New PhD Programme in Foundations of Data Science is Launched

Pictured centre are Prof. Orla Feely and Assoc. Professor Claire Gormley with CRT PhD students who will be hosted at UCD and UCD staff. (Andres Poveda Photography).

New PhD Programme in Foundations of Data Science is Launched

 - A total of 139 PhD students will benefit from this programme which will give them a world-class foundational understanding of Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Machine Learning

A new industry and Government supported PhD programme in Foundations of Data Science was launched today by Mary Mitchell O Connor, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills with special responsibility for Higher Education, at an event in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Centre for Research Training (CRT) in Foundations of Data Science is a large-scale collaborative initiative between University College Dublin (UCD), University of Limerick (UL), Maynooth University (MU) and industry partners and is coordinated by Skillnet Ireland and Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet.

The CRT was announced earlier this year, with an investment of €21 million by SFI, academia and industry, to support a total of 139 PhD students to respond to the rapidly-evolving needs of Ireland’s data science industry. The first cohort of 27 PhD students will take their places at the new CRT in September.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said, “The Government is committed to developing Ireland’s data science industry as a globally recognised centre of excellence and will continue to support programmes such as this within higher education while also supporting industry needs by creating exciting new opportunities for innovation across all sectors”.

“This SFI Centre for Research Training will play a vital role in giving this idea due importance. The world of work is changing, and skills gained from Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Machine Learning are transferable across industries.”

“It also brings into light that we need to maintain a constant focus on what skills are required for economic competitiveness. This programme is an example of the Government’s Future Jobs initiative in practice, helping to create a future-proofed workforce and prepare for tomorrow’s economy.”

The CRT programme offers students a unique career pathway that will see them develop cutting-edge tools and technologies to provide insights to help shape industry and policy across the country. It will not only help mobilise the power of data nationally for industry across multiple sectors but will also assist in establishing Ireland as a leading data science research nation with a sustainable flow of expertise.

Professor James Gleeson (UL) is leading the Centre with co-Directors, Associate Professor Claire Gormley, UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics and Professor Ken Duffy (MU).

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland, said, “Investment in skills development in areas like Data Sciences is important for our economy and society in Ireland. Data Science is already at the heart of many industries and will be critical for many more in the future, including to deliver efficient and effective public services." 

"I would like to congratulate the researchers in the Higher Education Institutions and companies that have come together to develop this outstanding programme of training and research, which also includes diverse transferable skills.”

This industry supported programme will give students an in-depth training in the fundamental data-science skills necessary to adapt to the way data, and data-enabled technologies such as artificial intelligence, are transforming the economy.

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “The SFI Centre for Research Training in Foundations of Data Science launched today will provide an environment to train doctoral students to become data scientists and to equip them with the skills they need for the jobs of the future in areas such as data analytics, robotics and smart manufacturing. I wish the Centre first’s intake of 27 students, 9 of whom will be hosted here at UCD, every success on their PhD journeys which they have just embarked upon.”

In an environment which is increasingly difficult for organisations to find the data science talent they need to fuel their ever more data heavy strategies, students will engage with industries and enterprises, to develop an understanding of the real-world applications of data science, gaining crossover skills and an appreciation for true impact in the process.

Professor James Gleeson, University of Limerick said, This programme will produce graduates who will become Ireland’s future leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and employers. Students will get a unique opportunity to work with some of the best researchers and innovative companies working in this area.”

“This programme displays the combined strengths of higher education and enterprise networks in the face of new challenges we all face in our quest to flourish as an economy. The participation of Skillnet Ireland, Irish industry and enterprise, will enable the SFI Centre for Research Training in Foundations of Data Science to create a future-proofed workforce.”

Mark Jordan, Chief Technologist, Skillnet Ireland said,We are delighted to provide industry support to our academic partners in the area of Data Science. This PhD programme will meet identified challenges in science and shape the future of workforce development.”

“The 139 PhD students trained will gain a foundational understanding that will make them uniquely adaptable to the rapidly-evolving needs of both Ireland’s data science industry and our economy. Research in areas of national importance will allow academia and industry to investigate the bespoke skills that are required to succeed in business but also what’s needed in the area of national importance.”

“We continue to actively develop innovative solutions for enterprise and the challenges they face through workforce planning at a strategic level. The new development and investment in this CRT will open new doors for research and education.”


17 September 2019

For further information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, UCD Research and Innovation, e:, t: +353 1 716 3712 Pearse Corcoran, e:

Editors Notes

Skillnet Ireland is the national agency responsible for the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning in Ireland. Skillnet Ireland funds over 50 industry representative groups, supporting over 16,000 companies and 56,000 trainees annually.  Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet, funded by Skillnet Ireland, is a network of companies who collaborate to address skills needs within the technology sector.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research. 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.

Through additional funding allocated to Science Foundation Ireland by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Science Foundation Ireland has developed and implemented a new cohort-based postgraduate research training programme, the SFI Centres for Research Training, to fund enrolment of additional 700 students in the areas of digital, data and ICT from 2019 onwards.