SFI - NSFC Partnership 2017

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is pleased to launch the Science Foundation Ireland International Partnership Programme. The first call for proposals under the programme is in partnership with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). The SFI-NSFC Partnership will fund excellent and innovative projects in priority areas of relevance to both the Republic of Ireland and to the People’s Republic of China. Proposals submitted to the programme will include a joint collaborative programme of research prepared by a leading academic in Ireland alongside a leading academic partner based in China.

SFI-NSFC Partnership Programme 2017 Objectives

  • To stimulate new collaborations and enhance existing collaborations of strategic relevance between excellent researchers and research institutions in the Republic of Ireland and the People’s Republic of China
  • To build capacity, expertise and mutually beneficial relationships between Ireland-based and China-based researchers To support excellent collaborative scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact
  • To offer both Ireland-based and China-based researchers the opportunity to find new outlets and applications for their work
  • To build capacity, expertise and relationships that will allow researchers in Ireland and China to collaborate and to win support through various EU-China opportunities within Horizon 2020.


The legal remit of SFI is to promote, develop and assist the carrying out of oriented basic and applied research in strategic areas of scientific endeavour that concern the future development and competitiveness of industry and enterprise in the State. To be eligible for funding through the SFI-NSFC Partnership Programme, all research activities funded by SFI must be aligned to SFI’s legal remit. The NSFC supports basic research, fosters talented researchers and promotes socioeconomic development. All NSFC-funded research must align to the NSFC’s remit. All proposals must also be aligned to one of the priority research areas outlined in the box below. These areas have been identified as strategically relevant for economic and/or societal impact in both Ireland and China. It is anticipated that future calls for proposals will include thematic areas within the life science field, particularly related to health.

SFI-NSFC Partnership 2017 Thematic Areas

  • Novel Functional Materials and Devices
  • Data Analytics, Management, Security and Privacy
  • Digital Platforms, Content and Applications
  • Smart Grids and Smart Cities
  • Future Networks and Communications
  • Energy and Environmental Sustainability
  • Manufacturing Competitiveness
  • Future Agri-Food



Please see the call document for details on programme eligibility.


The SFI-NSFC Partnership awards represent funding of significant scale, whereby SFI funds the research activities and team based in Ireland and the NSFC funds the research activities in China.

SFI-NSFC Partnership grants are four years in duration. The minimum direct costs requested from SFI by the Applicant based in Ireland will be €500,000 and the maximum will be €1,000,000. The NSFC will provide 4,000,000 RMB (direct costs) for the research costs of the Applicant based in China.

Review Process

SFI will manage the international peer review evaluation of proposals. This evaluation process will combine postal and panel review stages, both carried out by international experts. An outline of the SFI-NSFC Partnership Programme review process can be found here.

Key Dates

Applicants based in the Republic of Ireland must submit the requested preliminary information to SFI through their host institution Research Office before the deadline of Friday 19th May 2017 at 13:00 Dublin, Ireland Local time. The form that Applicants need to provide to their Research Offices is available here.

Only Applicants that have submitted the requested preliminary information through their host institution Research Office will be permitted to submit a proposal to the call.

The deadline for submission of proposals to SFI is Friday 30th June 2017 at 13:00 Dublin, Ireland Local Time.

Applicants in China should consult the NSFC webpage for details on the NSFC deadline for submission of proposals. For the Applicants based in Ireland, please note that the Applicant based in China will require the version of the proposal submitted to SFI (in PDF format) for submission both by post and via the NSFC’s online system in advance of the NSFC’s deadline of 16:00 Beijing, China local time on the 30th June 2017.

How to Apply

For SFI-NSFC Partnership proposals, the host Research Body of the Applicant based in Ireland must submit the joint proposal to SFI via SESAME, SFI’s grants and awards management system. Proposals submitted to SFI outside the SESAME system will not be accepted. The proposal submitted to SFI will contain the joint programme of research and the details of both applicants (Ireland-based and China-based).

The Applicant based in China must submit the joint proposal PDF document (prepared through the SESAME system) and an additional proposal using the NSFC’s template application to the NSFC.

SESAME is now open for applications.

SFI is expecting a 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.


  • SFI-NSFC Partnership 2017 Call Document (PDF)
  • SFI-NSFC Partnership Programme 2017 FAQs – (PDF)
  • Preliminary information request form (Word)
  • Applicant CV Template (Word)
  • Research Body information request template (to be completed by Research Body only) (Excel)
  • NSFC Budget Template (Word)
  • SFI Guidance on Ethical and Scientific Issues, Feb 2017 (PDF)
  • SFI Ethical Issues Table (Word)
  • SFI-NSFC Partnership Programme review process (PDF)

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 document.

Information Webinars

SFI hosted a webinar outlining the SFI-NSFC Partnership 2017 call and its application process on Friday 24th March 2017. This webinar was recorded and is available for viewing here. The webinar slides are available for download here.

The SFI Impact Webinar is designed to assist applicants to SFI Programme calls in formulating their Impact Statement. Applicants are encouraged to view this webinar in advance of preparing an SFI-NSFC Partnership proposal.

Further Information

Researchers based in Ireland should direct all enquiries to partnerships@sfi.ie

Researchers based in China should direct all enquiries to Wencong Li at liwc@nsfc.gov.cn

Further information for Applicants based in China can be found at here

Queries on the SESAME management system should first be directed to your Institute’s Research Office. If still unresolved, queries should be submitted to the SESAME Helpdesk through the Sesame Portal.