Strong focus on talent pipeline and future skills needs

New programme for excellent individual researchers

Dublin, 15th January 2019 -  The Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, T.D., launched Science Foundation Ireland’s Plan for 2019.  The key priorities are: a new initiative for individual-led research to drive Ireland’s innovation agenda, building large scale centre investments which leverage significant non-exchequer funding, challenge-based funding, collaborative partnerships recruiting outstanding researchers to Ireland, and enhancing international engagement as part of building Ireland’s global footprint. 

Commenting on Science Foundation Ireland’s 2019 Plan, Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, T.D. said, “I welcome the publication of the Science Foundation Ireland plan for 2019.  The focus on supporting excellent talent in our STEM sector through the new SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme for excellent individual researchers, increasing the number of PhD students, as well as challenge-based funding opportunities, demonstrates SFI’s drive to enhance our research ecosystem, maintain a balance of investment priorities and ensure we enable discovery and innovation.”

Announcing the 2019 Plan, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “SFI has delivered significant initiatives against its 2018 Annual Plan, including growth in SFI Research Centres, support to early career researchers, a comprehensive PhD programme and recruitment of star researchers to Ireland.   We also commenced a widespread consultation on our new strategy for the period 2020-2025. This engagement has influenced our planning for 2019:  a key priority is support for individually-led excellent research at all career stages by supporting both shorter, small-scale high-risk projects, as well as larger longer programmes.  SFI intends that this balanced portfolio of research funding programmes will support creative discovery of new knowledge, translations into products, services and policy, foster collaboration and provide outstanding training and opportunities for young people.”

Key focus of activities are as follows:

The SFI Science for Society Directorate will support individual-led and challenge-based research, the STEM talent pipeline and citizen engagement. The range of programmes for 2019 include:

  • The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme will launch in Q1 2019 and will support excellent individual researchers for both short and longer projects. Novel review mechanisms are designed both to foster high risk/high gain projects as well as supporting women and others currently under represented in the research ecosystem.  This programme will be in partnership with, and co-funded by, a range of other Irish funding agencies.
  • The SFI Research Professorship Programme will focus on joint appointments with UK institutions and recruitment of European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant winners.  This programme is key to establishing national expertise in strategic priority research areas. 

International Partnerships:

  • SFI has several agreements with Irish, UK and International funding agencies (SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust, US-Ireland, SFI Royal Society Partnership, EPSRC, NSF, etc.). In line with the Government’s plans to build Ireland’s global footprint SFI will support and nurture international partnerships that stimulate collaboration between Irish and international researchers. 

PhD Programmes:

  • SFI will deliver significant investment in PhD programmes with the aim of creating a pipeline of talented scientists who will go on to build successful careers in either academia or industry and contribute to the growth and development of Ireland’s economy and society. This includes the new SFI Centres for Research Training (which focus on data analytics and its applications) and support through the SFI-EPSRC-CDT for joint proposals from UK Universities and SFI Research Centres for collaborative Centres for Doctoral Training

Challenge Based Funding:

  • SFI is currently developing with partners challenge‐based funding opportunities to enhance delivery of societal impact from government-funded research.  The first implementation was in late 2018, SFI launched a bottom-up challenge-based call, the SFI Future Innovator Prize.  Teams were provided with funding to develop their ideas and compete for seed funding.  At the end of 2019, the finalists will compete for an overall prize award of €1 million. 

Education and Public Engagement:

  • SFI will strive to ensure that the Irish public is highly engaged in, and informed about, STEM and its potential to deliver for the Irish economy and society. This will include collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills on a number of actions under the STEM Education Implementation Plan, the second SFI Science in Ireland Barometer, and the delivery of a range of national programmes including Science Week. 

The SFI Science for the Economy Directorate will support research programmes that drive economic competitiveness, including:

SFI Research Centres

  • SFI will continue to develop and support world-class, large-scale, SFI Research Centres that are co-funded by industry and where world-leading applied and basic research is conducted in key areas of national strength and significant strategic opportunity for Ireland. Six SFI Research Centres will transition to Phase 2 funding and five SFI Research Centres will undergo review for a second term of funding in 2019.  Three SFI Research Centres: AMBER, APC Microbiome Ireland and LERO have published independent studies of their significant economic, scientific and societal impact.

Enterprise Partnerships

  • The SFI Strategic Partnerships Programme will continue to support co-investment partnerships with the private sector including industry, philanthropy and charitable organisations, in fields not covered by an existing SFI Research Centre. 
  • The SFI Industry Fellowships call will run as usual in 2019.

Science Foundation Ireland’s Annual Plan 2019 is available here