Ahead of the virtual launch of Science Foundation Ireland’s new strategy, we spoke to Prof Mark Ferguson about some key points on the roadmap.

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

It was launched on 1 March 2021 by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD, and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD.

Summarising the strategy for Siliconrepublic.com, SFI director general Prof Mark Ferguson said it’s about “delivering today and preparing for tomorrow”.

In that respect, SFI aims to back research now that will be important in the future. Areas such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and synthetic biology, in particular, were highlighted by Ferguson.

He also sees significant opportunities in climate research and green technologies. “Everything from carbon capture, storage and utilisation through to sustainable agriculture,” he said.

For SFI’s strategy to achieve its goals, however, the agency will need solid financial backing. Ferguson is confident, though, that the strategy will drive returns on any investment.

“We know that that will give rise to increased performance. It will give rise to increased societal benefit,” he said.

He also highlighted the need to prepare the science community of tomorrow to grasp these emerging opportunities in the coming years. “We need to be sure that we are training people now. That we have the research. That we are pulling out the talent and the PhD students who will go on to be in industry to address those challenges.”


Words by Elaine Burke