• 2,894 international academic collaborations with 75 countries
  • 26% increase in education and public engagement activities
  • 1,860 industry collaborations; 976 of these with MNCs and SMEs across Ireland

Dublin, Wednesday 26th August 2020 - Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, has today launched the 2019 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) annual report, which highlights Ireland ranking 1st in the world for quality of science in immunology and 2nd in agricultural sciences, as measured by citations per paper in InCites (Clarivate Analytics).

The report demonstrates significant impact and value for money from investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for the Irish public and SFI’s vital role in building world-leading research, from Ireland’s contribution to immunology in the global response to Covid-19, to expertise in delivering innovative solutions that address societal and economic challenges.

Welcoming the report, Minister Harris said: “The crucial role excellent research, international collaboration and innovative talent plays in helping us to respond to global challenges including Covid-19 has never been clearer, so today I am extremely pleased to launch SFI’s 2019 Annual Report. Recent months have shown us the ability of Ireland’s research community to work together and deliver solutions for Ireland through SFI's Covid-19 Rapid Response Funding Call. I am delighted to see that in 2019 SFI supported researchers engaged in 2,894 international academic collaborations with 75 countries, building our global footprint. I welcome the support provided by SFI to develop Ireland’s talent through programmes such as the SFI Centres for Research Training, an outstanding collaboration with 11 Higher Education Institutions and 90 industry partners to develop innovative PhD training programmes. I look forward to working with SFI and the research community in the future, to support excellent research that positively impacts our society and economy.”

Prof Peter Clinch, Chairman of SFI, stated: “The achievements outlined in the 2019 SFI annual report clearly demonstrate the crucial role that science and research play in our national effort to address the many societal and economic challenges we face. I am delighted to see that public investment in science through SFI has supported 1,860 industry collaborations. This, along with 15 spin-out companies recorded in 2019, shows that investment in research is a key driver of competitiveness and will be a substantial driver of economic recovery in the coming years. A key priority for SFI is to support excellent talent in STEM and the launch of the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme provided opportunities for independent investigators to conduct highly innovative, collaborative research, while also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects.”

Looking to the future, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said “The Covid-19 pandemic has proven the critical importance of science and research in delivering solutions that support our future health, environment and quality of life. Our position as 1st in the world for quality of science in immunology, means that Irish scientists are playing a crucial role in the global response to Covid-19. In addition to our expertise and impact in immunology, the Covid-19 Rapid Response Funding Call further demonstrates how SFI can respond quickly to work in collaboration with other funders and industry to support the best researchers across Ireland, embedding a culture of evidence-based policy and capitalising on the research capability in our Higher Education Institutions. For our society and economy, it is clear that research in science and innovation will play a critical role in our recovery; supporting development, attracting Foreign Direct Investment and harnessing transformational green technologies for a more sustainable Ireland.”

In 2019, SFI invested €188 million from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, supporting Irish research and generating new industry and international collaborations. This investment generated a further €223 million from the EU, Charity and other sources. For every €1 invested by the State in SFI Research Centres, approximately €5 was returned to the economy.

Additional highlights from the 2019 Science Foundation Ireland Annual Report:
  • The first SFI Challenge Fund was launched with the establishment of the SFI Future Innovator Prize. Twelve multidisciplinary teams competed throughout 2019 for a €1 million prize, in a challenge to develop disruptive solutions to societal issues.
  • The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme was launched to provide bottom up opportunities for independent investigators to conduct highly innovative, foundational research with the potential to deliver impact, whilst also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects. In partnership with the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Programme is committed to increasing the number of grants held by female researchers.
  • Six SFI Research Centres progressed to a second six-year research programme, delivering on Government priorities outlined in Project Ireland 2040, and directly benefiting 850 researchers. These six SFI Research Centres are supported by 170 industry partners, committing to investing over €230 million.
  • 15 European Research Council awards were won by SFI researchers in 2019.
  • SFI supported 39,840 jobs in Ireland, directly and indirectly.
  • 26% increase in education and public engagement activities with 2,299 activities, such as those undertaken as part of the SFI Discover Programme Call and Science Week on Climate Action.