Prof J. Peter Clinch


Chairman of the Board of Science Foundation Ireland

Professor Peter Clinch was appointed Chairman of the Board of Science Foundation Ireland in August 2019. He was previously Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council of Ireland where he served as a senior independent adviser to Government on competitiveness, trade and economic policy. Peter has advised, or worked on behalf of, amongst others, the World Bank, OECD, and several national governments and/or their agencies. He is regularly consulted on economic and business strategy by leading national and international organisations and has made significant contributions to a broad range of policy domains at national and European level.

Peter has been appointed to positions of responsibility by four governments of different politics, including holding the position of chief policy adviser to the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) where he served Cabinet Committees on Economic Renewal, Climate Change and Energy Security, and Science, Technology and Innovation. His experience working in partnership with senior civil servants, and with industry, includes high-level negotiations with the global CEOs/Presidents of Intel, Coca Cola, IBM, BNY Mellon, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, HP, Pfizer and others. Peter was a member of Irish Government delegations to the European Council, the UN General Assembly, Davos World Economic Forum, Asia-Europe Meetings, a series of overseas trade missions, as well as the Prime Ministerial delegations to meet Heads of States, including US President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Between 2011 and 2014, Peter was Vice-President of University College Dublin with special responsibility for innovation, enterprise development and corporate partnerships. He currently holds the Jean Monnet Chair of Public Policy at UCD, has served on several commercial and non-profit Boards, and is an Affiliate Faculty member of the competitiveness program at the Institute for Strategy at Harvard Business School. Peter has authored over 200 publications and papers on various aspects of sustainable economic development. He has held Visiting Positions, or has been an invited speaker, at, amongst others, the University of California, Berkeley and San Diego, Said Business School at Oxford University, Cambridge University, the University of Southern California, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Peter holds first-class BA and MA degrees in economics, a PhD, a Diploma in Environmental Impact Assessment and is a graduate of the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School. In 2017, he was conferred with a Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences for distinguished research and contributions to policy.


Mr Aidan Donnelly

Board Member

MD Advest Management ltd / Chairman NORA

Aidan W. Donnelly, is the M.D. of Advest Management Ltd a private equity fund management company. In addition he is Chairman of NORA, the Irish government agency responsible for Ireland's National Oil Reserves and has a number of interests in renewable and environmental start-up companies.  Aidan has extensive experience in the development and management of technology-oriented multinationals in Ireland such as Xerox (Europe) Ltd. Quantum Peripheral Products Ltd, Puritan Bennett, Cabletron Systems, Betdaq (Global Betting Exchange Ltd.) and most recently, ServeCentric Ltd.  For over 12 years, Aidan also served in the Irish army, holding the rank of Captain in the Army Ordnance Corp. He earned a M.B.A. (UCG), M.I.E. (UCD) and a B.Sc. (UCG). He is a Chartered Director (C.Dir.) with the IOD.

Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Board Member

Former EU Commisioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn served as the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science from 2010-2014. As Commissioner she established the ‘Innovation Union’ initiative; progressed the European Research Area; and delivered the largest ever research framework programme, Horizon 2020, with a 30% budget increase (€80 billion in total for research and innovation). She had political responsibility for two directorates general – the Director General for Research and Innovation and the Joint Research Council.

Máire previously served as a Fianna Fáil TD for the Galway West constituency (1975–1997); and held several Ministerial positions including: Minister for the Gaeltacht (1979–1981), becoming the first female Cabinet Minister since the foundation of the Irish State; Minister for European Affairs (1987–1991); and Minister for Justice (1993–1994). She holds a Degree of Doctor of Laws from NUIG, a degree of Doctor of Science from UCD (both honoris causa); and the Légion d’honneur among other awards. She is a Member of the European Joint Research Centre (JRC) Alumni Network and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Prof Eileen Harkin-Jones

Board Member

Emeritus Professor of Polymer Engineering, School of Engineering, Ulster University

Professor Eileen Harkin-Jones is Emeritus Professor of Polymer Engineering at Ulster University where she held the Spirit-Aerospace/Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Composites Engineering from 2014-2021. Prior to that she held the Boxmore Chair in Polymer Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast (1993-2014). She has over 30 years of experience in polymer science & engineering research as well as significant industrial experience in the polymer sector.   

Eileen’s research is in the development and processing of advanced thermoplastic polymers and composites with applications in areas from aerospace to medical devices and with a focus on sustainability. She has published over 200 papers, won research funding in excess of £16 million as principal investigator and supervised over 40 PhD students to completion. She has also been awarded two National UK prizes for excellence in technology transfer.

Eileen holds a first-class BEng from UCD and a PhD from Queen’s University Belfast. She is an elected Fellow of two national academies (The Royal Academy of Engineering (UK) and the Irish Academy of Engineering). In 2013 she was awarded an OBE for Services to Higher Education.


Mr Brendan Harte

Board Member

Senior Vice President of Finance in ICON Plc

Brendan Harte, FCA is a Senior Vice President of Finance in ICON Plc, a Irish founded global clinical research organization with approx. 15,000 employees. He joined ICON in 2008 and has served in a number of global roles on the senior management team, with a focus on leading change initiatives, strategic restructuring of the business model and supporting the drive for growth and increased shareholder value. In his current role he heads the team charged with the successful on-boarding and global integration of new business lines acquired by ICON. In previous roles he developed and led large, multi-disciplinary teams responsible for areas such as Financial Reporting, Corporate Accounting, Taxation, Statutory Compliance, and Investigator Payments. Prior to joining ICON he worked in leadership roles with Hewlett Packard Financial Services, Accenture, and Meridian Vat Reclaim. Mr Harte is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Mr Declan Hughes

Board Member

Assistant Secretary General, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Declan Hughes is a member of the Management Board of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for promoting business innovation, disruptive technologies, research spinouts, IP and standards, inward investment and future manufacturing.

He has over twenty years’ experience in developing and advising on enterprise and innovation policies, including Building Ireland’s Knowledge Economy, the Action Plan for Jobs and Covid business supports. He was previously head of the Indigenous Enterprise, SMEs and Entrepreneurship Division and Strategic Policy and Finance Division. He is a Board member of IDA Ireland, chair of the DTIF Advisory Committee and the Space Enterprise Coordination Committee. He has served on EU RDI committees and is a member of the OECD Committees on Industry & Innovation and Investment. Declan served on the Board of Enterprise Ireland, National Competitiveness Council, Interim Public Procurement Reform Board and Food Wise Implementation Committee and is a member of the IOD. He was formerly on the Executive Committee of the enterprise and STI agency, Forfás and head of secretariat of ICSTI. He is a first-class Masters graduate of Smurfit School of Business, UCD and of executive programmes at Wharton School of Business, Roffey Park Institute and Singapore Civil Service College. Declan was appointed to the Board on 5th April 2022.

Prof Ann Leen

Board Member

Professor Pediatrics Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Ann Leen is a Professor of Pediatrics in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine and an immunologist with more than 20 years of experience in developing and testing novel T cell therapies for the treatment of viral infections and cancer. She has characterized the immune response to a range of viruses and non-viral tumor-associated antigens, and has devised and clinically implemented immunotherapeutic strategies to treat viral infections and cancer including (myeloma, lymphoma, leukemia, pancreatic cancer and COVID). She is currently the principal investigator (PI) on 5 investigator-initiated Investigational New Drug (IND) studies and over the past 10 years has served as PI on >10 clinical trials using “first in man” cell therapies for patients. She has co-founded two companies based on her T cell therapies – Allovir and Marker Therapeutics and serves as the Chief Scientific Officer of AlloVir. Dr. Leen is a senior or co-author on >100 peer-reviewed publications and a named inventor on 14 issued patents. She has also reviewed manuscripts for various journals and served as a grant peer reviewer for both national and international funding agencies. Dr. Leen holds a Ph.D. in Immunology from the CRC Institute for Cancer Studies in Birmingham, UK and a BSc in biochemistry from the University of College Cork in Ireland.

Ms Grainne McAleese

Board Member

Head of Finance for UDG Healthcare plc

Grainne McAleese is a senior business leader with experience working internationally at Executive Committee level in financial and leadership roles, primarily in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Ms. McAleese is currently Head of Finance for UDG Healthcare plc, a global Irish-headquartered company providing innovative outsourced services to healthcare companies. Prior to UDG Healthcare, she worked as General Manager for Ireland and Vice President, Finance with Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a rare disease US biotech company. At Alexion, she was responsible for overseeing Irish operations and winning capital investments of over $600 million across two sites in Ireland.

