Written answers

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Science Foundation Ireland Funding

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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70. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the funding provided on an annual basis to Science Foundation Ireland since its inception; the funding that was sourced from other Departments/State agencies or through EU programmes by Science Foundation Ireland on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7384/15]

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the national agency for funding excellent and impactful research and promoting the role of science, technology, engineering and maths in Ireland.

Along with supporting competitive research in Ireland’s higher education institutions, SFI leverages industry partnerships and helps Irish researchers to access EU funding streams to ensure that Ireland continues to attract, retain and expand research that leads to an increase in competitiveness and in high value jobs.

In 2013 researchers funded by SFI leveraged €125 million in 2013 from external sources, including €56 million in funding from EU sources. The ratio of funding from non-Irish Exchequer to Irish-Exchequer is almost 2:1.

SFI plays a leading role in the implementation of national policy through the funding of research in key sectors identified in the National Research Prioritisation Exercise (NRPE) and the creation of employment through the Action Plan for Jobs.

The remit of SFI was amended in 2013 with the enactment of the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act 2013 (No. 36 of 2013) to enable SFI to fund applied as well as oriented basic research in strategic areas of opportunity for the State. The Act as amended also enables SFI to:

-develop and extend the capability for the carrying out of oriented basic and applied research in institutions

-promote attraction to the State world class researchers and research teams in strategic areas of opportunity for the State

-provide funding on an all-Island basis, subject to excellence and strategic criteria being met;

-enter collaborative arrangements with international partners; and

-provide funding to promote the study of, education in and awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

SFI has a suite of award programmes and developments/investments in line with its remit that support competitive advantage in Ireland.

The material requested by the deputy relating to funding provided to SFI since its inception can be found in the table.

Background Points:

Through investment in SFI, Ireland is building a significant international reputation for research excellence. Since 2009, Ireland has been listed among the top 20 countries in global rankings for the quality of our scientific research. We have excelled in certain fields: Ireland is now ranked 1st in the world for Immunology and Animal and Dairy, 3rd for Nanoscience, 4th in Computer Science and 6th for Materials Science.

In 2013 SFI announced an investment of €300 million over five years in seven world class SFI Research Centres in key strategic areas of importance to the economy. The €200 million funding delivered through the SFI Research Centres Programme was complemented by over €100 million in cash and in-kind contributions from over 150 industry partners, making it the largest ever combined state/industry co-funding announcement of its kind in the research field in Ireland directly supporting over 800 jobs. More recently on the 20th October 2014 a further five SFI Research Centres were announced, through a Government investment of €155 million together with industry funding of €90million.

The 12 SFI Research Centres have an investment of €355million from Government through SFI and a further €190 million from industry collaborators. Over 200 companies are involved in collaborations with the centres.

The SFI Research Centres link scientists and engineers in partnerships across academia and industry to address crucial research questions; foster the development of new and existing Irish-based technology companies; attract industry that could make an important contribution to Ireland and its economy; and expand educational and career opportunities in Ireland in science and engineering. The Centres promote and develop academia-industry partnerships which serve to provide industry-relevant training and contacts to the researchers.

These 12 SFI Research Centres are focused on strategic areas of importance to Ireland - Pharma, Big Data, Medical Devices, Nanotechnology/Materials, Marine Renewable Energy, Food for Health/Functional Foods, Perinatal Research, Applied Geosciences, Software, Digital Content, Telecommunications and Medical Devices etc.

Through its investments

-SFI supports a cohort of circa 2,600 researchers across Ireland’s HEIs.

-SFI continues to support Excellence and Impactful science with a significant component of its budget supporting researchers on grants. It is important to note that while the number of researchers directly supported by SFI has declined slightly, SFI-funded researchers have leveraged significant other funding with the total composition of the research teams (both SFI and other funding sources) numbering 4,678

-A total of 3,996 peer-reviewed publications were reported in 2013 by SFI funded researchers, of these 2,237 publications were attributed to SFI awards. Publications and citations provide a key indicator of the excellence of the research funded. Of the total number of publications from active award, 40% have an international co-author; this provides a strong basis for building partnerships for EU Horizon 2020 funding.

-SFI researchers were involved in over 900 linkages with industry involving links to 460 Multinational Corporation (MNCs) and 440 SMEs.

-SFI has built strategic partnerships with other agencies for collaborative funding initiatives, as part of the implementation of the NRPE through the Prioritisation Action Group (PAG). These include a partnership with Teagasc to fund projects in the Future Agri-Food space and a partnership with the Department of Education and Learning in Northern Ireland.

-SFI was instrumental in the Smart Futures national campaign, promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to second-level students in Ireland. Continued support for the Smart Futures programme has come from industry representative bodies such as ICT Ireland, the Irish Software Association, Irish Medical Devices Association and Engineer’s Ireland. A Smart Futures Advisory Forum has been established to provide strategic support for the implementation of the initiative.

-SFI researchers engaged in more than 1,383 international linkages with partners in 48 countries, and play a key role in enhancing Ireland’s international scientific reputation.

-SFI will continue its endeavours to promote and encourage research of Excellence and Impact. SFI’s focus on excellence of research is critical to allow Ireland to continue to build an effective research base that will contribute to economic development. This SFI focus on excellence has enabled Ireland to markedly enhance its international scientific rankings, from 36th in 2003 to breaking into the global top 20 in 2009, a ranking which has been maintained every year since.

-The impact of basic scientific research is cumulative. Primarily as a consequence of SFI support, Ireland excels in specific research disciplines, as seen clearly in rankings such as 1st for the quality of its research in Immunology and Animal & Dairy; 3rd In Nanoscience; 4th in Computer Science and 8th for the quality of its research in Materials Science.

-The Global Innovation Index 2013 ranked Ireland 10th out of 142 countries.

-In July 2013 Nature Magazine, the eminent scientific publishing journal, cited Ireland as one of 5 up-and-coming countries for research.


YearFunding to SFI from Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI)

Funding to SFI from other government departments/agencies

Funding to SFI from EU Programmes

200230,910SFI was a unit under the aegis of Forfás up to 2003 when it was established on a statutory basis under the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act, 2003.


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