Postgraduate researchers to benefit from funding scheme


YOUNG POSTGRADUATE researchers will benefit from a new funding programme designed in particular to boost scientists in the very early stages of their careers.

Almost €8 million has been provided under the Science Foundation Ireland programme launched yesterday in Dublin by Minister of State for Science Conor Lenihan.

A total of 15 young scientists will share this funding under the “Starting Investigator Research Grant” scheme, Mr Lenihan said. It will help them build their research expertise and to move towards a full academic research career, he said.

The recipients named yesterday come from seven higher education institutions including the Tyndall National Institute (four awards), Trinity College Dublin (four awards) and NUI Galway (three awards). Researchers from the Dublin Institute of Technology, University College Cork, University College Dublin and Waterford Institute of Technology received one award each.

The individual awards range in value from about €471,000 up to about €590,500, with the funding provided over a five-year period. The funds only support scientists who are working here, but there is no restriction on the citizenship of the recipient.

More than 100 researchers applied for the grants. These were selected on the basis of excellence by an international panel of peers. The selection process was “very competitive”, according to a source involved in the scheme.

The novel award scheme is noteworthy in that it helps scientists at a time when their generally contract-based research activities are most vulnerable.

Yet it is also a time when they are likely to be at their most creative.

The scheme was important because it would help to keep these valuable researchers here in Ireland, Mr Lenihan said. Without this support many would have to leave to pursue their research careers.

The funding was also sufficient to allow them to hire their own postgraduate researchers, thus spreading the benefit of the awards still further.

The scheme would “ensure that the best-trained post-doctoral scientists can be both attracted to and retained in Ireland, which is central to our overall national aim of building a sustainable world-class research system”, Mr Lenihan said.