How Irish research funded by SFI is making a global impact

20 Sep 2022

Prof Philip Nolan, Minister Simon Harris and Prof Peter Clinch. Image: Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland’s annual report for 2021 highlights the success of Irish research at home and abroad.

Ireland’s global research footprint got a boost last year, with researchers supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) engaging in more than 5,700 international collaborations in 84 countries.

According to its latest annual report launched today (20 September), SFI invested €222m to support Irish research and generate new industry and international collaborations in 2021. This investment generated a further €234m from the EU, charities and other sources.

The report also highlighted that Ireland continues to be recognised around the world for its scientific achievements, coming 14th overall in a global scientific ranking by Clarivate.

The country ranks second in the world for quality of science in immunology and third in both agricultural sciences and neuroscience and behaviour.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said the report “demonstrates the breadth and positive impact of research supported by SFI across the higher education institutions”.

“SFI has played a critical role in policymaking and developing and attracting talent here. Now, as we take a step forward with the progression of Impact 2030, the Government will continue to maximise the impact of research and innovation, to make research expertise more accessible to policymakers and the public, and to nurture and attract top talent.”

Impact 2030 is the new national strategy to boost research and innovation. Launched earlier this year, it includes the creation of a new funding body through a shake-up that will combine SFI with the Irish Research Council.

Ireland top for knowledge diffusion

The report noted that SFI-funded researchers published nearly 5,400 publications in 2021, while more than 6,200 people worked on SFI-supported projects. Overall, the agency supported nearly 40,600 jobs in Ireland – directly and indirectly.

Prof Philip Nolan, director general of SFI, said that “good progress” has been made on many aspects of the new Shaping Our Future strategy announced last year. This included the delivery of Creating Our Future, a national brainstorm to guide the future of science and research in the country.

“SFI has driven outstanding research, and collaboration to make that knowledge useful, growing industry partnerships and working to better inform policy, ensuring all of Ireland’s people benefit from public investment,” Nolan added.

The report highlighted that in the Global Innovation Index, Ireland is ranked first in the world for knowledge diffusion, fifth for knowledge absorption and 10th for knowledge impact.

24 of the world’s most highly cited researchers are funded by SFI, it added, and SFI-funded publications are 2.5 times more likely to be ‘star publications’ than the global average.

“SFI continues to play a key role in building Ireland’s research and innovation capabilities, training highly sought-after PhD students and supporting early-career frontiers researchers,” said SFI chair Prof Peter Clinch.

“This is also attracting the best global STEM talent, helping to deliver tangible benefits to Ireland today and into the future.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic