New board for SFI announced

5 Aug 2003

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney TD, has announced the membership of the new board of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

The board has been appointed following the establishment of SFI on a statutory basis under the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act, 2003 passed last month, as reported in The 12-member board includes leaders from the engineering and the scientific research communities, business, academia and the public service. Four of the board members are from the international research community.

The board members were selected on the basis of their leadership experience and accomplishments in their careers, which will provide strong guidance to SFI. Dr Pat Fottrell, former president of NUI Galway, is to chair the board.

In appointing the board the Tánaiste said, “I am extremely pleased that we have been able to name such a distinguished and diverse group of leaders to serve on the board of SFI. The portfolio of skills and experiences that they will bring to SFI from leading-edge scientific and engineering research, through to business, education and administration, will ensure that SFI, its director general, Dr William Harris, and his staff, can build a research culture in this country that is recognised globally for its stature and significance.”

The Tánaiste also expressed her thanks to the outgoing members of the Interim Board, established as a committee of Forfás, pending the enactment of the legislation. She said that their dedication and leadership had been vital to the foundation in its formative period.

SFI is investing €646m between 2000 and 2006 in academic researchers and research teams to build a stronger science base in the State. Harris had been lobbying for the organisation to be put on a statutory basis, arguing that continuity of funding over the medium to long term was a prerequisite for attracting top researchers to Ireland from the world’s top universities and research establishments.

Harris welcomed the announcement noting that under the outgoing board, SFI has made sizeable investments in over 130 projects and laid the basis for the future progress of the foundation.

“SFI needs the new Board to build on the significant accomplishments of the outgoing SFI [interim] Board by using their experience, to focus on accountability and the performance of these investments and also to ensure that research of the highest quality is undertaken here in Ireland.”

Dr Pat Fottrell commented: “SFI represents an important departure in the history of research in this country. Now that the foundation has been established on a statutory basis, my colleagues and I on the new board of SFI will build on the efforts of the outgoing board to ensure that a world-class research system is developed and sustained in Ireland in the future.” He further added: “the board will also bring considerable experience in the development of SFI Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSETs) programme. This will include a focus on public outreach connecting academic researchers to secondary schools that will inspire future generations of researchers in science and engineering in Ireland.”

It is expected that the first meeting of the board will take place in early September.

The full board membership is as follows: Dr Patrick Fottrell (chairperson); Frank McCabe, (deputy chairperson), former vice-president, Intel Corporation; Erich Bloch, principal, Washington Advisory Group; Ned Costello, assistant secretary, Science, Technology and Intellectual Property Division, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dr Jane Grimson, vice-provost of Trinity College Dublin; Dr Anita Jones, Lawrence R Quarles professor of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia; Dr Kristina Johnson, Dean of the School of Engineering, Duke University, North Carolina; Dr Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the Biotechnology Research and Education Programme at the University of California; Dr Jim Mountjoy, chairman, Prospectus Consultancy Group; Dr Don Thornhill, chairman, Higher Education Authority (HEA); John Travers, former chief executive officer, Forfás. Dr William Harris, director general of SFI, will serve as an ex officio member of the board.

By Brian Skelly