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Non-academic engagements: 3092 industry engagements (national and international); 2522 distinct organisations; 1588 with multinational companies; 1504 with small-medium enterprises. Innovation and commercialisation: SFI-funded researchers have delivered 13 spin-out companies; 68 patents filed; 90 licenced technologies; 204 invention disclosures


Ireland’s societal and economic wellbeing requires excellent research and innovation to help us compete for the best global talent, international funding and foreign direct investment. SFI is fostering a cohesive research and innovation ecosystem that supports Ireland’s competitiveness. This drives job creation, the growth of small and medium enterprises and academic-industry research partnerships, to achieve our national goal to be an Innovation leader.

The research SFI supports leads to better technologies, new products, new processes and improved services, which in turn, advances Ireland’s knowledge economy and builds resilience for the future.


SFI generating value for money

SFI-funded researchers continued to demonstrate scientific excellence, research relevance, return on investment and value for money in 2021.

  • SFI-funded researchers won €234 million from diverse sources.
  • SFI-funded researchers secured €82.3 million in funding from EU sources.
  • Funding from private enterprise was €63.6 million.
SFI-funded researchers won €234 million from diverse sources
Image of Professor Aoife Ahern, Minister Simon Harris, Professor Philip Nolan, David O'Reilly and Professor Andrew Keane

SFI Strategic Partnership Programme

NexSys - Next Generation Energy Systems

The €16 million Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) SFI Strategic Partnership, led by Prof Andrew Keane at the UCD Energy Institute, aims to guide the energy sector’s transition towards net zero carbon by 2050 in Ireland. Co-funded by nine industry partners, and a philanthropic partner, there are also 40 non-funding collaborators involved in the project. It will support 107 research positions over five years and includes academic collaborators from 15 international institutions.

Pictured right: Prof Aoife Ahern, Minister Simon Harris, Prof Philip Nolan, David O'Reilly and Prof Andrew Keane. Image by Jason Clarke.

Empower SFI Spoke promoting data governance leadership

A new €10 million academic-industry SFI Spoke research programme was launched by Minister Harris TD, to futureproof EU data flows and drive innovations in data protection internationally. Focusing on data platforms, data governance and ecosystems, it involves researchers from four SFI Research Centres: Insight, the SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, the ADAPT SFI Research Centre for AI-Driven Digital Content Technology at TCD, FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software at UL, who will lead the programme.

“Data ecosystems, such as smart cities or connected health networks, present new challenges that require a fundamental reconsideration of how we manage and use data. While an effective data ecosystem can empower the exchange of knowledge from organisations and individuals, data movement can also give rise to risks that need to be managed from a socio-ethical perspective.”
Prof Markus Helfert, Empower Director, Maynooth University

A challenge-funding model for a sustainable future

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In 2021, SFI launched challenge-based funding calls to address major societal challenges in the areas of climate change, sustainability, and the responsible use of data and AI. These included a new SFI €2.47 million Sustainable Developments Goals Challenge, launched in partnership with Irish Aid, supports academic researchers to develop solutions that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the ground-breaking €2.4 million SFI-Defence Organisation Innovation Challenge launched in partnership with the Department of Defence and the Irish Defence Forces.

The Farm Zero C project was awarded €2 million under the SFI Future Innovator Prize and is partnering with Carbery Group to help a dairy farm achieve net-zero emissions by 2027. The TAPAS project, which uses AI-based satellite imagery analysis tool to measure climate change adaptation in agriculture, was named winner of the SFI Future Innovator Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Societal Good Challenge, securing €1 million for their interdisciplinary project, which is co-funded with Irish Aid under SFI’s partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

SFI Research Centres

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The network of 16 world leading SFI Research Centres link scientists and engineers in partnerships across 1,023 research bodies across the globe. This includes 12 universities, two Higher Education Institutes, one Institute of Technology and seven other research bodies in Ireland. This represents a cumulative SFI investment of €684 million and an industry commitment of €638 million, since 2013. In 2021, SFI Research Centres signed 116 collaborative research agreements (CRAs), of which 69 were with international companies and had an industry commitment of €32.9 million.

Explore The Report - Our Key Chapters

Excellent Research

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

Find out more about Excellent Research

Talent and Skills

From training highly sought-after PhD students, to supporting early career frontiers researchers and senior research leaders, SFI is working to attract and retain the best talent.

Find out more about Talent and Skills

Global Footprint

In 2021, SFI continued to build strategic international collaborative research partnerships across the globe.

Find out more about Global Footprint

Annual Report 2021

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