SFI reveals 2025 strategy with plans to ‘shape our future’

1 Mar 2021

SFI director general Prof Mark Ferguson. Image: SFI

Science Foundation Ireland’s 2025 strategy will focus on promoting more women to research leadership positions, investing in future skills and more.

Shaping Our Future, the new Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) strategy for 2025, will fund Irish research to address both current challenges and future opportunities.

It was launched today (1 March) by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD, and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD.

“New ideas and innovations continue to bring about major transformation of our society and economy, and that is why a focus on this area is of critical importance to this Government,” Martin said.

He added that setting up a department dedicated to innovation and science last year demonstrates that the Government is “deeply committed to the development of research in Ireland” and commended Irish researchers for their “incredible contribution” during the pandemic.

“I believe our research sector is positioned to positively inform how we respond to the challenges we are facing today as a nation and to ensure we can grasp the opportunities to improve our society for the better.”

An SFI strategy for today and tomorrow

Shaping Our Future comprises two core ambitions. The first, called Delivering Today, will strive to develop more top talent, build on Ireland’s research base and maximise the benefits of that research for both the economy and society.

The second, Preparing for Tomorrow, will focus on developing a cohesive research ecosystem. It will identify and develop future skills and work more closely with stakeholders to anticipate what’s next and adapt appropriately.

Some of the specific targets of the new SFI strategy are:

  • Increase the number of SFI individual-led awards to 140 annually by 2025
  • Increase the number of SFI Centres for Research Training to 18 by 2025
  • Attract 20 world-leading researchers to Ireland annually by 2025
  • Establish a national challenge capability of scale
  • Have SFI-supported researchers cited in scientific journals at two times the global average
  • Have 35pc women leaders in research
  • See 65pc of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers departing to positions outside academia after six years

SFI said it will provide updates on its progress against these targets in its annual reports.

The time for ‘increased investment’

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI, commented: “From the mechanisation of agriculture to the invention of television, from vaccines to the internet, from mobile phones to electric cars, the positive contribution that science, research and innovation makes to people’s lives globally is unquestionable. Discovery, invention and innovation fuel great progress.

“Under our previous strategy, SFI focused on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Irish RD&I system. This was successful, with Eurostats citing Ireland as the most R&D-efficient country in Europe, generating more innovation output per euro of public funds invested than any other country.

“But there are limits to efficiency gains and the system now needs, and is prepared for, increased investment.”

Harris highlighted the strategy’s particular focus on managing and preventing future health crises and taking action against the climate emergency. “Mitigating and adapting to climate change are critical issues for mankind and Ireland can become a leader in developing climate action solutions,” he said.

Read more about SFI’s 2025 strategy here.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021