERC); Government initiatives through the Northern Ireland Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Belfast City Deal; and Industry sponsorship. The Agenda and Registration Link are available here

Alternatively, you can also register to attend by emailing info@airen.network 

Lastly, both in our local UCD network (URMAN), and our wider AIREN network, we are always keen to encourage new members and participants, you can find further details of how to participate in our respective websites:



For further information: info@airen.network 

Contact us at: urmanexec@ucd.ie

We hope to see you at an upcoming event!


‘The AIREN Project is being delivered with support from InterTradeIreland’s Synergy initiative. Synergy is a cross-border cluster initiative set up by InterTradeIreland, the cross-border trade and business development body. It aims to scale cross border collaboration among SMEs and other players such as universities, third sector organisations and government agencies using cluster and networking supports.’


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