Research council spends €34m on cutting-edge work

Report reveals breadth of scientific endeavour – from HIV treatment to Irish gene study

The Irish Research Council has helped fund the pursuit of new ways to tackle HIV. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish Research Council has helped fund the pursuit of new ways to tackle HIV. Photograph: Getty Images


Studying Irish genes that go back thousands of years, finding new ways to tackle HIV and learning how to make wound dressings out of seaweed are just some of the research projects funded during 2015 by the Irish Research Council.

It invested €33.7 million in scientific and humanities research during the year, funding the work of almost 1,400 (1,396) researchers, it says in its 2015 annual report published on Thursday.

The funding included €3.5 million leveraged through non-exchequer sources. The research also often included participation by private sector companies and by civic society groups, a reflection of the council’s dual role in supporting research across different disciplines.

This means the subject matter ranges over a wide area of academic endeavour, from mathematics to archaeology and sociology to biochemistry.

Founded in 2000, the council has funded a total of 6,500 researchers said Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, council chairwoman. “The researchers we are funding are powering the knowledge economy and cementing Ireland’s position as an innovation leader,” she said.

Successful State

Almost 1,150 postgraduate researchers were funded and 249 postdoctoral researchers,noted the report. It also stated that Ireland was now the second most successful country per researchers in attracting money from the EU’s research budget, Horizon 2020.

Future plans were also discussed by council director Dr Eucharia Meehan. This year has been notable for a focus on building up a “Frontiers Research Programme” run by the Council and designed to promote basic research.

About 4 per cent of national investment in research goes into frontiers research, but the European average is 17 per cent, said Dr Meehan. Reaching the EU figure for basic research was “vital” if Ireland is to become an innovation leader, she said.

Another priority for 2016 is to further develop the engagement of council-funded researchers with the private sector and employers,she added. This would help support the easy movement of young researchers out of academia and into roles in the private sector.

The council was enhancing the country’s international reputation as a centre for research and learning, said Minister of State for Innovation, John Halligan.

Read the the Irish Research Council’s report