• SFI supports 39,823 jobs in Ireland – an increase of almost 30%
  • 2,715 international research collaborations in 74 countries reported in 2018

Dublin, 22nd July 2019 – Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has today launched its 2018 annual report, reflecting on a significant year of collaboration and achievement. The national foundation for investment in research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in Ireland, SFI has significantly increased the economic return it generates from public funding, delivering an increase of almost 30% in the number of jobs it supports and a 20% increase in researcher engagement with the public. For every €1 invested by the State in SFI Research Centres, €5 was returned to the economy.

In 2018, SFI invested €188 million from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation into supporting Irish research and generating new industry and international collaborations, which generated a further €230 million in non-government funding (an increase of 31%), including €98 million competitively won from the EU. Funding from industry increased by 43% to €46 million.

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Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, welcomed the report saying, “2018 was a significant year for investment in science and research in Ireland. I was delighted to welcome the opening of five new SFI Research Centres, CONFIRM, VistaMilk, I-Form, BEACON and FutureNero, further growing this important network which has been at the forefront of driving scientific advancement and impactful industry collaboration in Ireland. Investment in these Centres reflect the efforts made by Government to maintain and improve Ireland’s global reputation for research excellence and innovation. As part of our planning and preparation for Brexit, I’m delighted to see that SFI has further grown its global footprint in 2018, with 2,715 international research collaborations taking place between its funded researchers and their collaborators in 74 countries. SFI’s first overseas post in California will also support more US-Ireland research collaborations. Such progress clearly signals the far-reaching and positive impacts of Irish science on our future economy.”

The five new SFI Research Centres launched in 2018 represent an investment of €90 million. These are CONFIRM, the SFI Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing led by University Limerick; BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre at the National Bioeconomy Campus in Lisheen; FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases led by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland;  I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing led by University College Dublin; and VistaMilk SFI Research Centre, jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

SFI also promotes and supports STEM education and engagement to improve awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and to support the STEM careers pipeline. In 2018, SFI-funded researcher activities to engage and educate the public increased by 20%. Commenting on the report, John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development said, “2018 was a very positive year for Science Foundation Ireland. Its investment of €13.7 million in the next generation of STEM talent through SFI Career Development Awards, and the launch of 41 diverse initiatives through the SFI Discover Programme to promote STEM to young people and harder to reach audiences, will help to futureproof our talent pipeline. With 897 regional industry collaborations across both multinational corporations and SME businesses, SFI is growing opportunities across the regions, as well as now moving into the area of challenge-based funding programmes to drive innovation in solving some of our greatest and most pressing societal challenges.”

Additional highlights from the 2018 Science Foundation Ireland Annual Report

  • SFI-funded researchers competitively won €230 million from several diverse sources (up by 31%). Six European Research Council awards were won by SFI researchers.
  • SFI supported 39,823 jobs in Ireland (up by 28%), including 4,924 people working on SFI-supported projects.
  • Across the portfolio, SFI-funded researchers were involved in 12 spin-out companies, 51 patent awards and 174 invention disclosures.
  • 72% of academic-academic collaborations are international (2,715 research collaborations spanning 74 countries). This includes eight new awards as part of a programme between SFI and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
  • SFI continued to develop partnerships with the National Science Foundation in the US by establishing its first overseas post to identify and facilitate research collaboration opportunities. This is further evidenced by the 454 US-Ireland research collaborations and the €75 million invested across 45 successful partnerships to-date.
  • 2018 saw 897 regional industry collaborations, 504 of which were with multinational companies and 393 with SMEs.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said, “In 2018, we increased our efforts to support significant research capacity in areas of strategic national importance, such as climate, marine and renewable energy, agri-tech, bio-economy and smart manufacturing, delivering on Science Foundation Ireland’s strategy, Agenda 2020, and important Government strategies, Future Jobs Ireland and Global Ireland 2025. The new SFI Centres for Research Training Programme, representing an investment of over €100 million, will deliver on Project 2040’s objective of building a strong economy by expanding Ireland’s research capacity to meet industry skills needs, and providing training for over 700 postgraduate students. At the end of 2018, 45% of SFI-funded original and review articles were open access, bringing us closer to our goal of achieving full and immediate open access for all SFI-funded research publications by 2021. This increased access allows the societal and economic benefits of our funded research to go further. As we build on this continued growth and look to 2019 and beyond, Science Foundation Ireland’s new strategy for 2020-2025 will aim to empower our research community, focusing on the areas where we can bring the most value.”

Looking forward

During the first six months of 2019, SFI has launched several successful initiatives including:

  • The launch of the successful SFI Frontiers Programme through a highly competitive process, with strong application numbers and positive engagement across the community.
  • Six finalists selected as part of the SFI Future Innovators Programme which aims to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland. Finalists compete for a prize award of €1 million with the opportunity to develop and led an innovative solution with the potential to impact Irish society.
  • An investment of €230 million in renewed funding for six SFI Research Centres as part of Project Ireland 2040, which will directly benefit 850 researchers, while also supporting the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland initiative. The investment is buoyed by industry support from 170 industry partners, committing to investing over €230 million in cash and in-kind contributions over the next six years.