Ireland first in the world for immunology research, says SFI

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland
Pictured: Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General, SFI

Annual report notes 2,894 international academic collaborations with 75 countries

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26 August 2020 | 0

Science Foundation Ireland today launched the its 2019 annual report, which highlights Ireland ranking first in the world for quality of science in immunology and second in agricultural sciences.

According to the report, SFI invested €188 million from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, supporting Irish research and generating new industry and international collaborations. This investment generated a further €223 million from the EU, Charity and other sources.

The year also say the inroduction of the SFI Challenge Fund with the establishment of the SFI Future Innovator Prize. Twelve multidisciplinary teams competed throughout 2019 for a €1 million prize, in a challenge to develop disruptive solutions to societal issues.

 

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The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme was launched to provide bottom up opportunities for independent investigators to conduct highly innovative, foundational research with the potential to deliver impact, whilst also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects. In partnership with the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Programme is committed to increasing the number of grants held by female researchers.

Six SFI Research Centres progressed to a second six-year research programme, delivering on Government priorities outlined in Project Ireland 2040, and directly benefiting 850 researchers. These centres are supported by 170 industry partners, committing to investing over €230 million.

Furthermore, 15 European Research Council awards were won by SFI researchers. SFI supported 39,840 jobs in Ireland, directly and indirectly and reported a 26% increase in education and public engagement activities with 2,299 activities, such as those undertaken as part of the SFI Discover Programme Call and Science Week on Climate Action.

Prof Peter Clinch, Chairman of SFI, said: “The achievements outlined in the 2019 SFI annual report clearly demonstrate the crucial role that science and research play in our national effort to address the many societal and economic challenges we face. I am delighted to see that public investment in science through SFI has supported 1,860 industry collaborations. This, along with 15 spin-out companies recorded in 2019, shows that investment in research is a key driver of competitiveness and will be a substantial driver of economic recovery in the coming years.

“A key priority for SFI is to support excellent talent in STEM and the launch of the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme provided opportunities for independent investigators to conduct highly innovative, collaborative research, while also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects.”

Looking to the future, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has proven the critical importance of science and research in delivering solutions that support our future health, environment and quality of life. Our position as first in the world for quality of science in immunology, means that Irish scientists are playing a crucial role in the global response to Covid-19.

“In addition to our expertise and impact in immunology, the Covid-19 Rapid Response Funding Call further demonstrates how SFI can respond quickly to work in collaboration with other funders and industry to support the best researchers across Ireland, embedding a culture of evidence-based policy and capitalising on the research capability in our Higher Education Institutions. For our society and economy, it is clear that research in science and innovation will play a critical role in our recovery; supporting development, attracting foreign direct investment and harnessing transformational green technologies for a more sustainable Ireland.”

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