Research for

steps for people living with paralysis - DCU Exoskeleton Programme
researchers in the DCU Centre for Climate and Society
PhD candidates supported by philanthropy
publications by the National Centre for Family Business


fully funded Access doctoral scholarship at DCU

Driving Cutting-Edge Research...

Research is at the heart of who we are and where we are going. As a leading young university, we are powered by innovation and a drive to find breakthrough solutions for a better world.

Our research tackles some of the world’s most complex challenges – and our philanthropic partnerships enhance our ability to make a transformative impact. Support from our partners expands our capacity for cutting-edge research and grows our doctoral student community through PhD scholarships that support young academic talent to flourish.

Together, we are harnessing DCU’s unique research expertise in areas such as health, education, economics and climate solutions, furthering our mission to transform lives and societies and enabling DCU to advance its research reputation and impact.

Research for Society supported by philanthropy in 2022/23 included:

Doctoral Research

This year saw the creation of DCU’s first fully funded Access PhD Scholarship, thanks to the philanthropic support of Susan and Harry Hartford. Established to tackle the underrepresentation of people from disadvantaged backgrounds in doctoral study, this scholarship will enable a talented student to pursue research that makes an impact for society.

In 2022/23, we further increased our doctoral student community by supporting five PhD candidates to pursue research in fields ranging from law to biotechnology thanks to the Orla Benson Memorial Scholarship, Paul Kerley Autism Education Scholarships, Paddy Moriarty Memorial Scholarship and the Strain – Goldman Sachs Endowed Women in STEM Postgraduate Scholarship. Support from an anonymous donor has also established a new Choral Studies Research Scholarship.

DCU Centre for Climate and Society

It was an eventful year for Ireland’s first academic research centre devoted to leading societal responses to the climate crisis. Supported by founding partner Deloitte, the Centre has grown to include 37 academic members and 12 PhD students, who are shaping responses to climate change in arenas such as politics, media, education and policy. In 2022/23, Centre Director Dr David Robbins advised Ireland’s top media organisations on their climate coverage, while Co-Director Dr Diarmuid Torney led the Children and Young People’s Assembly on Biodiversity Loss. In April, the Centre hosted a conference titled ‘Rewild and Renew’, where Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications, and Transport Eamon Ryan gave a keynote address to over 300 attendees.

Naughton Family Chair in STEM Education

This Chair is the first in Ireland to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education at primary level and in early childhood education. As Chair, Professor Hamsa Venkat made a significant impact on education research, policy and practice in 2022/23, including presenting to the Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on the ‘Future of STEM in Irish Education’. Her contribution emphasised the importance of building confidence and enthusiasm for STEM disciplines in early learning, before negative or gendered stereotypes set in. Her vital research this year included a review for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, and explorations of models that can support student teachers with teaching STEM in primary schools.

DCU Changemaker Schools Network

This network is based on the simple but powerful idea that all children can be Changemakers, with the skills and confidence to lead change in their home, school, community and society. With philanthropic support from basis.point, Rethink Ireland and a group of individual donors, the network is growing to 29 member schools in 2023. Each year, the network equips over 5,000 students with the essential skills of empathy, creativity, leadership and teamwork so they are ready to thrive in an unscripted future and to lead change in our society.

DCU Anti-Bullying Centre

A recent Government study found that 17% of 9- to 17-year-olds reported experiencing some form of bullying, either online or offline, in the past year. The FUSE Anti-Bullying and Online Safety Programme developed by DCU’s Anti-Bullying Centre is a vital intervention that gives teachers, students and parents the tools they need to tackle bullying and promote online safety. Last year, with support from Rethink Ireland, the programme reached 8,842 students in 115 primary schools. Thanks to support from the Department of Education, FUSE also worked with 70,000 students in 407 post-primary schools. The Centre’s experts also collaborated with Vodafone Foundation Ireland to develop the exciting new Tozi app to tackle cyberbullying and create a safer, more positive online space for young people.

Prometric Chair in Assessment

Professor Ernesto Panadero, a world-leading expert in educational psychology and assessment, has been appointed as Prometric Chair in Educational Assessment at DCU. In this role, he will lead the DCU Centre for Assessment Research, Policy and Professional Practice in Education (CARPE), continuing the work of the inaugural chair, Professor Michael O’Leary, who recently retired, and of interim director Dr Zita Lysaght. CARPE was established in 2015, with philanthropic support from Prometric, to enhance research and practice in assessment across all levels of the education system, from early childhood to fourth level and beyond.

Pictured (L-R): John Brennan, Head of SME Banking at AIB, Associate Director of NCFB Dr Catherine Faherty and NCFB Director Dr Eric Clinton

National Centre for Family Business

With support from AIB in 2022/23, DCU’s National Centre for Family Business continued to conduct world-class research and translate it into best practice insights that enable family firms to succeed and grow into the future. To date, the Centre has produced 77 publications on family business matters, with 53 of these in top-ranking peer reviewed journals. This year, the Centre engaged with a network of over 1,750 family business practitioners through newsletters, podcasts and the Family Business Continuity executive education programme. At this year’s conference, titled ‘Continuity through Regeneration and Resilience’, Mr Gavin Duffy led a discussion on resilience in Irish family business, building on the Centre’s groundbreaking new research on the topic. Panellists included leaders of multi- generational family firms such as Glenisk, General Paints and Mount Charles Group.

