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Monday, 11 December, 2000, 17:02 GMT
Research boost for universities
The two universities in Northern Ireland are celebrating an early Christmas present after winning more than £40m towards research.
Queen's University in Belfast has been allocated £24m whilst the University of Ulster has received £17.5m of the cash boost announced on Monday.
Six months ago, the minister for further and higher education said more than £20m would be released from government funds to help selected research projects.
Dr Sean Farren said the offer was designed to help the universities raise the same amounts of cash from private and charitable donations.
The funding means a new £14.5m Centre for Molecular Biosciences will be built at the University of Ulster's Coleraine campus in County Londonderry.
Professor Gerry McKenna, vice chancellor of the University of Ulster, expressed his delight at funding for this particular venture.
"This project is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom or Ireland," he said.
"It will conduct investigations into critical health areas such as seeking a cure for diabetes; cancer; the relationship between diet and poor eyesight in the elderly, and research into methods of repairing damaged nerve cells in paralysis victims."
Meanwhile, £3m will establish the world's first Irish cultural research centre, to be known as an Academy of Irish Cultural Heritages, at the university's Magee campus in Londonderry.
Professor Bob Welch, dean of the university's Faculty of Arts said: "The new academy will examine relationships with Britain and between Ulster and North America.
"The role of the Irish diaspora world-wide is much commented upon and the new academy will bring the different threads of interrelated research and teaching together. This has never been done on this scale before."
Changes in society
Queen's University also won its share of money for four major projects.
These are a £10m research centre for experimental physics, a Virtual Engineering Centre and a Sonic Arts Centre, which will bring together researchers from the fields of music, electric and electronic engineering and computer science.
Queen's will also create an institute where changes in society will be studied. It said this was particularly needed because of the effects of devolution in the province.
The universities were bidding against each other for the government money which has come from the Support Programme for University Research within the Department of Further and Higher Education Training and Employment.