Government extends SFI’s remit to fund applied research

12 Dec 2012

New legislation approved by the Irish Government means Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) remit has been extended so the science-funding body can fund applied research in addition to its existing remit to fund oriented basic research.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, TD, and the Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, TD, announced details of the new amendment bill this morning.

With SFI now placing more of an emphasis on applied research that could go to market faster and deliver a greater commercial return for the State, researchers in the areas of basic or blue-sky research with longer go-to-market strategies have this year been expressing concern they may be excluded from getting funding from the agency.

Under the new amendment bill, the Government indicated that the extended remit to include applied research will increase the potential of research to yield commercial opportunities and jobs.

“This legislation will ensure that SFI has the mandate to carry out not only basic research but also applied research, filling a crucial gap in our research architecture and helping to turn good ideas into the good jobs we need,” said Bruton.

Meanwhile, Sherlock spoke about the “gap” between funding for basic research by SFI and supports from Enterprise Ireland and IDA to companies for applied research opportunities.

“This extension will fill the gap and provide better support to enable ideas generated by Irish research groups to be further developed and commercialised,” he said.

In November, SFI announced details of its eight-year strategic plan to 2020, which had a strong focus on investing in research projects that can deliver a commercial impact.

Today’s amendment bill also provided for a new function for SFI to promote the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects via the Discover Science and Engineering programme. SFI took over the responsibility of the programme from Forfás in March.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic