Dublin, Ireland, 31st January 2022 - An academic study analysing the value of the publicly-funded Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres Programme has found that companies that collaborate with the Centres tend to increase their investment in research and development (R&D), redirecting their R&D spending towards more scientific types of research.  

This has led to greater potential for breakthrough ideas and disruptive innovations, boosting the Irish economy and making it both more competitive and resilient. Published in the journal Research Policy, the paper comes from a project led by Principal Investigator and Economics Professor, Helena Lenihan, from the Department of Economics, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick (UL). The paper is co-authored by Dr Kevin Mulligan and Professor Helena Lenihan (UL) along with researchers from University College Cork and University of Warwick.   

Welcoming the findings of the study, Dr Siobhan Roche, Director of Science for the Economy at SFI, said “The SFI Research Centres programme was established to create a critical mass of internationally leading academic researchers in areas of national importance, which lays the foundation for dynamic academic and industrial partnerships, enabling firms to benefit from this publicly-funded work, and ultimately to increase their investment in R&D.  

Today, the 16 Centres located across Ireland are producing world-leading scientific research, collaborating with firms on cutting-edge research projects and attracting international talent. The impact of this is hugely beneficial to the Irish economy and society. Ireland is now globally renowned for excellence in research areas such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, software development, data analytics, artificial intelligence, smart agriculture, energy and the bioeconomy, among many others.”  

The SFI Research Centres programme was launched in 2003 at a time when Ireland had little research infrastructure beyond its traditional, teaching-focused higher education system. With companies engaging in R&D at a level well below international standards, SFI aimed to build world-leading research capabilities in prioritised sectors of the higher education system, which were deemed strategically important for key sectors in the Irish economy.  

Speaking about the findings of the study, which was carried out under SFI’s Science Policy Research Programme, Professor Lenihan, said: “Our research has found that the ambitious efforts made by consecutive Governments to harness the science base in Ireland has successfully developed a world-class publicly-funded programme. This has essentially reshaped how companies conduct and fund their R&D activities here. Such foresight has led to important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, as well as growing our talent base.” 

The SFI Research Centres link scientists and engineers in partnerships across 910 research bodies across the globe. The Centres have signed 1,033 collaborative research agreements (CRAs) with 527 companies around the world (with 272 in Ireland). They attract industry which make important contributions to Ireland’s economy, and expand educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). 

Read the full paper here.