Government to invest €193m in five SFI research centres

1 Feb 2021

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general at Science Foundation Ireland. Image: Jason Clarke Photography

Five Science Foundation Ireland research centres spanning medical devices, AI technology, future networks and more will receive the funding over the next six years.

Today (1 February), Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced an investment of €193m in five Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centres over the next six years.

The centres – Adapt, Connect, Cúram, iCrag and Lero – carry out research across cybersecurity, e-health, energy and marine resources, AI, data privacy, telecommunication and more.

Harris said that the investment reflects “Ireland’s position as a world leader in research and innovation”.

“The investment will ensure that we are prepared for the changes and disruption that we are facing in addressing global societal and economic challenges,” he said. “SFI research centres promote discovery and impact, as well as collaboration between academia, Government and industry across the island of Ireland and internationally.”

He added that each of the centres will also commit to “extensive” education and public engagement outreach programmes to promote STEM to the public. Initiatives will include summer camps, school modules and residencies for filmmakers, artists and teachers.

Funding for the research centres

More than 200 industry partners will add more than €91m to this funding and 17 higher education institutions will also act as partners, from Athlone Institute of Technology to Teagasc. Munster Technological University, officially established earlier this year, will also join the ranks.

Other partners include the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), Geological Survey Ireland (GSI), Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) and a number of county and city councils.

The funding will support around 1,060 graduate and postdoc students as well as research fellows employed in the centres.

Two Trinity College Dublin-led centres, Adapt and Connect, will receive €42m and €38.8m, respectively. Adapt focuses on AI and digital content technology and Connect on future networks and communications.

Cúram, which researches and develops medical devices at NUI Galway, will get €46.3m. Lero, the centre for software and computer science led out of University of Limerick, will receive €37.4m,  while iCrag, the centre for applied geosciences at University College Dublin, will get €28.2m .

Supporting ‘excellent scientific research’

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI, said that investing in “excellent ideas and research with impact” is vital to retaining “Ireland’s global standing in research, innovation and discovery”.

“SFI research centres support both basic and applied research, spanning a wide range of sectors at varying levels and stages, and as a country we have benefited from their considerable contributions in the recent Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

“They have made transformational progress in just six years, with increased academic and industrial collaboration, extensive training of PhD students for future skills needs, winning competitive funding from the EU, producing excellent scientific results and driving vital public engagement.”

Prof Vincent Wade, director at Adapt, added: “Ireland is facing challenges in climate change, in health and in building a resilient economy.

“We see that investment in higher education is vital to address these challenges and allows us to create breakthroughs in digital content technologies, to train the next generation of researchers and innovators, transfer knowledge into industry, create new jobs and help our society to live digitally successfully.”

SFI is one of the top public bodies in the country to receive Government funding for research and development activities. It was allocated around €198.9m last year and €188.3m in 2019 to support R&D through research grants and other research-supporting programmes.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021