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Minister Damien English wants researchers to think big

New Horizon 2020 Strategic Research Proposals Group established to identify large-scale funding opportunities for Ireland “Big wins” over and above expected strong business as usual performance sought to help achieve most ambitious national target yet under EU Research Programme i.e. 1.25bn over seven years

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Mr. Damien English T.D., today launched a new initiative to identify large-scale EU funding opportunities for businesses and researchers in Ireland and nurture applications that will give big wins for Ireland. He has established a dedicated team of senior executives and officials from all research funding Government Departments and Agencies to focus exclusively on identifying opportunities and mobilising EU funding applications for large scale projects of strategic value to Ireland.

The new Strategic Research Proposals Group will be chaired by the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government and SFI Director General, Professor Mark Ferguson. It will complement the ongoing work of Enterprise Ireland which coordinates the network of National Contact Points and National Delegates that have successfully mobilised the research system to surpass the FP7 (predecessor programme) target of €600m.

The €80bn EU Horizon 2020 programme, which commenced in 2014 and runs to the end of 2020, provides significant opportunities for Ireland’s economy and society and is open to researchers, research organisations, companies or other organisations through competitive calls.

This joined up approach is one of many proactive initiatives in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation-led Horizon 2020 Strategy which will position Ireland favourably in order to achieve the ambitious national target of €1.25bn in EU funding.

Minister English said that “the establishment of this group will provide for new and big opportunities for Irish companies and researchers. I want to ensure that the full resources of our research and innovation system, in which we have invested heavily, are now used for the optimum benefit of the country by leveraging maximum EU funding.

“Ireland’s participation in FP7, the predecessor to Horizon 2020, has been very successful, with over €620m secured by Irish researchers and industry. This is a great testament to the work of Enterprise Ireland and we need a continued outstanding performance from EI and the National Contacts and Delegates to ensure similar or better returns. The signs are good: research collaborations between Irish SMEs and Higher Education Institutions have secured over €9 million in the first results in the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions part of Horizon 2020 which supports skills, training and career development of researchers. In addition Ireland had the highest success rate in Europe in the first results under the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, with 20% of SMEs who applied being successful. However, to complement and support EI in its ongoing work, I have asked some key senior officials – including the Chief Executive of EI, Julie Sinnamon and CEO of the IDA, Martin Shanahan – to pool their knowledge of industry strengths and opportunities and to work with research funders to develop large scale proposals. “

Prof Mark Ferguson , Chair of the new Group, said that "Ireland aims to win some major EU Horizon 2020 research projects .To achieve this, against strong competition , we need to identify key areas of opportunity , mobilise and engage all of the excellent research expertise across Ireland's academic and industrial (multinational , indigenous and SME ) ecosystem to lead winning applications . By harnessing the expertise across all relevant Government Departments and Agencies we hope to identify and catalyse such winning bids. This is a major opportunity, especially as much of the funding is earmarked for industry."


For more information please contact:

Press Office, Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation: 01 – 631 2200 or

Photos to follow from Fennell Photography

Notes to Editors:

Horizon 2020
Horizon 2020 is the current EU framework programme for research and innovation. With a budget of nearly €80 billion, Horizon 2020 will run over seven years from 2014 – 2020. Horizon 2020 is the successor programme to FP7 (Framework Programme 7) and is the largest ever research and innovation programme in the EU. Horizon 2020 has a simpler structure than previous programmes with less red tape making is easier to apply.

Horizon 2020 is open to everyone including individual researchers, higher education institutes, research performing organisations and private industry including SMEs.

Enterprise Ireland leads the Irish Horizon 2020 Network consisting of 32 National Contact People and National Delegates from various research and industry agencies and Departments. See who can assist in each area are also financial supports available through Enterprise Ireland

Horizon 2020 aims to help achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for Europe by focusing on three main areas:

· Excellent Science

The first pillar focusses on basic research and has a budget of over €24 billion.

The European Research Council (ERC) funds grants to individual researchers or research teams and excellence is the only criterion. This pillar funds researcher mobility under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) research fellowship programme that supports researchers at all stages of their careers and working across all disciplines. The Excellent Science pillar also funds future and emerging technologies (FET) and large European research infrastructure.

· Industrial Leadership

With a budget of over €17 billion the Industrial Leadership pillar aims to support ground-breaking technologies that will underpin innovation across all sectors. The pillar is broken down into Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies (LEIT) such as ICT; advanced manufacturing; advanced materials; biotechnology; nanotechnologies and Space. This pillar funds small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and includes a specific SME Instrument. There is also an instrument under this pillar to assist innovative companies and organisations in accessing risk finance.

· Societal Challenges

Seven priority societal challenges have been identified where funding in research and innovation may have a real impact of Europe’s citizens. The budget for this pillar is over €27 billion. The grand societal challenges include:

1. Health, demographic change and wellbeing

2. Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research and the bioeconomy

3. Secure, clean and efficient energy

4. Smart, green and integrated transport

5. Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials

6. Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies

7. Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.

For more information see EU Horizon2020 programmes

The Government has set an ambitious target for Ireland in Horizon 2020 and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the Horizon 2020 national strategy.

The Horizon 2020 Strategic Research Proposals Group is comprised of:

· Professor Mark Ferguson, Chair

· Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government and Director General of Science Foundation Ireland

· Dr. David Beehan, Chief Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

· Mr. Kenneth Spratt, Assistant Secretary, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

· Ms. Mary Doyle, Deputy Secretary, Department of Education and Skills

· Mr. David Walsh, Assistant Secretary, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

· Ms. Frances Spillane, Assistant Secretary, Department of Health

· Mr. Dermot Curran, Assistant Secretary, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

· Ms. Julie Sinnamon, Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Ireland

· Ms. Laura Burke, Director General, Environmental Protection Agency

· Dr. Graham Love, Chief Executive, Health Research Board

· Mr. Tom Boland, Chief Executive Officer, Higher Education Authority

· Mr. Martin Shanahan, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Ireland

· Dr. Eucharia Meehan, Director, Irish Research Council

· Dr. Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive Officer, Marine Institute

· Dr. Brian Motherway, Chief Executive Officer, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

· Professor Gerry Boyle, Director Teagasc

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