SFI claims research had fivefold return on investment to economy in 2019

26 Aug 2020

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SFI has published its annual report for 2019, revealing how investment from the State and the EU helped research centres to give back to the Irish economy.

While 2020 has been a challenging year for scientific communities across the globe, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has published its findings on how its various activities performed in 2019.

Looking at international performance, the SFI report said Ireland is now ranked first in the world in quality of science in immunology and second in agricultural sciences. This was measured by citations per paper in the InCites report published by Clarivate Analytics.

In terms of funding, SFI said that through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation it invested €188m last year to support Irish research and generate new industry and international collaborations. This resulted in a further €223m in funding from the EU, charity and other sources.

According to the agency, for every €1 invested by the State in SFI research centres, approximately €5 was returned to the economy.

In total, SFI said it supported almost 40,000 jobs in Ireland directly and indirectly. Looking at education and public engagement, the agency saw a 26pc increase in activities in 2019, with 2,299 activities including those undertaken as part of the SFI Discover Programme call and Science Week on Climate Action.

Last year also saw the launch of the Frontiers for the Future programme to support researchers for both short- and long-term projects, with a focus on greater representation among women and minority researchers.

Ireland’s global footprint

European Research Council funding was awarded to 15 researchers funded by the agency in 2019.

The first SFI Challenge Fund was also launched with the establishment of the Future Innovator Prize. In a challenge to develop disruptive solutions to societal issues, 12 multidisciplinary teams competed throughout 2019 for a €1m prize.

Responding to the report, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said: “Recent months have shown us the ability of Ireland’s research community to work together and deliver solutions for Ireland through SFI’s Covid-19 Rapid Response Funding Call.

“I am delighted to see that in 2019 SFI supported researchers engaged in 2,894 international academic collaborations with 75 countries, building our global footprint.”

Looking to the future, SFI’s director general, Prof Mark Ferguson, said: “For our society and economy, it is clear that research in science and innovation will play a critical role in our recovery; supporting development, attracting foreign direct investment and harnessing transformational green technologies for a more sustainable Ireland.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic