SFI reports largest Govt/industry collaboration yet – €300m in seven research centres

31 Jul 2014

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has delivered what it says is the largest government/industry collaboration yet – seven research centres in areas such as big data amounting to an investment of €300m over six years.

The centres will support more than 800 top-class researcher positions and are anticipated to lead to the creation of up to 1,000 jobs as additional non-Exchequer funding is leveraged during their lifetimes.

The research centres are designed to help Ireland attract further foreign direct investment, as well as create new spin-off companies and high-tech start-ups.

SFI intends to expand the Research Centres Programme this year.

The science of economic impact

In its 2013 annual report, SFI revealed it invested €152m in 307 new research awards to 20 institutions in Ireland.

During 2013, SFI programmes supported some 2,656 researchers.

SFI-funded researchers attracted €56m in EU research funding during 2013.

The year also saw the registration of 54 patents, the licensing of 27 technologies, and the creation of four spin-off companies.

The agency said Ireland’s international scientific reputation has been enhanced through some 1,955 national and international collaborations in 48 countries.

In terms of industry collaboration, SFI supported more than 900 joint projects with industry.

The national science agency said Ireland is now ranked first in the world for immunology, first for animal and dairy, third for nanosciences, fourth in computer science and sixth for materials science.

Best-in-class internationally

“Last year was an important year for SFI,” said the agency’s director-general and the Irish Government’s chief scientific adviser Prof Mark Ferguson.

“SFI’s operating model is now best-in-class internationally with a much lower cost base than our peers in other countries. SFI’s SESAME system for the accurate collection of a comprehensive suite of output and impact metrics went live in 2013 and this along with ongoing international benchmarking will allow us to better measure and evaluate SFI’s overall economic impact in the years ahead.

“Importantly during 2013, SFI fostered the development of the academic/industrial research ecosystem in Ireland. Later this year, the SFI Spokes Programme will allow new industry partners, new research projects and new capabilities to be added to the seven SFI research centres delivered in 2013.

“Our new Industry Fellowship programme provides an important career development pathway for Ireland’s researchers and a major opportunity for both multinational companies and indigenous enterprises, which will in turn lead to increased employment levels and further economic development,” Ferguson said.

Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said innovation and research are key facets of the Government’s strategy to create new jobs.

“The results contained in today’s SFI annual report show that this strategy is beginning to pay off.

“Most importantly, the figures show that approximately two-thirds of the job announcements made by the IDA in 2013 had a link to SFI research. I commend Mark Ferguson and all his team on these impressive results, and look forward to working with them in the coming years.”

SFI said among its priorities for 2014 is a focus on empowering Irish researchers to lead and win in the EU’s €70bn Horizon 2020 programme and fund collaborative research in Ireland on an all-island basis.

Science economy image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years