20th Sept 2022 – Dublin, Ireland: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, has today launched the 2021 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) annual report. The report highlights that in 2021 Ireland continued to be recognised globally for its scientific achievements, ranking 2nd in the world for quality of science in immunology and 3rd in both agricultural sciences and neuroscience and behaviour.

Welcoming the report, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, said: “The Government has outlined an exciting and ambitious agenda for research and innovation through our Impact 2030 strategy.

“I am really pleased to launch SFI’s 2021 Annual Report, which demonstrates the breadth and positive impact of research supported by Science Foundation Ireland across the higher education institutions. SFI has played a critical role in policymaking and developing and attracting talent here."

“Now, as we take a step forward with the progression of Impact 2030, the Government will continue to maximise the impact of research and innovation, to make research expertise more accessible to policymakers and the public, and to nurture and attract top talent.”

Prof Peter J. Clinch, Chairman of the Board of SFI, said: “The achievements outlined in the 2021 SFI annual report illustrate the determination of our research community to make significant contributions to society, the economy and to improve lives. I am deeply proud of SFI’s role in supporting excellent research in Ireland and promoting innovation. SFI-supported researchers engaged in 5,708 international academic collaborations with 84 countries, expanding our global footprint in 2021. SFI continues to play a key role in building Ireland’s research and innovation capabilities, training highly sought-after PhD students and supporting early career frontiers researchers. This is also attracting the best global STEM talent, helping to deliver tangible benefits to Ireland today and into the future.”

The SFI 2021 annual report also details the success of the Creating Our Future engagement campaign which sought ideas from the public on future research. With 18,000 research ideas being submitted by the public, key themes and research areas of interest identified will be integrated into the government’s new national research, development, and innovation strategy Impact 2030 and form a major element of the National Challenge Fund.

Director General of SFI, Prof Philip Nolan, said: “The 2021 SFI annual report clearly demonstrates the talent of our researchers and the impact of their research, and the opportunities for researchers to conduct highly innovative, impactful research. SFI-funded researchers published 5,384 publications in 2021, and 6,201 people worked on SFI-supported projects. We have made good progress on many of the actions of our new strategy Shaping Our Future, including the delivery of Creating Our Future, which stimulated a timely national conversation on research in Ireland. SFI has driven outstanding research, and collaboration to make that knowledge useful, growing industry partnerships and working to better inform policy, ensuring all of Ireland’s people benefit from public investment. I am delighted to work with the research community to help us shape a healthier, more sustainable, more equal and inclusive future.”

In 2021, SFI invested €222 million in supporting Irish research and generating new industry and international collaborations. This investment generated a further €234 million from the EU, charities and other sources.

Additional highlights from the 2021 Science Foundation Ireland Annual Report:

  • The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme saw €46 million invested across 70 grants to support independent researchers. This will provide opportunities for early career researchers through to well established leaders to conduct high-risk, high reward research projects.
  • A €23 million joint investment to support post-doctoral researchers to become research leaders was announced, co-funded by SFI and the Irish Research Council (IRC). The SFI-IRC Pathway Programme will see 40 early career researchers across all disciplines, developing cutting-edge projects over a four-year period and will ensure greater cohesion across Ireland’s research performing institutions.
  • A new €2.47 million challenge-based funding call was launched, in partnership with Irish Aid, to develop solutions that contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Another new challenge in collaboration with the Defence Organisation was also launched, while eight teams progressed under challenges in the areas of food waste and plastics.
  • SFI was appointed to design and deliver national-scale challenge-based funding under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, for launch in 2022.
  • Prof Dimitra Psychogiou became the first woman to be awarded a prestigious SFI Research Professorship to spearhead a pioneering research programme at Tyndall National Institute (TNI) and University College Cork (UCC). She is a world-leading expert in radio frequency and wireless communication, and her research will help lead to lower-cost broadband wireless infrastructure, making digital and internet services more accessible to the general public.
  • The SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship was launched to support research development and innovation (RD&I) in industry. Companies across the world will host a PhD qualified research expert to facilitate cutting-edge, industry-informed research and the sharing of knowledge. 27 awards were made in 2021, co-funded with industry, across a variety of research areas including microbiology, virtual reality (VR), biotechnology, coastal erosion, breast cancer, photodynamic therapy and more.
  • SFI supported 40,595 jobs in Ireland, directly and indirectly.

Science Foundation Ireland’s 2021 Annual Report can be viewed: https://www.sfi.ie/research-news/publications/annual-reports/.