Focus on:

Understanding the Economic Impacts of a United Ireland

All available economic data tells us that the Northern Ireland economy is weak compared to the Republic of Ireland and other regions of the United Kingdom. It is consistently in the three poorest regions in the UK, with 22% of the working age population relying on benefits. Living standards are 12% lower than in the Republic, while Foreign Direct Investment and tourism revenues are just 15% of levels in the Republic, adjusted for size of population.

In 2022, with philanthropic support from Denis O’Brien, DCU’s School of Law and Government commenced an ambitious research project, working with the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre to add vital evidence to the debate on why Northern Ireland’s economy has not benefitted from an economic peace dividend since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and whether key economic indicators would be likely to improve in a united Ireland.

Under the guidance of Principal Investigators Professor John Doyle (DCU) and Dr Eoin Magennis (Ulster University), this research proceeded apace in 2022/23 with the completion of two contextual studies on the key economic issues in the debate on Irish unity and the Northern Ireland subvention. Data collection also commenced on the core project which will deliver three thematic studies on tourism, regional development and foreign direct investment. With additional support, a further study on health economics will also be completed. By 2026, the project aims to secure sufficient funding to produce an unparalleled overview and source of comparable socio-economic data on Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that would be shared through publications and an interactive data-driven website to provide reliable information on north-south economic performance and on the economic impacts of a united Ireland.

John Doyle

Vice President for Research, DCU

“With a referendum on a united Ireland a real possibility before 2030, this study aims to avoid the mistakes of a Brexit style debate by ensuring voters have reliable, impartial and rigorously researched information to inform decisions during a polarising debate.”

DCU has secured 50 percent of the funding required for this significant project. We are seeking a visionary partner to enable completion of this first impartial, rigorously researched evidence-base on the transition to an island economy in a united Ireland. For more information, contact Jason Sherlock, Director of Development at

Focus on:

DCU Exoskeleton


Service User

“There are no words for what a thrill it is getting up and standing. The biggest benefit is the way it helps with the spasms. It gets sore, sitting for hours not moving. After using the suit, I can feel my legs are more relaxed.”

The DCU Exoskeleton Programme enables vital research into the future of paralysis treatment, and provides a range of health benefits to service users.

Thanks to the vision and generosity of our donors, the DCU Exoskeleton Programme powered 970,522 steps for people living with paralysis in 2022/23. Through six parallel research studies led by Dr Brendan Egan, Dr Kieran Moran and Clinical Lead Ronan Langan, the programme is investigating the health impacts of exoskeleton walking sessions for wheelchair users. Philanthropic support has equipped the programme with two robotic exoskeleton suits for adult users, enabling 40 to 50 people each week to achieve key exercise recommendations. The research carried out with these individuals will shape the future of paralysis treatment.

This year, new philanthropic funding through Community Foundation Ireland and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation will enable us to run the world’s first paediatric exoskeleton programme for children with neuromuscular conditions. Support from individual donors has funded the purchase of a cutting-edge paediatric exoskeleton suit, which will become part of our transformative research and rehabilitation programme in early 2024.

In the coming year, our researchers will be able to investigate whether regular walking in a paediatric exoskeleton suit could delay the development of scoliosis in children with neuromuscular conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, as well as reduce walking difficulties and improve respiratory function. This will be the world’s first study into the efficacy of exoskeleton walking sessions for children, research that will lead the way in informing evidence-based paediatric physiotherapy practice.

Focus on:

Doctoral Research – Lauren Kearney

With less than 1% of doctoral students coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, this year saw the creation of DCU’s first fully funded Access PhD scholarship by Susan and Harry Hartford. This scholarship will remove barriers to success and will support talented students like PhD candidate Lauren Kearney to realise their full potential. Here, Lauren shares her story of how DCU’s Access Programme and the Strain–Goldman Sachs Endowed Women in STEM Postgraduate Scholarship have enabled her to pursue her passion for science and research for a cleaner, greener world.

“Although only a small number of students from my secondary school typically went to university, I always saw myself going to college. My mam shared this vision. She had left school before her Leaving Certificate, and so when I secured a place to study Common Entry Science at DCU, I became the first person in my family to attend university. When my guidance counsellor told me about the support available through the SUSI grant and the DCU Access Programme, it really put our minds at ease. I also successfully applied for a competitive scholarship for students in disadvantaged (DEIS) schools who want to study STEM. These supports enabled me to go straight to university instead of taking a year out to save up.

In fourth year, I started working on a research project with Dr Mary Pryce. I loved working in a lab, using my hands and doing experiments. When I was offered a PhD position with the Pryce Research Group, I was delighted to accept it and continue our research.

I’m now in the final year of my PhD programme, and I’m researching how we can produce renewable energy such as green hydrogen by harvesting solar energy. We’re designing and synthesising new photosensitisers that can capture energy from the sun more efficiently and generate green hydrogen through artificial photosynthesis. I also work on capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and I’m due to publish a peer-reviewed paper on this shortly.

I was honoured to receive the Strain – Goldman Sachs Endowed Women in STEM Postgraduate Scholarship this year. My mam has had a tough year as my granny recently passed away, so it has been nice to be able to help her a bit more, especially with the cost of living soaring at the moment. I’m lucky that I’m from Dublin and I’ve been able to live at home. Otherwise, living on a PhD stipend would be very difficult.

I’ve had a lot of supports that have made my journey to do a PhD possible. Looking back, I have a better appreciation of the difference they make in helping people from underrepresented backgrounds to overcome barriers and break the cycle of not attending college. I hope that many more girls from my old school in Finglas will follow in my footsteps.”


“It’s great to have the opportunity to work on something that will hopefully make a cleaner and more sustainable world.”