The Government has approved the drafting of a bill to extend the remit of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to include the funding of applied research in order to support technology transfer and create commercial opportunities. Ultimately, the aim is to deliver economic returns and create jobs.
Sean Sherlock, TD, Ireland’s Minister for Research and Innovation, said this morning that he hoped the bill would be enacted as soon as possible this year.
Key aims of the bill are to ensure SFI targets its funding on the research areas that will deliver the best economic return for Ireland, creating jobs.
"SFI has been successfully supporting research teams carrying out oriented basic research in higher-education institutions, but this research is typically at an earlier stage than applied research which would involve companies carrying out research necessary to bring products or services to market," said Sherlock this morning.
He cited a "gap" between funding for oriented basic research by SFI and supports from Enterprise Ireland and IDA to companies for applied research opportunities.
The minister said this extension would aim to fill the gap and provide better support, so that ideas created by Irish research groups could be taken to the commercialisation stage.
Sherlock said the bill would also emphasise that the development of employment in the State is included as part of SFI’s overall objective.
SFI’s Northern Ireland focus
He said the bill will also provide SFI with the legal power to fund research projects related to its focus areas in Northern Ireland.
A further aim will be to allow SFI to participate in collaborative funding schemes with countries in the European Economic Area or other countries.
The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in the Attorney General’s office will now draft the bill.
A Research Prioritisation Group chaired by Jim O’Hara, the former head of Intel Ireland, has also completed work on the identification of priority areas for Irish research. The report, due to be published imminently, will also tie in with SFI’s strategy.