SFI awards €53m to 71 individual-led research projects

2 Nov 2020

Image: © Beboy/Stock.adobe.com

The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme will see 71 ‘high-risk, high-reward’ projects funded in 12 higher-education institutions around Ireland.

Today (2 November), Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced funding for 71 research grants valued at €53m through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Frontiers for the Future programme.

Awardees are from 12 different higher-education institutions: Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), Maynooth University, NUI Galway, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Teagasc, TU Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork, University College Dublin (UCD) and University of Limerick.

The Frontiers for the Future individual research programme was first announced in early 2019.

Frontiers for the Future

The research projects awarded funding today span healthcare, manufacturing, cybersecurity, pharmaceuticals, food and addressing the climate emergency, among other topics. Speaking about the Frontiers for the Future programme, Harris explained that it funds “high-risk, high-reward” individual-led research.

Of the 71 grants, 45pc will be awarded to women, he added, in line with SFI’s gender strategy. “The funding will support researchers who are already carrying out excellent work in Ireland, as well as those in the early stages of their research careers who hold incredible potential.”

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI and chief scientific adviser to the Government, said that the programme was a “highly competitive process”.

“These are highly skilled, talented and dedicated researchers and it is crucial that we invest in their excellent ideas and research, to maintain and build on Ireland’s global standing in research, innovation and discovery,” Ferguson said.

Robotic devices and reversible genetics

Across the 71 projects, the grants will fund 231 research positions. These will comprise 95 postdocs, 101 PhD students and 35 research assistants. A total of 38 industry partners are engaging with the programme, which was run in collaboration with Geological Survey Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency.

It has two funding streams. The first refers to ‘Projects’, which are described as highly innovative and novel approaches to research and will receive €25m of the funding. The second, ‘Awards’, involves larger scale innovative and collaborative research programmes that can have economic and societal impacts. Awards will be allocated €28m of the funding.

Future Awards have been given to UCD’s Dr Olive Lennon, who is investigating the potential for robotic devices in helping people to learn how to walk again after a stroke, and RCSI’s Prof Leonie Young and Prof Arnold Hill, who are studying potentially reversible genetic changes in the spread of breast cancer to the brain.

Funded Future Projects include TU Dublin’s Dr Dympna O’Sullivan and DkIT’s Dr Julie Doyle, who are designing a computerised toolkit for people living with dementia. Another is Maynooth University’s Dr Arman Farhang, who is hoping to improve data transmission and links for applications in future wireless networks, which could be used for vehicles and other areas of society.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021