15th January 2015
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research, today reviewed important milestones and achievements during 2014 and outlined its Annual Plan for 2015.
Speaking at the event, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said, “A key element of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to build on Ireland’s world-class achievements in scientific research over the last decade with a view to driving growth and creating jobs. In this regard, it is encouraging to see that SFI met all of its Action Plan for Jobs targets in 2014. Through investment in academic researchers, cutting-edge technologies and competitive enterprises in the fields of ICT, health and life sciences, energy and manufacturing competitiveness, SFI will continue to play a vital role in terms of the attraction, retention and expansion of industry in 2015, ultimately delivering more commercial ideas and creating jobs.”
Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “2014 was a significant year for SFI during which we built on our expanded remit allowing for the funding of oriented basic and applied research, as well as public engagement to promote science, technology, engineering and maths. In collaboration with industry, last year SFI funded five additional SFI Research Centres covering strategically important areas such as medical devices, software, applied geosciences, Internet of Things and digital content, bringing to 12 the number of world-class research centres in Ireland.
The SFI Research Centres programme is working well: developing new industry and academic partnerships through the Spokes programme, attracting and training young researchers, making important fundamental discoveries, spinning out companies, leveraging technologies to other companies and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation. We look forward to building on these achievements in 2015 through an expanded range of initiatives to fund excellent scientific research with the potential for economic and societal impact.”
Central to SFI’s mission is enabling Irish researchers to compete and win in the large research funding programme for the EU – Horizon 2020. In 2014, SFI expanded its support for outstanding excellent young researchers including schemes to enhance Ireland’s success at the European Research Council (ERC). The impact of this support was evident in the announcement of awards of approximately €11 million to eight Irish researchers through ERC Starting Grants, the largest number of ERC grants to be awarded to Irish-based researchers to date. This is a hallmark of excellence: Ireland’s success rate was second only to Israel.
During the year and collaboratively with the seven Irish Universities, SFI also launched a Targeted Research Professorship scheme to attract world-leading researchers to Ireland in strategically important areas including manufacturing, medical devices, ageing, agri-food and energy.
Significant achievements realised during 2014 include:
- In 2014, SFI funded five new Research Centres investing €155 million over 5 years, matched by cash and in kind commitment from industry of €90 million. These research centres will focus on research in areas including applied geosciences, internet of things, telecommunications, software and medical devices. SFI has also continued to support the 7 SFI Research Centres which were established in 2013.
- SFI supported researchers are working in over 900 collaborations with different companies including 460 multinational companies and 461 SMEs.
- SFI research teams are contributing to Ireland’s international reputation through their global connection - over 2,500 research partnership in 68 countries.
- SFI plays a key role in training and providing the future skilled personnel to industry. SFI has built an impressive community of almost 3,000 researchers in Ireland’s higher education institutes.
- As part of its focus on industry collaborations, SFI established a number of partnerships in 2014 including with Pfizer, one of the world’s premier research-based pharmaceutical companies.
- SFI has also partnered with the Irish Cancer Society to jointly fund collaborative research in Ireland focusing on unmet medical needs within the area of cancer.
- SFI has established partnerships with the Department for Learning, Education and Innovation in Northern Ireland and the Royal Society in the UK.
- SFI continued to support excellent early career researchers with the allocation of €23 million to 40 researchers through the SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Awards (CDA).
- SFI continued to support the SFI Industry Fellowship programme. €2.2 million was allocated to the Industry Fellowship funding 27 new industry-academia partnerships.
- To encourage female participation in research, the SFI Advance Award was launched in 2014: €1.75 million was allocated to fund 10 awards.
- The SFI Investigators Programme supports excellent and impactful research projects by individual investigators. In 2014 SFI funded 36 proposals, supporting 200 research positions, involving collaborations with 62 companies, at a total cost of €47 million. Awards include research in areas such as sustainable food production, biopharmaceutical production, cancer detection and investigating the control of epilepsy development.
- SFI announced the recruitment of Prof. Robert Bogdan Staszewski to University College Dublin, to lead a cutting-edge research programme to increase Ireland’s capability as a global centre for the ‘Internet-of-Things’. Professor Staszewski has been awarded €5 million in funding under SFI’s Research Professorship Programme.
- Irish researchers also performed well at a European level in 2014 with the largest number of ERC Starting Grants to date awarded, delivering funding of €11 million to eight Irish researchers.
SFI is mandated to engage the public in scientific research and has as part of its strategy a goal to ensure Ireland has ‘the most engaged and scientifically informed public’. Notable public engagement achievements in 2014 include:
- Science Week 2014, organised by SFI Discover, saw more than 250,000 people attend over 800 events. In 2014 SFI Discover provided funding to a number of programmes that support and develop the STEM education and outreach sector in Ireland. Thirty-three new projects were approved with a direct audience reach of 402,975.
- The Smart Futures initiative, a new three year plan to deliver and increase the uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, was launched in 2014. The new strategy aims to deliver a 10% increase in the uptake of STEM subjects by students at second and third level by 2016. The programme has trained a total of 929 volunteers to date, visiting 427 schools in the 2013/14 academic year, reaching over 13,000 students.
Ambitious Plans for 2015
SFI will continue the implementation of its ambitious Agenda 2020 Strategy. SFI will focus on:
- Growing and linking the SFI Research Centres, through the new Spokes programme, with Industry and international researchers;
- Developing more major strategic partnerships with industry;
- Building capacity within the research system, recruiting both established leaders and emerging stars, in areas of strategic importance;
- Supporting and mentoring young researchers through programmes such as the Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and the President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (PIYRA);
- Catalysing successful applications to the European Union Horizon 2020 research programme, including the ERC;
- Partnering with industry, charities and international funders to bring economic benefits to Ireland;
- Growing investment and activity in the education and public engagement area in particular in enabling engagement activity within the 12 SFI Research Centres;
- The 20th anniversary celebrations of National Science Week will take place. Public consultations will be held to evaluate public awareness of science.
Concluding, Professor Ferguson said: “The focus for 2015 will be on supporting our Research Centres to grow and capitalise on investment and collaboration opportunities. We will develop more partnerships with Industry, between centres and internationally. Attracting top international research talent to Ireland will remain a priority, as will the support of early career researchers.
As we continue to implement our ambitious Agenda 2020 Strategy in the year ahead, leveraging public funding to attract private sector investment is a priority. SFI will continue to support Irish researchers to compete and win external funding through programmes such as Horizon 2020.
We look forward to working with our partners - across Government, academia and industry - to implement these plans and grow on our achievements throughout 2015.”
For further information, contact:
Piaras Kelly/Grace Milton
01 678 9333
0086 813 1691/087 2521451
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