Ms. McAleese previously spent 10 years working with Elan Corporation, plc in the United States and Ireland in various corporate, strategic and group finance roles, and most recently as Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer. In this role, she managed financial, transactional and financing activities of the company, including the IPO of Prothena Corporation, plc and the company sale to Perrigo Company, plc.

Ms. McAleese is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland, a Certified Public Accountant in the United States, and holds a Bachelors and a Masters degree from Dublin City University.

Ms Clíona Murphy

Board Member

Vice President Research & Development, PepsiCo

Cliona Murphy is Vice-President R&D, Global Quality Assurance, PepsiCo.  In this role she is responsible for the quality policies & standards developed and deployed across the entire PepsiCo portfolio and for verifying and assuring compliance against them.  Cliona is chair of PepsiCo Ireland’s STEM Council and leads PepsiCo’s Million Women Mentor programme across the world. 

Cliona joined PepsiCo in 1997 and has worked in a variety of R&D and Supply Chain leadership roles across the PepsiCo system in Europe, UK, China, Asia and Ireland.

Cliona is a Chartered Engineer with a Degree in Engineering from Trinity College Dublin, and an MSc in Food, Nutrition & Health from University College Dublin.  She is a member of Trinity College Dublin’s Provost’s Council and previously served as a member of the Teagasc Authority.    

Dr Diarmuid O'Brien

Board Member

Chief Executive of Cambridge Enterprise

Diarmuid is the Chief Executive of Cambridge Enterprise; the organisation responsible for commercialising research from the University of Cambridge. Cambridge Enterprise is responsible for patenting the ground-breaking research from the University of Cambridge, licensing innovative technology to global businesses, connecting our exceptional faculty with the challenges of international business through consultancy and cultivating the formation of the next disruptive technology businesses through our seed fund.

Diarmuid has twenty years’ experience connecting academic based research with the enterprise community. Previously he was the Chief Innovation & Enterprise Officer at Trinity College Dublin, where he had overall responsibility for the development and enhancement of the college’s innovation and enterprise strategy.

Prior to this, Diarmuid was Director of Trinity Research and Innovation with responsibility for both the Research Development Office and the Office of Corporate Partnership and Knowledge Exchange. In that role he led the establishment of the University Bridge venture fund, which is ranked in the world’s top five collaborative university funds, according to Global University Venturing.

Diarmuid was also the Executive Director of CRANN, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for nanotechnology and materials science research. He has held senior management roles in several university-founded start-up companies, including NTera, Xoliox, and Deerac Fluidics.

Diarmuid was a Research Fellow at Princeton University. He has a PhD in Physics from the University of Sheffield and a degree in Materials Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Prof Philip Nolan

Director General

Professor Philip Nolan MB, BCh, BAO, BSc, PhD, MRIA

Professor Philip Nolan earned his degrees in Physiology (1988) and Medicine (1991) at University College Dublin (UCD) and was subsequently awarded a PhD in Physiology for his research on the control of breathing and the cardiovascular system during sleep. He is an accomplished researcher, with interests in physiological signal processing and control systems, and publications in the leading journals in the field. He joined the academic staff of the Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology at UCD in 1996, winning President’s Awards for both Research and Teaching. He was appointed Director of the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research in 2003, before becoming Registrar and Deputy President at UCD in 2004, where he led an institution-wide reform of the undergraduate curriculum, the UCD Horizons programme, and was responsible for access and widening participation, postgraduate studies, international partnerships, and library and information technology services.

In August 2011, Professor Nolan was appointed President of Maynooth University. Early in his tenure he established a new strategy for the University in its research, teaching and engagement activities, which saw unprecedented growth and diversification of teaching and research, and a doubling of the research capacity of the University. He has contributed to important developments in higher education in Ireland, specifically in reforming the transition from second to third level, in widening participation in higher education, and in promoting equality and diversity.

He has more recently been centrally involved in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team, chairing its disease modelling subgroup.

He is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Professor Nolan took up the role of Director-General of SFI on 17 January 2022.

All Board members have collective responsibility to:

  • establish the strategic direction of the Agency, within the framework of the SFI legislation and the resources it is allocated
  • review the strategic direction of the Agency and major plans of action;
  • set the ethical tone of the Agency, not only by the Boards own actions but also in overseeing senior management and staff to ensure good standards of governance;
  • direct, support and evaluate the Director General to ensure that the Agency complies with all statutory and administrative requirements for the use of public funds;
  • oversee and assure the Agency’s system of internal financial control, operations compliance and risk management