13th March 2024: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD has today announced 14 research awards which will receive funding through SFI’s Public Service Fellowship programme.

The novel programme offers academic researchers a unique opportunity to be temporarily seconded to Government departments and agencies and work on specific collaborative research projects. The fellowships help to foster innovation and provide an evidence base for policy, through close collaboration and engagement within the public sector and academic research community.

The projects represent a total grant funding in excess of €1.25 million. Co-funding partners include the Environmental Protection Agency, Geological Survey Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Making the announcement, Minister Harris, said: “I am delighted that this funding through the SFI Public Service Fellowship Programme spans 11 Government departments and agencies.

“Research plays a significant role in helping Government and Public Sector address national and global challenges, including climate change, health and well-being, food security, transport and digital transformation.

“This targeted immersion and integration of research expertise in our public service represents a win-win partnership for participating researchers and government entities alike, and fully aligns with departmental efforts to strengthen connectivity between the sectors.”

Projects to be supported by dedicated researcher secondments include:

  • EVA: Electric Vehicle Acoustics (National Disability Authority) aims to improve Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System, where a range of hearing abilities and a variety of environmental conditions are accounted for, and to promote wider universal-design principles.  
  • Development of ethical guidelines for the use of Artificial Intelligence in the Irish Public Service (Department of Public Expenditure NDP Delivery and Reform) aims to design a research-driven, comprehensive guide that can help officials navigate the legal and ethical complexities of AI use.
  • Examining current planning requirements for geothermal energy projects in Ireland (Geological Survey Ireland / Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications) aims to better define current planning requirements for a range of geothermal projects, particularly those that involve deep drilling, and identify gaps for future policy development.
  • Investigating gender aspects of Ireland’s clean energy transition (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) aims to further understand gender aspects of energy transition to ensure that all citizens and genders are engaged in decision-making processes, development and use of technologies, and benefit from their outcome.
  • The effectiveness of regulatory recommendations on risk management of medicines safety issues and impact on healthcare practice in Ireland (Health Products Regulatory Authority) aims to evaluate awareness, knowledge, preference for regulatory risk communications, as well as perspectives on factors relevant to behavioural change of healthcare professional groups.
  • The application of behavioural science to influence food safety compliance (Food Safety Authority of Ireland) aims to utilize behavioural science to provide insight in focus areas such as the food hygiene rating scheme, food safety culture, and regulatory enforcement.
  • Assessing the impact of the tertiary system on innovation in the workplace (Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science) which seeks to explore the impact of the tertiary system (FET, HE, Skills and Research) on innovation in enterprise.

Welcoming the news, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society at SFI, said: “There is significant opportunity to promote innovation and advance evidence-based approaches within the public sector through meaningful engagement with the academic research community. The SFI Public Service Fellowship Programme facilitates connection between researchers and Government bodies to help enhance service delivery and inform policy-making. Promoting those potentially transformative engagements enables researchers to apply their expertise to pressing public policy challenges, while developing their skills and accessing career development opportunities.”
Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland, commented: “This Fellowship represents an excellent opportunity to bridge the interface between Geological Survey Ireland’s work estimating our geothermal resources, and the economic and regulatory aspects of geothermal energy that will be needed to support our energy transition. We are excited to be working with colleagues in the Tyndall Institute and look forward to implementing the outcomes from this partnership.”

Kerrie Sheehan, Head of Department, Research & Technology, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, said: “SEAI welcomes the opportunity to be part of the SFI Public Service Fellowship programme and to co-fund a Research Fellow who will investigate gender aspects of Ireland’s clean energy transition. This will allow SEAI to collaborate with the Researcher to further our understanding of gender aspects within our programmes so we can embed equality, diversity and inclusion within decision-making processes and the development of new technologies, approaches and policies.”

Micheál Lehane, Director of the Office of Radiation Protection and Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Protection Agency, said: “The EPA is pleased to welcome a research fellow as part of the SFI Public Service Fellowship Programme. The Fellowship builds on our collaboration with researchers and also supports the development of expertise in Ireland in the area of emergency preparedness and response.”

The Fellowships have a duration of between one year (full-time) or two years (part-time). Researchers are from eight higher education institutes – South East Technological University, University College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute,  University of Galway, Maynooth University, University of Limerick, Technological University of the Shannon, and RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, and will undertake research projects working within the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Geological Survey Ireland, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Health Service Executive,  Department of Defence,  Health Products Regulatory Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, National Disability Authority, Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. 

Full list of the 14 SFI Public Service Fellows