Irish research bodies to merge in new national innovation strategy

18 May 2022

Minister Simon Harris, TD, at the launch event in UCD. Image: Leigh Mc Gowran/

Health, climate and tech disruption are top of the Impact 2030 agenda, while two of Ireland’s key research funding bodies are set to merge.

Ireland has a new national strategy to boost research and innovation, which includes the creation of a new funding body through a shake-up that will combine the Irish Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland.

Called Impact 2030, the new Government strategy was launched today (18 May) by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, at University College Dublin (UCD).

Impact 2030 aims to build a more inclusive and engaged research and innovation system in Ireland that can help mobilise resources to address major issues ranging from the climate crisis to health and wellbeing.

It will achieve this by fostering greater engagement between the many stakeholders in Ireland’s research and innovation space, including research organisations, the third-level system, enterprises, public policymakers, civic society organisations and European partners.

“As the attraction and retention of world-class talent becomes increasingly competitive on a global level, Ireland needs to be a location of choice for the best and the brightest in order to realise our ambitions,” Harris said at the launch.

The strategy sets out several objectives, including the establishment of a new funding agency that will amalgamate the functions of Ireland’s two major research bodies – the Irish Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland – through a landmark bill due to go before the Government.

Health, climate and digitalisation

Speaking to at the launch event, Harris said that health, climate and technological disruption are three key areas that will be prioritised in the new strategy.

“We’re just coming through a global pandemic and the preparedness of our health services and systems in their response to future pandemics is key,” he said.

“But also challenges around health in terms of ageing – how you care for an ageing population and the demographic bubble and change that is coming in Ireland.”

Digitalisation is also something that has been impacted by the pandemic, while the climate crisis remains a pressing issue, so these will be top of the agenda for research and innovation as the Government looks to 2030.

“I actually think climate and digitalisation, or technological disruption, are the two biggest challenges,” Harris added. “And the countries that can get them right have the best chance of maintaining their standards of living into the future.”

The public and policy

The strategy also seeks to increase public participation in research and innovation, with the aim to build on the recent Creating Our Future campaign that received more than 18,000 submissions in a ‘national brainstorm’ on how to shape the future of science.

Links between the public research system and policymakers are also set to be enhanced through Impact 2030, led by a new Evidence for Policy Unit under Harris’s department and supported by new science advice structures.

Research and innovation offices of the many technological universities will be strengthened to support regions around Ireland, and an increased focus will be placed on increasing the number of researchers and entrepreneurs that are women or from other underrepresented groups to foster greater diversity.

Prof Orla Feely of UCD, who chairs the Irish Universities Association research committee, said that the national policy framework provides “a real opportunity” for Ireland to become a leader in research and innovation in Europe.

“Our universities will be central to the implementation of this strategy, supporting Irish society and the economy by delivering research-trained talent, leading-edge innovation and solutions to major challenges.”

With additional reporting from Leigh Mc Gowran.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic