Dr Ciarán Seoighe
Deputy Director General, Science Foundation Ireland
To address future needs, from personalised medicine and quantum technologies to food security and the digitalisation of public services, cross-sectoral collaborations are required.
For over two decades, through its stewardship of public funds and rollout of a suite of supports and programmes, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has helped to cultivate a globally competitive research and innovation ecosystem.
Anticipating and addressing future needs
Bringing academia, government agencies and industry together to an unprecedented extent has enabled this ecosystem to anticipate and address future needs. These needs have been met through the development of new knowledge, talented individuals, strategic investments and support for cross-sectoral research collaborations.
Researchers are tackling the most pressing societal, economic and environmental challenges. The latest international rankings reflect Ireland’s research impact: First in the world for knowledge diffusion and sixth for university-industry R&D collaboration (Global Innovation Index, 2022); second for agricultural science; fourth for immunology and neuroscience and behaviour; sixth for microbiology (InCities by Clarivate Analytics).
In 2022, from an initial base investment of €213 million, SFI delivered significant value for money, leveraging €267 million in external funding (up 14% in 2021) and €163 million in non-exchequer funding. Its network of funded research activity is truly international, comprising 5,800 academic collaborations with 87 countries (representing over 70% of its total funded partnerships).
Researchers are tackling the most pressing societal, economic and environmental challenges.
Highlighting academia-industry engagement’s importance, the Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme 2023 facilitates temporary placements of researchers with an industry partner worldwide. A valuable stepping stone for academics into commercial environments, these mutually beneficial placements incorporate knowledge exchange, skills development and collaborative research.
Similarly, the Public Service Fellowship programme temporarily assigns researchers to government departments and agencies for specific projects. The 2023 programme involves 42 projects and 18 government departments and agencies, promoting innovation and advancing evidence-based approaches within our public sector.
Future innovation strategies
The Government’s ‘Impact 2030: Ireland’s Research and Innovation Strategy’ seeks to maximise research and innovation’s impact on many national priorities. One key strategy initiative therein is amalgamating SFI and Irish Research Council in 2024 into a new agency to drive world-class research and innovation across arts, engineering, humanities, mathematics, science, social sciences and technology.
We’re living through a period of profound change and challenge as the world faces a climate crisis. Working with colleagues in Higher Education Institutions, government departments and agencies, we’re well-positioned to attract, develop and retain the talent and knowledge to positively impact our societal wellness, economic performance and environmental resilience.