Irish Research Council awarded €30m to researchers in 2016

5 Jan 2017

Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

The Irish Research Council’s full-year figures for 2016 detail funding allocated to researchers across the country.

In total, in 2016, the Irish Research Council (IRC) granted €30m in funding to 373 new researchers.

Details released in late December showed that the largest sum of funding – €15.5m – was allocated to the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme. This scheme funded 206 researchers in total, with an average award of just over €75,000.

Under the Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme, the average award was over €83,000, with 80 awards granted in total.

The Irish Research Council also supported the Employment Based Programme, which awarded a total of €2.5m to 32 participants; and the Enterprise Partnership Scheme, which granted €4.4m to 55 researchers.

Commenting on “striking features” of the council’s work in 2016, director Dr Eucharia Meehan said, “The high number of international researchers that received funding was remarkable; we supported researchers from 40 different countries, including – of course – a high proportion of Irish researchers.”

Irish Research Council infographic 2016

The figures included here are cumulative and include new researchers funded over the past 12 months, as well as those currently being supported by the Irish Research Council from previous funding rounds. Image: Irish Research Council

Another trend noted by Meehan was the increased collaboration between researchers and industry, civil society and public sector partners.

“During 2016, we worked with 223 enterprise partners, including the likes of Intel, Analog, Dublin Port Company and Tullow Oil,” she said.

Meehan added that 55 civil society groups benefited from projects funded by the IRC, including the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, and the GAA.

The council also funded 29 research projects, marking the Decade of Centenaries in 2016, and entered into partnerships with 17 different Government departments and agencies.

New year, new EU research

The core function of the Irish Research Council is to support frontier research across all disciplines and career stages, particularly research tackling society’s greatest challenges – a purpose addressed recently by council chair Prof Jane Ohlmeyer.

This year will see the launch of a new frontier research programme from the council, as well as increased emphasis on funding interdisciplinary research to address major societal challenges.

“We’ll also be continuing to focus on gender, participating in a European consortium on gender, which has recently been approved by the European Commission,” said Meehan.

“Also in the European arena, during 2016, we announced the Caroline fund to promote mobility amongst European researchers. A particular focus of this fund is research that will contribute to the UN sustainable development goals.”

‘We’ll also be continuing to focus on gender, participating in a European consortium on gender, which has recently been approved by the European Commission’

Early in the New Year, IRC will be formalising its continued support for the Irish office that administers the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, having celebrated 20 years of this fellowship programme last year.

Spreading the love for Irish research

2017 will also see the continuation of the council’s #LoveIrishResearch campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of the work undertaken by researchers in Ireland. Launched in early 2016, Meehan said the campaign “has proven to be a huge success”.

Prof Alan Smeaton, director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, saw the immediate need for wider public understanding of Irish research addressed by the campaign, but also noted its benefit in encouraging greater interdisciplinary understanding among researchers.

“What the ‘Love Irish’ campaign is doing is actually putting me in contact [with] and making me aware of research in other disciplines outside my own. And that’s a real benefit, one that wasn’t expected,” he said in conversation with in 2016.

Launched in 2012, the IRC is an agency of the Department of Education and Skills operating under the aegis of the Higher Education Authority. In its efforts to support the Irish research ecosystem, the council recognises the need to position Ireland as a globally competitive research player, attracting international research talent through the work being carried out in higher education institutions here.

Updated, 6 January 2017 at 12.25pm: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of researchers funded by the Irish Research Council and has been amended for clarification. Silicon Republic regrets this error.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.