The setting up of four new world-class Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres, backed by €114 million in Government and Irish industry funding, has been announced by the Government.
The centres represent an investment of €74 million from the Department of Enterprise over the next six years, with a further investment of €40 million from industry to support “cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement”, and ensuring “economic and societal impact”.
Speaking at the launch in Dublin Castle Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the centres would employ Irish and international researchers, and collaborate with private companies.
“This in turn helps to create high-value jobs and drives economic growth and regional development. The SFI Research Centres show the value of investing in today, so we can imagine the world of the future.”
Investing in leading-edge scientific and technological research was good for the Irish economy and would deliver “innovations which can improve our quality of life”, he added.
“Our SFI Research Centres represent a virtuous triangle between government, industry and higher education, and show just what can be achieved when there is a shared vision about reaching your ambitions.”
The centres based at third level campuses will support 650 highly skilled researchers and engage in over 80 collaborations with industry partners, both indigenous and foreign.
There are 12 other SFI research centres in existence employing some 4,200 people employed in research.
The new centres also involve collaborative partnerships between research bodies including Athlone Institute of Technology; Beaumont Hospital, Cork Institute of Technology, DCU, Mater Hospital, Maynooth University, NUI Galway, RCSI, Teagasc, Temple Street Children's Hospital, TCD, Tyndall National Institute, UCC, UCD, University of Limerick, Waterford Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology.
The four centres are:
CONFIRM, based at UL, aims to transform Ireland’s manufacturing industry to become a world-leader in smart manufacturing including robotics .
BEACON - Bioeconomy Research Centre, based at UCD, will develop biological resources sustainably including valuable bioactive molecules and energy sources.
FutureNeuro, based at RCSI, will focus on easing the socio-economic burden caused by chronic and rare neurological diseases.
I- FORM Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre based at UCD will support Irish manufacturing, generating customised 3-D printed components.
Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald said establishing the centres was a key action in the Government's strategy for research and development, Innovation 2020.
“A co-investment by Government and industry of €114 million will ensure Ireland is adding important additional capacity through world-class centres of research excellence and scale.”
She predicted the SFI centres would be transformative for Irish scientific research and for companies in many sectors.
“Ireland will be well placed to develop solutions to the challenges we face through advanced research and new technologies - delivering jobs, commercial opportunities, and societal benefit.”
SFI director general prof Mark Ferguson, who is also the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said SFI’s strategic approach was achieving results.
“In 2016, Ireland achieved for the first time a world ranking of 10th for the overall quality of its scientific research, an increase of 26 places in only 13 years,” he added.
SFI Research Centres were making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, training students with critical, in-demand skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation, he said.
“Research and innovation matter for our future - they make the difference in enhancing productivity and boosting competitiveness and to tackling the societal challenges of our time: building a digitally-smart, low-carbon, energy-efficient, circular economy that offers well-paid, rewarding work and brings a good quality of life for all.”
Prof Ferguson added: “These new SFI Research Centres will continue this upward trajectory by attracting leading Irish and international researchers, winning competitive international funding and establishing sustained fruitful partnerships with industry.”
Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan, said the centres were critical to the economy, "as we need to be at the competitive edge of innovation to retain, attract and build new investment. This is particularly important in light of the changing geopolitical landscape in the UK and USA".