Three WIT faculty members awarded Irish Research Council Research Ally Prize

Three members of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)’s research community have been honoured with an Irish Research Council (IRC) Research Ally Prize.

Josephine (Jo) Holohan from WIT’s Research Support Unit; Prof. Felicity Kelliher, School of Business, and Prof. Gillian Gardiner, School of Science and Computing, were presented with the accolades as part of the IRC Researcher of the Year 2021 awards.A supportive academic environment is imperative for researchers to grow and to thrive. The Research Ally Prizes are a new national award category to celebrate the role of supervisors, mentors, and research officers in supporting and sustaining the Irish research community, and how they help to foster a positive academic culture based on equality, inclusivity, and respect.

Jo, Felicity and Gillian were nominated for the Research Ally prize for the positive impact and vital role they play in WIT’s research environment, Jo in the Research Officer category, and Felicity and Gillian in the Supervisor and Mentor category.

Josephine Holohan

Jo graduated from WIT in 2009 with a Research Masters in Business. Since then, Jo has worked in Academic and Applied Research for 12 years, including ten years with WIT research group RIKON, where she worked on commercial innovation projects with a key focus on lean initiatives for SME’s. Jo joined the RSU in 2019 and spent two years as the National Research Programmes Officer, overseeing WIT applications and funded projects from all national agencies and programmes such as IRC, Science Foundation Ireland, Health Research Board, Enterprise Ireland, and Environmental Protection Agency. She is now currently working as Projects Manager for the RSU overseeing all national and EU funding programmes and funded research projects.

Felicity Kelliher


Felicity is a founding member and senior researcher at RIKON, which has secured over €10m in funding and has engaged with over 1200 SMEs. RIKON has over 30 research students, consultants and colleagues working within the group, alongside two international visiting professors and ten senior researchers. As a management practice specialist, Felicity has been Principal Investigator, country lead and senior academic on research projects focused on management capability development in SMEs, representing over €1m in direct research funding and a further €1m in funded student research projects. Publications include 40+ peer-reviewed journal publications, 21 book chapters and three co-authored books. She has supervised 21 research students to successful completion and is currently on the supervisory team of six doctoral candidates.

Gillian Gardiner

Gillian is a Microbiologist with over 20 years of teaching and research experience. She leads a successful multi-disciplinary agri-food research group within the Eco-Innovation Research Centre at WIT. To date, Gillian has published ~100 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, four book chapters and numerous papers in conference proceedings. She is also an inventor on two international patent applications. Gillian has supervised 13 PhD students to completion and is currently supervising six. She has obtained over €7.2 million in research funding since joining WIT and is Principal Investigator/Co-Investigator on a number of projects, all of which have national/international collaborators and many of which have industrial partners.

The three awardees spoke of their joy at receiving this award and commended the WIT research team, the researchers and all of their colleagues who support them daily and made these nominations possible.

Congratulating the awardees on this proud achievement Dr Mark White, Vice President of Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies at WIT said:


“It is such an honour to have WIT and esteemed members of our research community recognised through these awards. We pride ourselves in the way that we promote research as an integral part of all that we do in WIT and supporting our research community is a key element of that. Jo provides an excellent, unparalleled level of service and support through our Research Support Unit, and I was not in the least surprised that Prof Kelliher and Prof Gardiner are being recognised for the energy, enthusiasm, and professionalism that they bring to their research supervision. We are really lucky to have all three prize winners working with us in WIT.”