Irish science delivers fivefold return on investment

For every €1 invested by the Irish Government in Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) research centres, €5 was returned to the economy.

That’s according to the latest annual report from Science Foundation Ireland, the national foundation for investment in research in science, tech, engineering and maths (STEM) in Ireland.

From an idea almost 20 years ago to fruition today, Ireland’s science agency Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) now supports 39,823 jobs, up 30pc year-on-year.

“SFI’s first overseas post in California will also support more US-Ireland research collaborations”

SFI also reported a 20pc increase in research engagement with the public.

“In 2018, we increased our efforts to support significant research capacity in areas of strategic national importance, such as climate, marine and renewable energy, agri-tech, bio-economy and smart manufacturing, delivering on Science Foundation Ireland’s strategy, Agenda 2020, and important Government strategies, Future Jobs Ireland and Global Ireland 2025,” said Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government.

“The new SFI Centres for Research Training Programme, representing an investment of over €100 million, will deliver on Project 2040’s objective of building a strong economy by expanding Ireland’s research capacity to meet industry skills needs, and providing training for over 700 postgraduate students.”

Powering Ireland’s global reputation for science

In 2018, SFI invested €188m from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation into supporting Irish research and generating new industry and international collaborations, which generated a further €230m in non-government funding (an increase of 31pc), including €98m competitively won from the EU.

Funding from industry increased by 43pc to €46m. The agency revealed that it has opened its first overseas post in California and confirmed that some 2,715 international research collaborations are taking place between Ireland and 74 other countries.

 “2018 was a significant year for investment in science and research in Ireland,” said the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD.

“I was delighted to welcome the opening of five new SFI Research Centres, CONFIRM, VistaMilk, I-Form, BEACON and FutureNero, further growing this important network which has been at the forefront of driving scientific advancement and impactful industry collaboration in Ireland. Investment in these Centres reflect the efforts made by Government to maintain and improve Ireland’s global reputation for research excellence and innovation.

“As part of our planning and preparation for Brexit, I’m delighted to see that SFI has further grown its global footprint in 2018, with 2,715 international research collaborations taking place between its funded researchers and their collaborators in 74 countries. SFI’s first overseas post in California will also support more US-Ireland research collaborations. Such progress clearly signals the far-reaching and positive impacts of Irish science on our future economy.”

The five new SFI Research Centres launched in 2018 represent an investment of €90m. These are CONFIRM, the SFI Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing led by University Limerick; BEACON Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre at the National Bioeconomy Campus in Lisheen; FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases led by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing led by University College Dublin; and VistaMilk SFI Research Centre, jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Written by John Kennedy

Published: 22 July 2019

Science investment image: Per Bengtsson/Shutterstock