• Investment of €173 million in research programmes in 2017 generated an additional €116 million from non-exchequer funding from the EU, private enterprise and international bodies. 
  • SFI-funded publications 2.7 times* more likely to be included in the top 1% most cited publications in the world.

18th July 2018, Dublin – Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has today published its 2017 annual report, highlighting the significant impact achieved from the €173 million Government investment through the Foundation across its research programmes. Science Foundation Ireland’s research programmes generated €116 million in non-exchequer funding in 2017, including €70 million in EU funding, €32 million from private enterprise and €10 million from other international funding sources. Throughout 2017, the Foundation received a large number of exceptionally high-quality applications, such that it had reserve lists of excellent and impactful projects, across all its major programmes. 

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, welcomed the report saying: “Just 13 years ago, Ireland was ranked 48th in global scientific rankings for overall quality of scientific research, whereas today, we are in 11th place. This is in no small part down to the vision and innovation that our State Agency, Science Foundation Ireland, has applied in strategically directing investment into the world-leading scientific research it supports. I particularly welcome the substantial regional economic impact that Science Foundation Ireland is making in supporting 31,237 highly skilled jobs, directly and indirectly, across the country. I also welcome the launch of the five new SFI Research Centres, which represent significant government investment. Global challenges and human lives are being positively transformed by Irish science, which is also futureproofing our economic stability across a diverse range of areas.”

Highlights from the 2017 SFI Annual Report

  • SFI supported over 1,500 industry collaborations, that is, 911 collaborations with 463 multinational companies and 610 collaborations with 464 SMEs across the country.
  • SFI Research Centres have, to-date, competitively won over €100 million in Horizon 2020 funding, which equates to more than 50% of EU H2020 funding that went to Irish Higher Education Institutes.
  • SFI-funded researchers won €176 million in additional external funding (up 4%), including €70 million in EU funding in 2017.
  • Across the portfolio SFI-funded researchers were involved in 78 patent filings. 45 licenced technologies and 145 invention disclosures were also reported.
  • 300 companies are building intellectual property on SFI-funded research, and 40% of these create jobs in Ireland.
  • 2017 saw a 60% increase in public engagement by SFI-funded researchers.
  • The SFI Discover Programme continued to deliver excellent results in education and public engagement, with almost 600 primary schools achieving Primary Science and Maths Awards, as well as supporting teenagers, teachers and parents with STEM careers information via the Smart Futures Programme.
  • Science Week regional festivals grew in 2017, with over 1,200 events taking place across Ireland, engaging 315,000 people.

Also welcoming the report, John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development said: “In 2017, 4,524 researchers were working on SFI-supported projects, at Postdoctoral, PhD and Masters level, as we continue to develop Ireland’s STEM talent pipeline for an advanced economy. That SFI -funded researchers were involved in 2,433 international academic collaborations across 66 countries, also demonstrates that Irish science is global science. Our open, flexible and ‘no borders’ approach to research continues to make Ireland a highly attractive location.”

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “I am delighted to see 4,894 publications being reported by SFI-funded researchers in 2017, representing a 17% increase. SFI-funded publications are now 2.7 times more likely to be star publications, that is, in the top 1% most cited papers in the world, which illustrates the effectiveness of our competitive peer review processes. Science Foundation Ireland continues to build critical mass in strategic research areas, addressing the needs of enterprise and meeting the targets of the Government’s Innovation 2020 strategy, e.g. by expanding its network of world-leading SFI Research Centres. The private sector also remains highly committed to the SFI Research Centres programme. There are over 300 signed collaborative research agreements with industry partners, representing cumulative company commitments of over €120 million to-date, €65 million in cash and €79 million in-kind.”

Looking forward

Implementing the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 National Development Plan and Innovation 2020 are top priorities for Science Foundation Ireland for 2018 and beyond.

Prof Ferguson added: “In the context of Brexit, our deep and significant existing engagement with UK research funders: UKRI, the Royal Society and Wellcome Trust, remain extremely positive and will strengthen going forward. We are planning to support joint-professorships for outstanding researchers to be appointed between Irish and leading UK universities. We also plan to support the first challenges emerging from discussions between industry, academia and government departments. 2018 will also see the announcement of the first SFI Centres for Research Training, following a competitive process to train over 600 future PhD students in data science (data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning etc.) and its applications in all domains: economy, health, agriculture etc.”

Science Foundation Ireland is also diversifying its partnerships in science and innovation with other EU countries, the US and China. In 2018, it will also focus on increasing European Research Council award numbers, attracting international STEM researchers, achieving further gender balance among its funded researchers and stimulating disruptive research.

Welcoming the publication of the report, Science Foundation Ireland Chairman, Ms Ann Riordan, said: “Innovation 2020, Ireland’s national strategy for research and development, science and technology, aspires to double national investment in this area and under this framework Science Foundation Ireland is determined to drive Ireland’s R&D agenda with vision, ambition, excellence and impact. As employment levels and economic growth rises, researchers at home and abroad are seeking to fully realise their potential without borders. We are not just competing internationally for the best people, industry contracts and international funding opportunities, we also want to lead and disrupt.”

SFI’s 2017 Annual Report can be downloaded in full here

*Star publications are publications in the top 1% most cited papers. The Irish national average is 1.62%. The SFI funding averaged is 2.67% (based on citations by Clarivates Analytics).