Discovery, invention and innovation fuel great progress, with the potential to transform and improve lives across the world, resulting in better health, education, societal and economic outcomes.

Chairman’s Statement

Professor J Peter Clinch, Chairman of the Board, Science Foundation Ireland

Looking back over 2020, I am struck by the strength of our scientific community’s sense of purpose and the determination of researchers to make the world a better place now and for future generations. In a year where, on so many levels, we were collectively pushed to the limit by COVID-19, scientists, mathematicians and engineers continued to discover, innovate, and have a vital positive impact on Ireland’s society and economy.

To read the statement in full, download the report.

Your privacy settings

In order to allow the use of multimedia content on this website you must accept the use of miscellaneous cookies.

Key Statistics 2020 - Highlights

  • €22.8 million

    invested in 84 COVID-19 research and innovation projects.
  • 12th

    in global scientific ranking. 1st for knowledge diffusion.
  • 5,513

    international collaborations in 86 countries.
  • €49.6m

    from industry helping to drive competitiveness.
We fund research that makes a real difference to our society and our economy, both now and into the future – join the conversation online at #BelieveInScience @Scienceirel

Year In Review

2020 was a busy year across SFI. Every month we marked new achievements and celebrations. For the full Year in Review download the report.

Download now
  • JANUARY

    24 teams competed for €5 million in SFI’s Future Innovator Prize AI for Societal Good Challenge and Zero Emissions Challenge to develop novel solutions that address key societal concerns.

  • FEBRUARY

    Four researchers at the APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre, led by University College Cork (UCC) were awarded prestigious EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MCSA) postdoctoral fellowships.

  • MARCH

    President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, hosted ten recipients of the SFI President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award in Áras an Uachtaráin to celebrate emerging early career research leaders.

  • APRIL

    A joint investment of €12 million was announced through a tripartite research and development partnership under the US- Ireland R&D Programme.

  • MAY

    Dr Alison Liddy and team at NUI Galway (NUIG) were announced as the first recipient of the €1 million SFI Future Innovator Prize for their Hydrobloc project.

  • JUNE

    RCSI, UCD and the CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUIG won an SFI Research Infrastructure award of €3.4 million to develop a National Preclinical Imaging Centre (NPIC).

  • JULY

    Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, announced a €4.8 million investment into the immunology of COVID-19 led by Prof Kingston Mills and Prof Aideen Long at TCD.

  • AUGUST

    A new breakthrough in 3D bioprinting technology to support bone regeneration was developed by AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research at TCD.

  • SEPTEMBER

    The IPIC SFI Research Centre, Tyndall National Institute and UCC Innovation launched a spin out, BioPixS, to translate cutting- edge research into hi-tech solutions for the BioPhotonics market.

  • OCTOBER

    Minister Simon Harris, TD, announced 72 research grants with an investment of €52 million across 12 Higher Education Institutions, through the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme.

  • NOVEMBER

    Science Week celebrated its 25th anniversary with a virtual festival, under the theme ‘Choosing our Future’ which included 13 regional festivals.

  • DECEMBER

    Minister Simon Harris, TD, announced a €5m climate change project called Terrain-AI, co-funded by Microsoft Ireland and SFI, in collaboration with Maynooth University.

Explore The Report - Our Key Chapters

  • Responding to COVID-19

    In 2020, the global research community came together in an unprecedented, and immensely collaborative and agile manner to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Find out more
  • Excellent Science

    SFI supports and drives Ireland’s contribution to the latest scientific breakthroughs which lead to innovation for academia, enterprise, the public sector, society and beyond.

    Find out more
  • Talent and Skills

    SFI develops, attracts and retains diverse academic and research talent that powers Ireland’s innovation society.

    Find out more
  • Global Footprint

    In 2020 SFI continued to foster and maintain our strong global connections with international funding agencies, as well as seeking new opportunities for international research collaborations.

    Find out more
  • Driving Competitiveness

    Ireland is a competitive, innovative country with ambitions to become a global innovation leader.

    Find out more

Responding to COVID-19

In 2020, the global research community came together in an unprecedented, and immensely collaborative and agile manner to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more

Excellent Science

SFI supports and drives Ireland’s contribution to the latest scientific breakthroughs which lead to innovation for academia, enterprise, the public sector, society and beyond.

Find out more

Talent and Skills

SFI develops, attracts and retains diverse academic and research talent that powers Ireland’s innovation society.

Find out more

Global Footprint

In 2020 SFI continued to foster and maintain our strong global connections with international funding agencies, as well as seeking new opportunities for international research collaborations.

Find out more

Driving Competitiveness

Ireland is a competitive, innovative country with ambitions to become a global innovation leader.

Find out more

Highlights From Our 2020 Report

Responding to Covid-19

Strong Interagency Partnership

SFI worked with Government departments, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Health Research Board, Irish Research Council and the wider research and innovation community to address the key challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. SFI’s Five Point Plan saw the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Funding programme invest €18 million in 83 projects throughout 2020. In addition, €4.8 million was invested in the TCD COVID-19 Research Hub project under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme. The resulting collaborative research engagement focused on immediate solutions like treatments and tests, as well as longer term solutions. SFI worked to collate national and global data, and connected experts from across academia and industry.

Excellent Science

SFI Frontiers for the Future

The first awards under the new SFI Frontiers for the Future programme saw €52 million invested across 72 grants to support excellent independent researchers through to well established leaders - providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects. In 2020, an important gender initiative was also implemented through the programme, which is run in partnership with Geological Survey of Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Disruptive Innovation

Challenge-based Funding

SFI continued to incentivise researchers to address specific complex challenges through the SFI Future Innovator Prize, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs (Irish Aid). In 2020, Dr Alison Liddy and her team at NUI Galway (NUIG) were awarded €1 million for their project Hydrobloc. 12 teams progressed under challenges in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Societal Good, and Zero Emissions, while two new challenges were launched in the areas of food waste and plastics sustainability.

Driving Competitiveness

SFI Research Centres

SFI’s network of 16 SFI Research Centres, played a central role in Ireland’s success at drawing down EU Horizon 2020 funding delivering on national targets. To date, SFI Research Centres have participated in over 680 major EU-funded initiatives and cumulatively won 45 prestigious European Research Council awards. Five SFI Research Centres progressed to a second six-year research programme, following rigorous international peer review, with an investment of €193 million, supporting over 1,000 research positions in 17 Higher Education Institutions. This commitment is backed by 200 Industry partners who will contribute an additional €91 million.

Download the full Report

Get the full SFI 2020 Annual Report

Download now