2019 Societal Impact Award Winners

 This year the University would like to recognize the efforts of three individual awardees and three team awardees.  All of these awarded activities are created and sustained by colleagues who we believe have made a significant impact on society through their efforts.

Individual Awardees:

1. Professor John Breslin (School of Engineering) for his work as Co-Founder and Director of Galway City Innovation District (Portershed)  

John Breslin Award 2019 B
Left to right: President Ciáran Ó hÓgartaigh presenting Prof. John Breslin with his award.

A number of years ago, John noticed that the Galway startup ecosystem was in a challenging environment and the lack of infrastructure namely downtown hub for startup companies to locate themselves was prohibitive in terms of growth and development.   John went onto spearhead and co-found the non-profit Galway City Innovation District (GCID) also known as the Portershed. Its purpose was to attract creators, innovators and entrepreneurs who wish to work in close proximity to others in a supportive and connected environment. John has demonstrated great vision and efforts to create a digital community hub in Galway and the west of Ireland and for driving a culture of innovation and startups.

This ambitious project and infrastructure, namely the Portershed:  

  • is now home to 44 startup companies with 11 of these companies led by female founders.
  • it contributes an estimated €15 million per annum to the local economy.
  • It has supported the creation of 720 jobs
  • PorterShed companies have raised over €20 million in funding.

Read more in Prof. John Breslin's Case Study

 2. Dr. Diarmuid Griffin (School of Law) is recognised for his Community and Policy-led work on Sentencing and Release of Offenders in Ireland.

Diarmuid Griffin Award 2019 B
Left to right: President Ciáran Ó hÓgartaigh presenting Dr. Diarmuid Griffin with his award.

Diarmuid is successfully awarded for his pioneering work on sentencing and release of life sentence prisoners in Ireland and is highly commended for his efforts in terms of national policy change and practices to prepare for the release of life sentence prisoners.  Before Diarmuid’s research and public engagement activities over a decade ago, at a national level there was little information on the release of life sentence prisoners.  His work has engaged directly with the Prison system in Ireland, Life sentence prisoners, Dáil question lines, advocating and influencing of policy, judicial citations and his work has most recently culminated in the creation and the passing of the Parole Act 2019.

Read more in Dr. Diarmuid Griffin's Case Study

3. Professor Andy Shearer (School of Physics) – Public Engagement and Outreach in Science and Research


Andy is recognized for his efforts and activities over the last two decades to promote public engagement and outreach to bring astronomy (and Physics) to a much wider and public community.  At the time when Andy pioneered his outreach activities there was a policy and funding vacuum in terms of public engagement with STEM and he has been instrumental in inspiring colleagues in this university and beyond to promote and engage disciplinary knowledge with the wider society. 

Read more in Prof. Andy Shearer's Case Study

Team Awardees:

1. Active Consent Team
President Ciáran Ó hÓgartaigh, Dr. Kate Dawson, Dr. Charlotte McIvor, Dr. Siobhán O’Higgins and Dr. Pádraig MacNeela (Psychology and the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance).  Pictured left to right

Active Consent Team

This team have had local and national societal impact in terms of working with 16-24 year olds across Ireland to promote confidence, knowledge, and openness in communicating about sexual consent and developing a ‘consent literacy’ discourse. Through a four pronged approach they have created a deeper culture of sexual consent through the delivery of workshops, dramatic productions, marketing, and training in Galway and across the island of Ireland.  Their work has been applauded by government ministers, students attending workshops and training as well as leaders of educational institutions.   They are currently working with 18 colleges nationwide, having built a network of practice through SMART Consent workshops.

Read more in the Active Consent Team's Case Study

2. Lone Parents Team
Professor Michelle Millar, President Ciáran Ó hÓgartaigh and Dr. Rosemary Cross (Sociology and Politics): Pictured left to right.

Lone Parent Award 2019

Michelle and Rosemary ave made a significant contribution to wider society from their pioneering research, as policy experts and advocates for change into Irish Lone Parents and deeper recognition of the poverty cycle. Their collaborative efforts have enabled an investigation of best practice and innovative approaches to the labour market activation of lone-parents in Ireland and internationally, so as to achieve financial independence and social well-being. Their research had impacted national policy and in particular, has had an impact in ensuring policymakers monitor and report on the impact of the policy change on lone-parents.  The research has changed the narrative around lone-parents in Ireland and has been utilised by advocacy groups and NGOs to agitate for a change in policy towards lone-parents.

Read more in the Lone Parent's Team Case Study

3. National Rural Network Team
 Dr. Aisling Murtagh,  Dr Therese Conway,   Dr. Teresa Hooks, President Ciáran Ó hÓgartaigh,  Dr. Marie Mahon, Dr. Maura Farrell, Dr. John McDonagh and Dr. Shane Conway.
(Archaeology and Geography): Pictured left to right.

NRN Team Award 2019 with Shane D

The National Rural Network Team are today recognised for their work in terms of successfully coordinating this network on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), and the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD). The aim of this national network is to increase the involvement of rural stakeholders in the implementation of rural development policies, while fostering innovation in agriculture, food production, forestry and rural area development.  The NUIG team have developed high levels of trust and respect with numerous rural development and agricultural organisations, both nationally and internationally.  Their work has provided a unique opportunity for NUIG to become centrally involved in promoting rural issues at everyday societal and policy levels. 

 Read more in the National Rural Nework Team's Case Study