Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have launched the first of five new Research & Development centres in conjunction with universities and companies.

The new 'competence centres' are a new model of research and innovation which will involve clusters of companies working together with colleges to overcome research challenges and drive innovation.

€32m has already been ring-fenced to fund the projects, with a further €24m expected to be allocated in the coming years.

NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, UCD, the University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin and UCC are all involved and more higher education institutes are expected to join the project in the coming months.

Over 180 companies are already collaborating with the competence centres and 60 engineers and scientists are already directly employed in centres.

It is expected that a further 80 people will be employed to carry out more industry focused research.

Those involved say 80 pieces of commercially viable intellectual property technology licences have already been transferred into centres for joint research.