Dublin Castle, 7th September 2017 – An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, T.D., together with the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., and the Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, T.D., today announced four new world-class Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres.  The new SFI Research Centres represent an investment of €74 million from the Government over the next six years, with a further investment of €40 million from industry. The investment will support cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, driving economic benefits and positive societal impact.

Speaking at the launch of the four new SFI Research Centres, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, said:

Investing in leading-edge scientific and technological research is good for our economy and helps us to discover new innovations which can improve our quality of life. Our SFI Research Centres represent a virtuous triangle between government, industry and higher education, and show just what can be achieved when there is a shared vision about reaching your ambitions.

These four new SFI Research Centres will be centres of activity where Irish and international researchers are trained and collaboration with private companies is facilitated to deliver new ideas and innovation. This in turn helps to create high-value jobs and drives economic growth and regional development. The SFI Research Centres show the value of investing in today, so we can imagine the world of the future."

The four SFI Research Centres will engage in over 80 collaborations with industry partners; both indigenous and foreign; large and small. These companies include Abbvie, Action Point, Alltech, Analog Devices, Applied Materials, Ascenix Biotechnologies, Avenue Moulds, Bekaert, BHSL, Bioatlantis Ltd, Castolin Eutectic, Commercial Mushrooms Producers, Croom Precision Medical, DAQRI, Ebeam, Ei Electronics, Element Six, Exergyn, Glanbia, Henkel, HJL Scientific Ltd, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, KUKA, Medtronic, Modular Automation, Monaghan Mushrooms, Nammo AS, Nucleus VP Energy, Prior PLM Medical, Schivo, Sherkin Technologies, Siemens, SL Controls, SR Technics, Stryker, TEG, Trend Technologies, Truform, United Technologies Research Centre Ireland, Viska Systems, VistaMed, VitaActives and many more.

Welcoming the announcement, An Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., said:

The establishment of these new SFI Research Centres is a key action in the Government’s strategy for research and development, Innovation 2020.  Today’s announcement of a co-investment by Government and industry of €114 million will ensure that Ireland is adding important additional capacity through world-class centres of research excellence and scale.  I believe these SFI Research Centres will be transformative for Irish scientific research and for companies in many sectors.   These centres ensure that Ireland will be well placed to develop solutions to the challenges we face through advanced research and new technologies - delivering jobs, commercial opportunities, and societal benefit.

Speaking at the launch of the four new SFI Research Centres, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, T.D., said:

Today’s announcement marks the third round of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme.  These SFI Research Centres are of critical importance to Ireland’s economy, as we need to be at the competitive edge of innovation to retain, attract and build new investment. This is particularly important in light of the changing geopolitical landscape in the UK and USA.  Like previous investments by Science Foundation Ireland, the selection process for these new Research Centres was a highly competitive and rigorous international peer review process, involving leading industry and academic experts.  I am especially pleased to see that two complementary SFI Research Centres were selected for funding by the international panel in different areas of manufacturing research.  One is focused on sensors, digital and automation (Manufacturing 4.0) and the other on customised bespoke additive manufacturing (3D printing).  Both have very significant industry engagement and co-funding, and involve the participation of outstanding manufacturing and engineering researchers, including two recently appointed SFI Research Professors.  I believe that all SFI Research Centres will deliver strategic benefits for Ireland in the years to come in terms of education and training, job creation, advancing key sectors and important scientific discoveries.”  

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said:

"In 2016, Ireland achieved for the first time a world ranking of 10th for the overall quality of its scientific research, an increase of 26 places in only 13 years.   SFI Research Centres are making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, training students with critical, in-demand skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation. Research and innovation matter for our future – they make the difference in enhancing productivity and boosting competitiveness and to tackling the societal challenges of our time: building a digitally-smart, low carbon, energy efficient, circular economy that offers well-paid, rewarding work and brings a good quality of life for all.”

Professor Ferguson added:

“These new SFI Research Centres will continue this upward trajectory by attracting leading Irish and international researchers, winning competitive international funding, and establishing sustained fruitful partnerships with industry. For young researchers, like students undertaking PhDs or those progressing to post-doctoral research, these centres will provide opportunities for them to develop in strategic areas of scientific research, while also providing unparalleled training in entrepreneurship and science communication.”

The four new SFI Research Centres involve strong collaborative partnerships between research bodies in Ireland including Athlone Institute of Technology, Beaumont Hospital, Cork Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, Mater Hospital, Maynooth University,  NUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Teagasc, Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Trinity College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute (UCC), University College Cork,  University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Limerick Institute of Technology, Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Sligo.

The four new SFI Research Centres announced today will address the following:

CONFIRM aims to transform Ireland’s manufacturing industry to become a world-leader in smart manufacturing.  The manufacturing sector is the second largest employer in Ireland and accounts for €110 billion in exports.  Smart manufacturing optimises production systems, adding intelligence and enhanced information technology.  These new technologies will be at the heart of the factories of the future, increasing product line adaptability, enabling real-time decision making, shortening supply-chains, and speeding up the development of new innovations to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs across all industry sectors.  CONFIRM will be revolutionary for Irish manufacturing competitiveness, delivering the technological advances and expertise for a smart manufacturing innovation ecosystem, enabling companies to compete within the rapidly changing global landscape, and boosting Ireland’s reputation as a leading international manufacturing location.

Commenting at the announcement, University of Limerick’s Prof Conor McCarthy, Director of SFI Research Centre CONFIRM said:

“CONFIRM truly is a game-changer for Irish manufacturing competitiveness. The establishment of this SFI Research Centre will position Ireland to play a leading role in the global smart manufacturing revolution, whereby products, machines, production systems and supply chains are digitally connected and making smart decisions. CONFIRM will act as a magnet for international talent in the areas of advanced manufacturing, from robotics to artificial intelligence. Ireland has a highly skilled and highly motivated workforce in the manufacturing sector; this workforce is the envy of other nations.  CONFIRM will build upon this reputation by establishing a similar renown for Ireland in smart manufacturing research.”

BEACON - Bioeconomy Research Centre - The modern world is dependent upon fossil resources to produce everyday items that we consume. Since these resources are finite and depleting, it is essential to develop alternative technologies based on renewable biological resources.  The future economy must use biological resources sustainably to produce valuable goods, such as bioactive molecules, chemical building blocks, plastics, fuels, and energy.  This future economic activity is referred to as the bioeconomy.   In Ireland, the agri-food and marine sectors produce high volumes of residues during food production.  The conversion of these residues to higher value products will create new business opportunities.  New value chains will allow these industries to diversify and add value to the sector, increase resource efficiency and complementing food production activities.  80% of agri-food companies are in rural Ireland; thus, the bioeconomy will be a key driver to stimulate rural and agricultural redevelopment.   The BEACON SFI Research Centre addresses multiple scientific, technological and social challenges to convert this vision into reality.  

Commenting at the announcement, UCD’s Prof Kevin O’Connor, Director of the BEACON SFI Research Centre, said:

“The emerging bioeconomy presents a remarkable opportunity for Ireland to transition to a resource-efficient and sustainable economy.  It will enable indigenous industries, including those in the agri-food and marine sectors, to innovate, diversify, enhance resource efficiency and increase the value of their products for export to growing global markets. BEACON will underpin this transition though scientific discovery, informing policy, and the development of new technologies and products that will create new jobs, secure existing jobs, stimulate rural development.”

FutureNeuro is focused on addressing the socio-economic burden caused by chronic and rare neurological diseases. In an internationally unique manner, FutureNeuro links innovative neurotherapeutics development with genomic and biomarker-based patient stratification, a national eHealth infrastructure and a nationwide clinical network.  Building initially on world-leading pre-clinical and clinical research into epilepsy and motorneurone disease, the FutureNeuro Centre is a scalable platform that will expand quickly to focus on other chronic and rare neurological diseases.  FutureNeuro is relevant to the 700,000 people living with a neurological condition in Ireland, with an associated health and societal cost greater than €3 billion euro each year.  It will strengthen Ireland’s ability to attract foreign direct investment from companies active in the multi-trillion euro global market for diagnostics, treatments and medtech for neurological diseases, and facilitate indigenous companies seeking to access this market.

Commenting at the announcement, RCSI’s Prof David Henshall, Director of the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre said:

“FutureNeuro brings together an exceptional team of scientists, clinicians and other experts to address the urgent needs of patients with chronic and rare neurological diseases such as epilepsy and motorneurone disease. In a globally unique way, the Centre will undertake cutting-edge research on diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders that leverages the emerging electronic healthcare infrastructure in Ireland. With our industry partners and hospital network, we can more quickly translate research into effective diagnostic supports, treatments and monitoring systems that will benefit the lives of patients living with these debilitating and often devastating conditions that impact more than 700,000 people in Ireland.”

I- FORM Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre will enhance processing efficiency for Irish manufacturing, allowing the production of highly customised 3-D printed components exhibiting superior performance. This will be achieved through the efficient use of advanced process monitoring, incorporating embedded sensors and process control in the entire value chain from “powder to final product”.  Advanced data analytic techniques will ensure superior product quality and reduce manufacturing waste. The Centre will enhance the manufacturability of bespoke components and products using 3D printing techniques.  This technology enables manufactured components to be customised for individual end users. For example, artificial joints and implantable medical devices can be tailored to match the needs of individual patients.  The I-FORM Centre will make a distinct and positive impact on the international competitiveness of Irish additive manufacturing.  

Commenting on the new centre, UCD’s Prof Denis Dowling, Director of I-FORM, said:

“This new Centre will play a key role in positioning Ireland as a location of choice for advanced manufacturing in the years ahead. The Centre will provide the critical research expertise and trained staff that are essential to maintain Ireland’s competitiveness in this rapidly changing sector.”