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Minister Mitchell O’Connor announces research investment of €40 million

Government funding will support 24 research projects involving 200 researchers and 39 companies. Science Foundation Ireland investment will support world-class research in key priority areas for Ireland.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD today announced nearly €40 million in research funding for 24 major research projects. The funding is distributed via Science Foundation Ireland’s Investigators Programme through a funding stream provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation. With awards ranging from €500,000 to €2.7 million over four to five year periods, projects funded by the Investigators Programme will support over 200 researchers. 

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said, “This funding provides an important platform for researchers to advance their investigations and further enhance Ireland’s reputation for excellence in sectors such as health, agriculture, marine, energy and technology. Engaging with 39 companies, the programme offers researchers the opportunity to develop their careers, as well as providing industry collaborators with access to the wealth of outstanding expertise and infrastructure found throughout the island. The alignment of the Investigators Programme with Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research funding programme, will lead to further successes in leveraging EU resources and increasing international collaboration. The projects within this programme clearly demonstrate excellent and impactful research which is a key goal of the Government’s science and innovation strategy – Innovation 2020.” 

To drive national success in Horizon 2020, the SFI Investigator Programme involved the collaborative participation of a number of Government Departments and funding agencies. Co-funding for seven of the projects is being provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE), the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme supports the highest standard of impactful research, as clearly demonstrated by the outcomes of previous awards.  I have high expectations for these projects; all have undergone rigorous peer review by international experts and we have funded only those projects deemed to be at the pinnacle of scientific excellence. As well as providing an important platform for engagement in Horizon 2020, the programme also creates training and employment opportunities, promotes industrial collaboration and drives advances in energy, agriculture, science, technology and health which will benefit Ireland’s economy and society.”  

The 24 research projects funded are in a range of strategically important sectors.  A further ten projects were also deemed scientifically excellent and impactful by the International Review Panel and are on a reserve list to be funded, if budgets permit later in the year.

Health & Medical

  • Development of a clinical test to predict whether breast and prostate cancer tumours are likely to return after surgery;
  • Development of a one-step germ-detection  device for use on foods and solid surfaces;
  • Research into the use of novel neurotoxin-based ‘pain killers’ for chronic pain;
  • Creation of technology for bacterial biofilm disruption and removal with downstream benefits in the areas of drug delivery and water purification;
  • Identification of biomarkers for personalized, cost-effective treatment of chronic kidney disease;
  • Development of cell therapy to treat critical limb ischemia, a complication associated with diabetes;
  • Development of diagnostic devices for analysis of molecules associated with cancer or infectious disease in bodily fluids;
  • Development of a vaccine against MRSA, a hospital-acquired infection;
  • Strategies to non-invasively monitor the progression of inflammation in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease and identification of new ways to slow disease progression;
  • Extraction of compounds from sponges and corals found in Irish waters and examining their therapeutic potential.

Food and Marine

  • Investigating the impact of escaped farmed salmon on wild Irish Atlantic salmon populations;
  • Development of biosensors for TB diagnosis in cattle and identification of way to breed healthier, disease-resistant animals;
  • The impact of the biodiversity of farm grassland on productivity and resilience to future extreme environmental events.

Energy and Environment

  • The use of magnetics for efficient energy management in electronic devices;
  • New theoretical models to help design energy-efficient devices for future Internet platforms;
  • The design of new software and computer-based models to produce more secure power systems;
  • Optimising how fuels burn in order to provide more efficient energy production.

Manufacturing & Materials

  • Enhanced growth processes to prepare thin-film materials for integration into real-world devices;
  • Theoretical and experimental design of thermoelectric materials for use in various energy-saving applications;
  • Exploring the potential of new semiconducting materials to replace silicon in future electronic technologies;
  • Graphene-like materials for the development of future solar-based technologies;
  • Image-based technology to date calcite deposits in carbonate rocks for geochemical, historical and energy-related applications.

ICT and Communications

  • Creation of extensive and more effective city dashboards in Dublin and elsewhere through software design, virtual reality and data analysis;
  • An optical/near-infrared detector array to help study stars, galaxies and planet formation. 

The 24 research projects supported by the Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme will be funded through eight research bodies, as follows: Dublin City University (1), Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1), National University of Ireland Galway (3), National University of Ireland Maynooth (1), Trinity College Dublin (6), Tyndall National institute (4), University College Cork (1), University College Dublin (7). 

Projects supported under the partnership with Northern Ireland will be announced at a later date and are marked with an *. 

Science Foundation Ireland’s Investigators Programme 2016 – Funded Awards


For further information, please contact:

Science Foundation Ireland

Niamh Bradley or Alva O’Cleirigh

01-6073228/086-0271744 or 01 607 3249/087-9152553 or


For Science Foundation Ireland:

Luke McDonnell

Drury|Porter Novelli

085-712 7243

Full list of awards on last page 

About the Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme: 

The SFI Investigators Programme supports the development of world-class research capability and human capital in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that demonstrably support and underpin enterprise competitiveness and societal development in Ireland. To this end, the Investigators Programme funds outstanding people with innovative ideas and strategic partnerships, recognising that excellence is a paramount criterion. The following are examples of impacts and achievements from projects that have been supported under previous calls.


  • Research Excellence – Dr Oliver Blacque (UCD) received a 2011 Investigator Award and has published several papers in high impact journals. He recently published a senior author paper in Nature Cell Biology on cellular organelles called cilia which are important in health and disease.
  • Developments in Health – With funding awarded in 2010, Professor Noel Caplice (UCC) has identified a stem cell population that can be grown in large numbers and used to create new blood vessels. This research could lead to the development of vascular grafts for heart disease patients who are not suitable for existing surgical or stenting therapies.
  • Commercialisation - Prof Jane Farrar (TCD), a former Investigators award holder, was instrumental in the creation and development of the Irish bio-pharma company Genable Technologies, which specialised in developing gene medicines to target genetic diseases. Earlier this year, the company was sold to US gene therapy leader, Spark Therapeutics.
  • Industry collaboration - Prof Paul Moynagh’s (NUIM) 2012 Investigators Award resulted in the generation of a peptide with potential to treat inflammatory bowel diseases. This work was published in high-impact journals and also led to collaborations with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Sigmoid Pharma.


The call for applications for the 2016 Investigators Programme is currently open and involves the participation of a number of Government Departments and funding agencies. Co-funding Partners include Teagasc, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Full details can be found at  

About Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of, education in and engagement with, STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and in particular to the growth of the economy.  See

#ScienceRising supporting Innovation 2020 – a Science Foundation Ireland campaign that creates the connection for industry and individuals with science and innovation in Ireland.

Science Rising – The Story

Ireland is a nation where curious minds live, learn and discover. Known as the land of famous writers, actors and musicians, Ireland is also home to esteemed inventors, explorers, scientists and leaders. Together we shape the future.  Science is part of our past, a past that is often overlooked, an immense part of our present and it is key to our success. There is endless potential still to be realised. The growing impact of Irish scientific achievement will make a difference in people’s lives, support industry investment, future proof our skill base and involve everyone in the potential of science and innovation. We will continue to question, imagine, collaborate, discover, answer and create. We will make a difference to Irish society and our economy.  More importantly, we will make a difference to humankind. See