Taighde Éireann: Ireland has a new research funding agency

16 Nov 2023

Minister Simon Harris, TD, at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Minister Simon Harris said Taighde Éireann has the ‘clarity and impact’ needed to communicate the mission of the new research funding agency in Ireland.

After more than 18 months of discussions, the Government has revealed the name of the new research and innovation funding body as Taighde Éireann – Research Ireland.

In an announcement today (16 November), Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said Taighde Éireann – Research Ireland merges the Irish Research Council (IRC) with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

Taighde Éireann will be created once the Research and Innovation Bill 2023 is passed, with legislation expected to be published in the coming weeks.

Harris said that the name has “the clarity and impact” needed to communicate the mission of the new research and innovation funding agency in Ireland and abroad.

“The new agency will deliver enhanced added value and ambition as part of the wider research and innovation system,” he said. “Researchers can be reassured there will be no interruption to ongoing services and funding programmes while the new agency is being set up.”

Earlier this year, Prof Philip Nolan was selected as the CEO-designate of the new agency. Nolan is currently the director general of SFI and will stay in this role until the establishment of the new agency.

He became director general in January 2022, but was already regarded as a “distinguished researcher” and familiar face in Ireland before this role.

“The creation of the new agency, Taighde Éireann – Research Ireland, offers the opportunity to place all research areas on an equal and statutory footing and to drive a step-change in interdisciplinary research,” Nolan said.

“The agency will be building on the recognised strengths of the IRC and SFI, but will also be a cornerstone of a more connected and ambitious research and innovation system for Ireland.”

According to Nolan, the choice of name is important in transmitting a “sense of ambition and purpose” to stakeholders at home and abroad.

Nolan previously served as director of the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, deputy president of University College Dublin and president of Maynooth University.

During his 10-year tenure at Maynooth, research income at the university increased by about 60pc. He was succeeded in this role by Prof Eeva Leinonen.

Taighde Éireann – Research Ireland is part of Impact 2030, a Government strategy that aims to build a more inclusive and engaged research and innovation system that can help mobilise resources to address major issues such as health and the climate crisis.

It will achieve this by fostering greater engagement between the many stakeholders in Ireland’s research and innovation space, including research organisations, the third-level system, enterprises, public policymakers, civic society organisations and European partners.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic