SFI’s Mark Ferguson spoke to Ann O’Dea about research in Ireland, funding and future opportunities in science.

As part of Future Human’s Conversations with Leaders series, Ann O’Dea sat down with Science Foundation Ireland’s outgoing director general, Mark Ferguson.

During the chat, he said Ireland underfunds research. “The good news is we’re the most efficient country in the European Union, so we get the biggest innovation output as measured, for example, by patents or start-up companies or licences per euro of public funding,” he said.

“The bad news is we underfund, we’re well below the European average. What’s interesting is 10 years ago, when I started in Science Foundation Ireland and we sent out all of our proposals for international peer review, we were able to fund all of the excellently scored proposals. That is no longer the case. We are now not funding proposals typically that score less than about 85pc, sometimes 90pc.”

While he said this is a sign that the funding is reaching “really good stuff” and shows how much potential there is in Ireland’s system, it also means the chances of researchers getting funding has gone down.

“I think this is an optimal time to increase the funding for research.”


Words by Jenny Darmody