Starting Investigator Research Grant

SFI is committed to supporting and developing early- and mid-career researchers to become excellent, fully independent research leaders and offers a suite of funding opportunities to help facilitate this transition, including support for those who are transitioning to independence, transitioning to leadership as well supporting more established researcher leaders. The SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) Programme aims to support excellent postdoctoral researchers and others who are yet to hold an independent research post in taking the initial steps towards a fully independent research career.

The SIRG award provides an opportunity for excellent early-career-stage investigators to carry out their own research project in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that underpin SFI’s legal remit. The award provides a contribution to the salary for the Starting Investigator (SI) and also provides funding for a postgraduate student, who will be primarily supervised by the SI. The SI will work with an associated mentor, who will provide the necessary support and infrastructure for the project to take place.

Objectives of the SIRG Programme

  • Support excellent scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact
  • Enable those at an early career stage to establish themselves as independent researchers
  • Provide the support and infrastructure to carry out novel research in areas that underpin SFI’s legal remit
  • Gain important experience towards a full-time academic position, including the supervision of the postgraduate student supported by the award
  • Enable the award holder, together with his/her postgraduate student, to carry out their work in Ireland’s public research bodies, including Universities and Institutes of Technology
  • Offer funding opportunities that help third-level institutions attract and develop researchers and their careers
  • Allow early-career investigators of all nationalities to enhance their experience in Irish HEIs
  • Allow early-career investigators who have been employed outside of Ireland to return to work in an Irish HEI
  • Build capacity and expertise so as to enable researchers to compete in other funding programmes such as those coordinated by the ERC or through the Horizon 2020 framework
  • Contribute to improving gender balance in the higher education sector



Four years

Award size

Up to €400,000 direct costs


SIRG awards provide a salary contribution for the SI and the stipend and fees for the associated postgraduate student. The maximum contribution to the SI’s salary each year must be set at a point on the Experienced Postdoctoral Researcher scale (Level 2B) of the SFI Grants Team Member Budgeting Scale. Applicants are permitted to start at any point within Level 2B (that is, either at Point 1, Point 2, Point 3 or Point 4, but not at an intermediate value between these points), and may move up to a higher point in following years, as desired.

Similarly, it is permissible to remain at the same point over consecutive years; reductions in salary contributions over consecutive years are not expected. Note that at no stage in the lifetime of a SIRG award may the salary contribution be greater than Point 4 of the Experienced Postdoctoral Researcher scale (Level 2B).

Eligibility criteria

The applicant will be a researcher with between three and eight years experience beyond the award of their PHD or equivalent qualification (that is, those who graduated during the period of September 2007 to December 2012, inclusive, are eligible to apply), who is currently employed as a Postdoctoral Research Associate (or equivalent) or a Research Fellow under the guidance of a named supervisor, and who has never previously held an independent research position of any kind where they were primarily responsible for a research team and its financial support. Allowances will be made for documentedleave, including maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, military service, sick/disability leave, time spent in industry and carer’s leave.

In addition:

  • The applicant must demonstrate a proven record of internationally recognised research accomplishments. The applicant must be senior author (first, last or corresponding) on at least three primary research articles (that is, not reviews nor other secondary research articles) in international peer-reviewed publications.
  • The applicant must not hold or have held a significant, independent internationally peer reviewed research award of greater than one-year duration. In addition, this previous award must not have had a total value in excess of €100,000 (or equivalent) direct costs. Personal awards, including student and postdoctoral fellowships, travel awards, and bursaries of greater than one-year duration are permissible, so long as their value was no greater than €100,000 per annum. One exception to the above rule is that applicants may hold or have held an SFI Industry Fellowship award with a value greater than €100,000.
  • The applicant must not hold a faculty position at the time of application. 
  • The SI must have an identified mentor, who has agreed to allow the SI and postgraduate student to carry out research within their laboratory space for the duration of the award.

Institutional approval

To be eligible to submit a proposal to the SIRG 2015 call, you must first be approved by the Research Office of the host institution in which you wish to carry out your SIRG-funded project. Research Offices will be expected to instigate a procedure to select candidates for this call. Those wishing to apply to the SIRG 2015 call should first contact their intended host institution, informing the Research Office about their identity and credentials (curriculum vitae), the identity of their chosen mentor, and an outline of their intended research plan.

All eligible research bodies are permitted to nominate a maximum of 12 candidates for the submission of a proposal to the SIRG programme. SFI is aware of the need to address gender imbalance in STEM research areas and is supportive of the Athena SWAN initiative which recently launched in Ireland and is endorsed by Irish Research Bodies. In recognition of this, SFI is running a pilot scheme for the SIRG 2015 call, whereby a maximum of six candidates, out of the 12 permitted from each eligible research body, may be male candidates. See Section 8 of the call document and FAQs for further details.

Research bodies must provide SFI with their list of approved applicants by 13:00 GMT on the 25th September 2015( see Call for Proposals for more details). The information should be sent by email to If more than 12 candidates in total and/or more than six male candidates are named in the document, all applications from that institution will be deemed ineligible.

Key dates

Institutional notification of approved applicants: 25th September 2015, 13:00 
Deadline for submission of proposals: 26th November 2015, 13:00


Full details on the proposal and submission requirements may be found in the proposal call. Please read the documentation carefully in advance of queries and submission.

SFI reserves the right to make amendments to the documents if required. Please ensure that you are referring to the most recent version of the call document and FAQs. Research Offices will be contacted in the event of any updates to the call documentation.


As detailed in the SIRG 2015 Programme Call for Proposals, all proposals are to be submitted via SESAME, SFI’s online grants and awards management system. If accessing SESAME for the first time, researchers should contact their local Research Office to be set up on this system. Queries about the system should also be directed here. If still unresolved, queries should be emailed to Please be aware that response time for queries may be up to five working days. For programme-related queries please contact

View SESAME User Guides and the FAQs for the SESAME system

Queries on the SESAME management system should first be directed to your Institute’s Research Office. If still unresolved, queries should be emailed to Please be aware that response time for queries may be up to five working days. For programme-related queries please contact

Please note that SFI is expecting a very high application rate to this programme, and has limited SESAME helpdesk resources. To avoid any delays in submission, researchers should familiarise themselves with the SESAME system and online help resources provided well in advance of the SFI and institution internal call deadlines.


Impact Webinar: SFI have recorded a webinar designed to assist applicants to SFI Programme calls in formulating their impact statement.

SIRG 2015 Webinar: SFI hosted a webinar on Wednesday 1st July from 13.00 -14.00 which outlined the details of the SIRG programme.

Other funding opportunities

View other funding opportunities for early and mid-career researchers.