Science Foundation Ireland Highlights 2016 Achievements and New Initiatives for 2017

Dublin, 15th December 2016 - A review of the key achievements and milestones of the past year has been published by Science Foundation Ireland today, together with an ambitious plan for 2017. The review demonstrates that Science Foundation Ireland continues to create a significant impact on the Irish economy through its focused investment in excellent and impactful scientific research.

Commenting on Science Foundation Ireland’s achievements during 2016, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “Irish research continues to thrive in response to Science Foundation Ireland’s focus on supporting innovative projects and talented researchers. Science Foundation Ireland’s commitment to excellent and impactful research is reflected in Ireland’s sustained rise through the global scientific rankings to a position of 10th for overall quality of scientific research. Collaborations with industry, academia, national and international funding agencies enable Irish researchers to make discoveries and develop innovations. All of which improve our economy, create employment and enhance vital areas of our society including healthcare, environment, education and many more.”



  • Ireland is consistently improving in global rankings, to a position of 10th in terms of overall scientific quality. This excellence is evident in specific fields where Ireland is now ranked globally as; 

- 1st for Nanotechnology
- 2nd for Animal and Dairy
- 3rd for Chemistry
- 3rd for Immunology
- 3rd for Materials Sciences
- 3rd for Agricultural Sciences
- 4th for Mathematics

  • Twenty-nine awards were granted €40 million under the SFI Investigators Programme (IvP). Co-funding for seven of the projects is being provided by the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE), the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  •  Six awards commenced under the SFI Research Professorship Programme, whereby internationally-renowned researchers in strategically-important areas relocated to Irish research institutions.
  • The 12 SFI Research Centres have had a cumulative EU Horizon 2020 drawdown of over €85 million.
  • The 12 SFI Research Centres have attracted over €40 million in committed cash from 394 industry contracts.
  • Forty-four awards were made through the SFI Discover Programme totalling €2.8 million supporting the education and engagement of the Irish public in STEM.
  • A new gender initiative as part of the €10 million investment through the SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) programme saw a marked increase in the number of female applicants with 55% of the overall 25 awards granted to female awardees.
  • A new International Partnership has been agreed between SFI and the National Natural Science Foundation of China and a call for collaborative research proposals will be issued in 2017.

Revealing Science Foundation Ireland’s plans for 2017 Professor Mark Ferguson said: “Science Foundation Ireland will support the academic and commercial research community to build Ireland as a global leader in research and innovation through a number of ambitious initiatives. We will fund excellent individual researchers, maintain and develop world-leading research centres of scale and impact, attract talent and foster greater international collaboration. Our activities will continue to fuel excellence and impact, relevant to Ireland, through supporting outstanding research teams and partnerships. Through our innovative education and public engagement programmes, we will create an inclusive dialogue where everyone in Ireland can engage with progress in science, technology, engineering and maths.”

  • A large-scale PhD programme,
  • Ireland’s first Challenge-based funding programme for STEM, and
  • A new collaborative programme with the UK with a view to further strengthening links and exploiting opportunities arising from Brexit.

For more information on the 2016 Annual Review of Agenda 2020, please click here.
For more information on the Science Foundation Ireland Annual Plan 2017, please click here


  • The SFI - Royal Society Partnership saw 5 Irish early career researchers awarded prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowships.
  • The SFI Strategic Partnerships Programme made 4 awards with Science Foundation Ireland funding of over €8 million plus matching funding of over €8 million from industry partners.
  • Five awards were made through the SFI Research Centres Spokes Programme, involving €17 million funding from SFI, with €8 million co-funding from almost 30 industry partners.
  • Ten new awards were made under the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust Partnership, including two prestigious Investigator awards. These awards are funded 50% by the Wellcome Trust and 25% each by SFI and the HRB.
  • Two calls were issued for joint research programmes between Ireland and the UK under the SFI-BBSRC joint funding programme. The First Call resulted in 3 awards granted with a further 7 awards made in the Second Call. The UK component is funded by the BBSRC and the Irish component by SFI. A full list of the successful awardees is available here
  • A new collaboration between SFI and the National Science Foundation (NSF) USA in the form of the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Programme will foster entrepreneurship amongst researchers in both countries.