Who’s who in science and research funding in Ireland

24 Nov 2011

Elena Irina Pascu rounds up the various sources of science research funding in Ireland and the key people directing funding policy.

Funding agencies in Ireland:

Higher Education Authority

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the primary agency through which the Government disburses and manages higher education funding. In addition to this core function, the HEA is responsible for the management of the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutes. Between 1998 and 2015, PRTLI will have invested €1,220,000,000 in research programmes and capital and along with SFI has been largely responsible for the enormous range and scale of change in Irish higher education since 2000.

Tom Boland has been chief executive of the HEA since January 2004. Prior to his appointment, Boland was director of strategic policy in the Department of Education and Science, a role he combined with that of head of legal services and legal adviser to the department. He holds degrees in civil engineering and law, and was called to the Irish Bar in 1987.

Tom Boland

Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority

Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), established in 2000, is the largest funder of research in Ireland and its primary focus is biotechnology, green energy, information and communications technology. SFI invests in academic researchers and research teams who are most likely to generate new knowledge, leading-edge technologies and competitive enterprises in the fields of science and engineering.

Dr Graham Love was appointed interim director general of SFI in October 2011. Prior to joining SFI, Love spent almost a decade with management consulting firm Accenture. Working with clients in the communications and high-tech sector, including Microsoft and Vodafone, his chief responsibilities were in strategic planning and programme management. Love is a pharmacology graduate and holds a PhD in vascular cell biology from University College Dublin.

Graham Love

Dr Graham Love, interim director general of SFI

Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS), established in 1999, funds both individual scholars and projects/programmes in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Tim Conlon is the acting director of the IRCHSS. He also works on projects at HEA, in both the research programmes and policy and planning sections. He graduated from the University of the Creative Arts in photography and has an MBA from the Smurfit School of Business at UCD.

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) funds both individual scholars and projects/programmes in engineering, technology and the physical sciences. Additionally, it funds the Enterprise Partnership Scheme, which co-funds industry-academia projects through the recruitment of doctoral candidates.

Martin Hynes is Ireland’s national delegate and national contact point for Science in Society, under the Capacities Programme. He is executive director of IRCSET, which operates the Embark Initiative. He holds an MBA (marketing) and he is a professional engineer with substantial business experience.

Martin Hynes

Martin Hynes, executive director of the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology


Teagasc is an agency of the Department of Agriculture and Food and its objective is to support science-based innovation in the agri-food sector and the broader bioeconomy that will support the profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of associated Irish enterprise in these areas.

Dr Noel Cawley is the chairman of the agency. Cawley was chief executive of the Irish Dairy Board until 2006. He also served as chairman of the Irish Horse Board, and more recently chaired the Government-established Seafood Strategy Review and Implementation Group.

Noel Cawley

Dr Noel Cawley, chairman of Teagasc

Health Research Board

The Health Research Board funds both direct medical research and also health economics and delivery. It also provides advice on health policy and practice.

Research policy agencies

1.     Forfás

Forfás is Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation. Forfás was established in 1994 as an agency of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

2.     Advisory Council for Science

The Advisory Council for Science provides policy advice to the Government on strategic technology and innovation (STI) issues and contributes towards the development and implementation of a coherent and effective national science, technology and innovation strategy.

3.     Chief Scientific Adviser’s Office

The Chief Scientific Adviser’s Office provides expert advice on scientific issues of concern to the Government in scientific disciplines.

Research investment agencies

1.     Industrial Development Authority

The Industrial Development Authority (IDA Ireland) is Ireland’s inward investment promotion agency. IDA Ireland partners with foreign investors, helping them to set up and develop their businesses in Ireland. The IDA has secured the investment in Ireland from some of the world’s largest private research and development companies.

2.     Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland is the Government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. Much of this includes supporting indigenous enterprises to develop their research and development portfolios.

In advance of Dublin City of Science 2012, Siliconrepublic.com is hosting Science November, a month dedicated to news, reports, interviews and videos covering a range of Irish science, research and innovation.