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Science Foundation Ireland to Invest €72 million in Four New World-Class SFI Research Centres

Wednesday, 10 May, 2017

Dublin, Ireland, 2 May 2017, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) today announced that it will invest €72 million, over the next six years, in four new world-class SFI Research Centres in Ireland. 

The new SFI Research Centres will be supported by 80 industry partners who will provide an additional €38 million to support cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, economic and societal impact. The decision follows a comprehensive international peer review process involving leading industry and academic experts over the last 12 months.

Innovation 2020, the Government’s five-year strategy for research and development, science and technology, directs that the network of SFI Research Centres should be further developed to build critical mass in strategic areas of research strength and address enterprise needs.

Today’s announcement marks the third tranche of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme.  The first seven SFI Research Centres were established in 2013 and a further five were established 2015.

These 12 world-leading SFI Research Centres are recognised internationally for research excellence; attract talent and capital to Ireland; anchor, attract and spin-out businesses; consolidate excellent basic and applied research across Higher Education Institutions; and secure EU and other international funding.

The four new SFI Research Centres announced today, including two from University College Dublin (UCD), are;

  • Biological resources as alternative materials to finite fossil resources, led by Professor Kevin O’Connor, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (Project Title – BEACON)
  • Innovative techniques and processes in Additive Manufacturing, led by Professor Denis Dowling, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (Project Title – Deantus)
  • Smart manufacturing IT and industrial automation systems, led by Professor Conor McCarthy, University of Limerick (Project Title – Confirm)
  • Diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of chronic and rare neurological diseases – led by Professor David Henshall, RCSI (Project Title - Future Neuro).

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “Our existing 12 SFI Research Centres are outstanding international examples of applied and basic combined (ABC) research.  They are making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, developing critical skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation. They are drivers of Ireland’s increased rankings in research and innovation over the last number of years.  They are also an important engine for the economy; companies engaged with the SFI Research Centres are located all over Ireland and globally.

“The commitment of industry and academic bodies to come together to develop these new SFI Research Centres clearly demonstrates the potential economic and societal impact of the planned research. I look forward to working with the four new SFI Research Centres on their road to becoming world-class centres of research excellence.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “This is a wonderful achievement by all involved at UCD. The research that will take place in these Centres over the coming years will advance knowledge, train excellent researchers, and deliver impact to the economy and society.”

The four new SFI Research Centres involve strong collaborative partnerships between research bodies in Ireland with funded researchers participating from institutions including; Athlone Institute of Technology, Beaumont Hospital, Cork Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, Mater Hospital, Maynooth University,  NUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Teagasc, Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Trinity College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute (UCC), University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

Four further SFI Research Centre proposals were approved in principle by the SFI Board following stringent assessment by international peer review.

SFI is seeking additional funding to support these centres over the next six years. These proposed SFI Research Centres involve collaborative partnerships with over 100 companies who have committed €60 million funding to the centres.

These proposals, including one from UCD, are;

  • Mapping the molecular causes of human diseases using Systems Biology led by Professor Walter Kolch, UCD School of Medicine (Project Title – H-SYS)
  • Innovative technologies to support the production of dairy products: From Pasture, To Cow, To Food, led by Dr Donagh Berry, Teagasc (Project Title Future Milk)
  • Inflammation and Innate Immunology led by Professor Andrew Bowie, TCD (Project Title – INNATE)
  • Advanced Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing led by Professor Michael Butler, NIBRT (Project Title – Bio-Logic).

Commenting on the SFI Board decision, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, We need to be ambitious and invest in areas of real potential to ensure our future economic competitiveness. In line with Innovation 2020 we have identified through the SFI Research Centre programme a further four proposals of strategic national importance that meet the high criteria of scientific excellence and impact.”

“Over the coming months we will be working to seek additional funding to support these four SFI Research Centres that have been approved in principle.  I am greatly encouraged by the high quality of research and the significant level of industry and international engagement in the proposals.”

The new SFI Research Centres will be formally launched in September 2017.


2 May 2017

For further information contact Micéal Whelan, University College Dublin, Communications Manager (Innovation), e: (opens in a new window)miceal.whelan@ucd.ie, t: + 353 1 716 3712 or Alva O’Cleirigh, Science Foundation Ireland, e: (opens in a new window)alva.ocleirigh@sfi.ie.

Editors Notes

Innovation 2020 is Ireland’s five-year strategy for research and development, science and technology. Innovation 2020 sets out the roadmap for continuing progress towards the goal of making Ireland a Global Innovation Leader, driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society.

A key ambition of the strategy is to increase total investment in R&D in Ireland, led by the public and private sector, to 2.5% of GNP. On current official projections, this would mean that by 2020 over €5 billion will be invested per year in R&D by the private and public sectors, an increase of more than €2bn over 2015 estimated investment levels.

The strategy also aims to increase the enrolment of postgraduate researchers from 1,750 to 2,250, and deliver a 30% increase in the number of funded post-doctoral researchers to support the generation of future research talent. The strategy also aims to increase Ireland’s international collaborations and further develop the high standard of our current research infrastructure.

About the SFI Research Centres Programme

One of the key tasks assigned to Science Foundation Ireland under Innovation 2020 is the development of a network of Higher Education-based Research Centres to provide world-leading capacity in strategically important areas of research for the economy. 

Science Foundation Ireland currently supports 12 Research Centres established in partnership with Higher Education and industry.   These 12 SFI Research Centres are focused on strategic areas of importance to Ireland, with a focus on delivering scientific excellence with economic and societal impact - Pharma, Big Data, Medical Devices, Nanotechnology/Materials, Marine Renewable Energy, Food for Health/Functional Foods, Perinatal Research, Applied Geosciences, Software, Digital Content and Telecommunications, etc.

Each of these SFI Research Centres is at a scale to facilitate world-leading research and impact. Key achievements to date include:

  • Over 500 collaborative research agreements signed with 300 companies.
  • Secured €50million in industry cash commitments.
  • Supporting skills needs - up to one third of team leavers go to jobs in industry.
  • Supporting economic growth through new company development (14 spin out companies to date).
  • Driving EU H2020 performance - Centres account for 33% of Ireland’s total H2020 success and are €24 million ahead of target for H2020 drawdown (up to June 2016 over €100 million EU funding secured).
  • 18 of the 40 Irish based prestigious European Research Council awardees are from SFI Research Centres (29 Awards).
  • Centres are a magnet for international talent – 8 of the recently recruited SFI Research Professors are associated with SFI Research Centres.

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 STEM education and engagement, and creates awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and to the growth of the economy.?

Science Foundation Ireland’s #BelieveInScience campaign promotes the potential that science and discovery offer Ireland, today and in tomorrow’s world. The #BelieveInScience campaign promotes the ability of STEM to create positive change in the world and to drive a sustainable economy in Ireland. The campaign will see Science Foundation Ireland work in partnership with the Irish research community to share a mutual passion for science with the public. (opens in a new window)www.sciencefoundationireland.ie

Established in 1854, University College Dublin (UCD) is Ireland’s largest university with over 30,000 students from some 120 countries worldwide. Founded on the educational principles of its first Rector, John Henry Newman, the university seeks to contribute to the economy and society through the excellence and impact of its research, innovation and scholarship, the quality of its graduates and through its engagement nationally and internationally. www.ucd.ie

UCD College of Engineering and Architecture

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