Science Foundation Ireland publishes Annual Plan for 2018

Dublin, 9th January 2018 - Science Foundation Ireland today published its work plan for 2018, together with a review of the key achievements delivered in line with Agenda 2020, the organisation’s ambitious strategy. The report demonstrates the significant impact of the work of the agency on the Irish economy and society, through its investment in excellent and impactful scientific research.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, T.D., stated, “The review published today clearly indicates that Science Foundation Ireland is making excellent progress towards meeting the targets set out in its far-reaching strategy - Agenda 2020. I welcome the publication of the Science Foundation Ireland plan for 2018; it presents Government with many opportunities to support the very best in our STEM sector, with new initiatives to increase the number of PhD students, attract star talent to Ireland and a pilot for challenge-based funding.

Also commenting on Science Foundation Ireland’s 2018 work plans, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan T.D., said, “To ensure that we fully realise Ireland’s vision of becoming a global innovation leader, we need to continue to build on the progress we have made to-date in our national innovation system. This will be key to maintaining a competitive edge in the exploitation of both established and emerging economic opportunities. Our Government’s investment in Science Foundation Ireland and its work is an integral part of the achievement of this ambition, which can already be seen in the measurable impact Science Foundation Ireland has had on both our economy and society.”

Commenting on Science Foundation Ireland’s achievements during 2017, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “Science Foundation Ireland continued to support outstanding individuals and large-scale SFI Research Centres that are performing outstanding applied and basic research. Throughout 2018, across all programmes, we saw an exceptionally high standard of applications, such that Science Foundation Ireland had reserve lists of excellent and impactful projects across all its major programmes. The talent which Science Foundation Ireland supports is delivering high quality publications, driving discovery and innovation, collaborating with industry, and importantly, training and mentoring the next generation of researchers. We set very high expectations for the researchers that Science Foundation Ireland support and the researchers are meeting those ambitious targets; our review processes demonstrate the benefits that these bring to Ireland’s society and economy.”

Some notable highlights and achievements include:

  • €43 million invested in 26 excellent and impactful research projects under the SFI Investigators Programme. Six of the research projects received co-funding of €3 million from Teagasc, Geological Survey Ireland (GSI), the Marine Institute (MI), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • The funding of five new SFI Research Centres – Beacon, Confirm, FutureNeuro, I-Form and a fifth in the area of Future Milk/Precision Agriculture, which will be co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.
  • The first 12 SFI Research Centres have signed collaborative research agreements with over 300 industry partners representing cumulative company commitments of over €120 million and have won €132 million from a range of international funding agencies, e.g. competitive European Union programmes such as Horizon 2020.
  • An analysis of international publication databases that measure the influence of scientific publications indicated that Science Foundation Ireland-funded publications were more than twice as likely to be extremely influential than the global average.
  • 50% of Ireland’s patent-cited publications were funded in part or in whole by Science Foundation Ireland, demonstrating that the research being funded by Science Foundation Ireland is vital to the commercialisation process.
  • Ireland is now 11th in global scientific ranking for the overall quality of scientific research (Thomson Reuters/Clarivate InCites). Ireland broke into the top ten for a period in 2016- 2017.
  • Science Foundation Ireland continued to support early career researchers through programmes including the SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant, the SFI Career Development Award, and the SFI Future Research Leaders programmes.
  • Science Foundation Ireland entered a new partnership agreement with the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC. The agreement supports joint research and technology development projects in the areas of engineering, ICT, mathematical sciences, physics, chemistry and materials science. This builds on the existing relationship with the UK involving collaborative agreements with the Royal Society, Wellcome and the BBSRC.
  • Three awards were approved under the Royal Society-Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellowship Programme.
  • A joint initiative co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Germany, to create a Fraunhofer Project Centre (FPC) for Embedded BioAnalytical Systems in Dublin City University (DCU).
  • 44 projects received an investment of €2.8 million under the SFI Discover Programme to improve public understanding of science and technology, increase STEM uptake in education and improve diversity in STEM.
  • Science Foundation Ireland values working in partnership, and by the end of 2017 had awarded 18 Strategic Partnerships with industry (including nine awards in partnership with Pfizer) and 16 SFI Research Centres Spokes awards.
  • Science Week took place from November 12th -19th 2017 with over 1,200 events across the country involving 315,000 participants. These events included 12 festivals taking place in: Cavan/Monaghan, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Carlow, Tipperary and the Midlands. The Teagasc Festival of Food and Farming took place across Dublin, Meath, Carlow, Galway, Cork and Wexford.


Science Foundation Ireland will focus its funding activities on six areas of strategic delivery in 2018:

  • The delivery of excellent relevant research with impact, with a strong focus on increasing European Research Council award numbers, attracting international STEM research prize-winners and gender balance of funded researchers.
  • Continued success and expansion of the SFI Research Centres, with a focus on establishing the five new SFI Research Centres and completing the review process for the phase two funding of the first seven SFI Research Centres.
  • STEM talent and skills, with a focus on increasing postgraduate research student numbers and improving training in areas of economic priority.
  • International partnerships, with a strong focus on building on existing initiatives and developing new UK-related ones to address the Brexit challenge and maximise any arising opportunities.
  • Industry partnership and increased entrepreneurship, with a focus on developing innovation and research talent with a strong throughput to industry.
  • Impactful public engagement and education, with a strong focus on developing a proposal for Ireland’s first challenge-based funding programme.


Science Foundation Ireland’s Annual Plan 2018 and Review of Agenda 2020 are available on the agencies website.