• Nóirín Byrne
  • 4 min read

To celebrate International Women’s Day, for the next week we will be featuring women in the Irish energy sector who are contributing daily to Ireland’s clean energy transition.

Today we are featuring Dr.Lucy Corcoran, Research and Innovation Programme Executive at SEAI

Q1. Tell us about your current role and how it relates to the energy sector?

I work in SEAI’s Research and Technology Department, leading a range of energy research and innovation activities in support of Ireland’s low carbon energy transition. SEAI has an important role to play in leading and coordinating public support for energy research and innovation. SEAI’s primary research funding supports are provided through the SEAI National Energy Research, Development & Demonstration (RD&D) Funding Programme, which invests in innovative projects that contribute to Ireland's transition to a clean and secure energy future.

 Q2. What inspired you to get into this area of work? 

The opportunity to use my skills to contribute to one of the biggest challenges facing society today - decarbonisation of the energy sector. In school, I enjoyed problem-solving, maths and science, but I was also really interested in design, languages and world issues. I knew I wanted to study something in college that would allow me to make a difference in the world in a practical way, which lead me to study engineering. Over the last 10+ years, I have had lots of opportunities to use my skills to design a more sustainable world, from my first engineering role in marine renewable energy, to my PhD research investigating hydropower energy recovery potential in water supply networks, and now with Ireland’s national sustainable energy authority. 

 Q3.What is your professional background? 

I have a degree in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), a PhD jointly awarded by the School of Engineering and School of Business at TCD and a Postgraduate Diploma in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I’m also a Certified Energy Manager and Certified Analytics Professional. Over the past 10+ years I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, on really exciting projects and programmes. From designing large-scale marine energy turbines, to applying data analytics and mathematical optimisation techniques to solve real-world problems, as well as energy optimisation and design consultancy for the Irish water sector. Over the last three years, I have worked on the development and enhancement of SEAI’s energy research and innovation supports and, in particular, delivery of the SEAI National Energy RD&D Funding Programme.

 Q.4 What was your first role? 

My first role after graduating was as a design engineer in marine renewable energy. I worked with a small team of engineers on aspects of turbine design, manufacture, deployment and operations. This gave me amazing hands-on design and R&D experience, working on the development of turbine components from concept design stage right through to manufacturing, testing and installation on-site.

 Q5. What do you enjoy about your current role?

I really enjoy working with the energy research community, where I am constantly learning about new and emerging research and technology developments. As part of my role, I also participate in various national and international committees and steering groups, where I have the opportunity to contribute to energy research and technology policy development. Being in a position to contribute to the challenges we face is immensely rewarding.

 Q6.How does your role impact people and society? 

Research and innovation will be so important to support and enable transformation of our energy sector. We will need innovative solutions and approaches to meet our energy challenges, teamed with enhanced collaboration across sectors and disciplines, as well as effective communication to ensure that research translates into both practice and policy. In my role at SEAI, I work with industry, researchers and policymakers, providing supports to nurture innovative ideas, to promote engagement and collaboration, and ultimately to accelerate Ireland’s clean energy transition.

 Q7. What do you hope to achieve in the future? 

I hope to continue to apply my skills to the Irish energy sector at this crucial time of transformation, through energy research, technology and policy development and leadership. Over the next year, I will also be keeping a close eye on national and international policy developments, with Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, the European Green Deal and the incoming ambitious €100bn Horizon Europe research and innovation programme (the successor to Horizon 2020).

 Q8. What advice would you offer women hoping to join this sector?

Do some research (ever a supporter of research!), reach out to others working in the energy sector to find out more about their roles, and figure out where you can best apply your skills. It’s an exciting and rewarding sector to work in, with lots of opportunities across all disciplines.