Seán Sherlock TD, Minister for Research and Innovation, today (Thursday 7th February 2013) brought the Second Stage of Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) (Amendment) Bill 2012 to Seanad Eireann.
The main provisions of the Bill to extend the remit of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), which was formally established in 2003, are:
• To extend the remit of SFI to enable it to fund applied research, which builds upon its current remit of funding oriented basic research, and take the outcome of research funded since the establishment of SFI closer to market;
• To re-align the priority areas of funding by the Foundation in accordance with the National Research Prioritisation Exercise, 2012;
• To provide SFI with the legal power to fund research projects in Northern Ireland and, subject to the consent of the Minister, participate in collaborative funding schemes with other countries.
Minister Sherlock said “Ireland is now looking to build on the strengths that have emerged from our significant investment since the late 1990s in science, technology and innovation and to target future investment in areas that link directly to current and likely future economic and societal needs.”
The Minister added “The impact of this public investment over the past decade or more has been very significant. The human capital, infrastructure and systems developed from this investment is feeding through to attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) and increasing commercialisation.”
Minister Sherlock concluded “It is now appropriate that Ireland define more precisely the areas where critical mass and concentration of effort will maximise returns. As a small country which is very dependent on the global market, it makes strategic sense that we should, to a significant but not exclusive extent, focus on those areas of research with the greatest potential for development of applications to generate economic growth and address problems in our society. “
Notes for Editors
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) commenced operations as a sub-Board of Forfas in 2000 and then was formally established via the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act 2003.
SFI’s function currently is to promote and fund the carrying out of oriented basic research in strategic areas of scientific endeavour that concern the future development and competitiveness of industry and enterprise in the State.
The areas of SFI focus since establishment have been Information and Communication Technologies; Biotechnology, and (since 2008) Sustainable Energy and Energy-efficient technologies.
This Bill provides for the extension of SFI’s remit to enable it to fund applied research, in addition to continuing to fund top-class oriented basic research, and to take the outcome of research funded closer to market.
The existing 2003 legislation, the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act 2003, is limited in its territorial application to the State, and therefore any funding to research projects based outside the State is not open to SFI at this point. This Bill will enable SFI to provide research funding on an All-Island basis thus enabling funding provision to institutions based in Northern Ireland.
The proposed legislation will also enable SFI, subject to the consent of the Minister, to enter cost-share arrangements with international partners in areas linked to its mandated priority areas and where Irish researchers have real potential to achieve added value from such arrangements. This will enhance Irish based researchers capability to leverage greater levels of funding from other research funding sources from across Europe.
SFI currently supports a cohort of 3,000 researchers across Ireland’s higher education institutions.
These researchers are collaborating with over 600 companies who employ over 90,000 people in Ireland.
In 2012, over 40% of IDA Ireland’s new client wins were in companies linked to SFI researchers. The direct job wins associated in these companies was 4,575.
SFI currently has a staff of 39, and its research grants allocation for 2013 is €152.6m.
SFI research grants are multi-annual in nature and typically span a three to five year term and are subject to rigorous international peer review.
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