SFI launches strategy plan, gives details of €30m funding in research infrastructure

Minister Richard Bruton, Prof Mark Ferguson and Minister Sean Sherlock
SFI launches strategy plan, gives details of €30m funding in research infrastructure Pictured: Minister Richard Bruton, Prof Mark Ferguson and Minister Sean Sherlock

A new eight-year Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) plan was launched today, along with details of a €30m investment in research infrastructure by the Government agency.

As part of the ‘Agenda 2020’ strategy, SFI said it aims to become “the world’s best science funding agency in the world at creating impact from excellent research and demonstrating clear value for money invested by 2020”.

Other targets include attracting a top-tier international prize-winning scientist to lead an SFI-funded team in Ireland by 2015 and having an SFI researcher/team to win a major international prize by 2020. In addition, it wants to double the proportion of patents, invention disclosures, licences and spin-outs by Enterprise Ireland that are linked to SFI research. And the SFI has a target of 50pc of its trainees moving to industry as a first destination by 2020.

Meanwhile, SFI said the infrastructural funding was awarded to research groups where projects demonstrated partnerships and collaborations, links with industry, relevance to Ireland’s prioritised research areas and sustainable planning. A total of 37 projects were approved for funding with a total amount of €30m

Projects supported include and “aberration corrected electron microscope” in Crann, TCD, which will enable scientists to study materials within atoms in new ways, imaging at a magnification of 10 million; a marine energy testing site in Galway Bay to help source renewable energy from the power of the ocean (Marine Institute); a germ-free facility in UCC for research in food and life sciences; and a  “microvascular tomography system” that will enable doctors to see high-contrast 3-dimensional images from inside the body (NUIG).

“This is a highly ambitious strategy for the next eight years which aims to develop in Ireland the best science funding agency in the world in terms of commercial outcomes and value for money,” said Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, at the launch and awards announcement.

“Our continued investment in science and our scientific performance tells a global audience that Ireland is open for business, and that, by prioritising R&D, we are thinking not only of today, but also of tomorrow – thinking not only of ourselves, but of the next generation,” said Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock.

“Agenda 2020 is an ambitious plan to position Ireland as a global knowledge leader, a society with scientific and engineering research at its core, driving economic, social and cultural development,” said Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI. “Implementing the plan will enable Ireland to gain international competitive advantage.

“Today’s funding announcement will advance the realisation of Agenda 2020.  This strategy represents an enormous challenge to all members of the scientific research and enterprise ecosystem in Ireland, but it is a challenge that we face with great confidence and enthusiasm.”