Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research.
What Science Foundation Ireland does?
Science Foundation Ireland funds 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.
Research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics improves our economy, creates employment and enhances vital areas of our society, including healthcare, environment, agriculture and education.
Science and technology are playing greater roles in almost every aspect of our lives. Through focused investment in excellent and impactful scientific research and talented researchers, Science Foundation Ireland ensures that Ireland leads the world in strategic research areas, has globally recognised SFI Research Centres, and is a hub for industry/academic research collaborations.
Types of funding programmes
Science Foundation Ireland offers a range of funding schemes which support scientists and engineers to deliver both research excellence and economic and societal impact.
Science Foundation Ireland funds across the career spectrum from early-stage researchers to mid-stage career researchers to emerging research stars and up to established, highly-esteemed research leaders, through individual and collaborative awards.
Science Foundation Ireland currently invests approximately equal amounts of its budget in individually-led awards (e.g. SFI Investigators programme, Career Development programme, Starting Investigators programme, etc.) and in large Research Centre-type activities.
Science Foundation Ireland makes grants based upon the merit review of distinguished scientists. SFI also advances co-operative efforts among education, government, and industry that support its fields of emphasis and promotes Ireland’s ensuing achievements around the world.
Investing in basic research
To assess the maturity of awards within its funding portfolio, Science Foundation Ireland has adopted the same Technology Readiness Level (TRL) evaluation scale as utilised by the Horizon 2020 Programme (outlined below), which is an adaptation of the TRL scale developed by NASA in the 1970s.
The majority (approx. 80%) of Science Foundation Ireland’s funding is currently committed to basic research projects – excellent research with impact – at TRL 1 and 2.
Approximately 50% of Science Foundation Ireland’s budget is committed to SFI Research Centres which perform Applied and Basic Combined research (ABC).
Undertaking scientific research is not a linear process, beginning with basic research that moves along through various stages to end up as applied research. The process of discovery is non-linear, with researchers often involved in both basic and applied research as projects progress.
Engaging with industry
Engaging with industry remains one of the key mechanisms for transferring the benefits of public investment in research into sustainable economic development and creating competitive advantage for Ireland.
Science Foundation Ireland supporting researchers are collaborating with Multinational Companies (MNC) and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in every region of Ireland. 399 SMEs and 491 MNC are collaborating with researchers supported by Science Foundation Ireland. Approximately 40% SFI grants include an industry collaborator, these collaborations may be either to perform basic or applied research. For more information on industry collaboration see For Industry.