Research under way to attract UK scientists to Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland among funders planning for exodus of scientists post-Brexit

Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of Science Foundation Ireland, said Brexit offers great opportunities for Ireland to attract leading UK scientists. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Ireland's research community is preparing for changes that will come once Brexit arrives.

There are overt efforts to coax leading UK scientists to set up in Ireland with the promise of research funding. Novel ways of bringing top scientists here on a part-time basis are also being organised.

Two of the larger research funders, Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council, already have plans in place should UK scientists either lose collaborative EU funding or want to escape uncertainties and move before Brexit arrives.

The Foundation already funds internationally important scientists from any country willing to do their research here under its research professorship programme.


Lower funding

This is available to UK researchers, with a maximum of about €5 million available over a five-year period for those who are accepted. It also has programmes that offer lower funding for early and mid-career scientists.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of the foundation, has repeatedly stated that Brexit offers great opportunities for Ireland to attract leading UK scientists or EU nationals based in British universities and uncertain of their future positions.

Brexit has brought about a period of uncertainty, said the Foundation’s director of strategy and communications, Ruth Freeman. For this reason it is appropriate to have policies ready and to promote them, she said.

Different approach

The Irish Research Council has taken a different approach. It is inviting UK scientists in receipt of EU funding to conduct their British research there while transporting their EU-supported activity to Ireland.

Most EU funding programmes support this arrangement and the Council would facilitate the transfer and help the researcher to find a part-time home in an Irish university.

The enterprise and innovation sector is also gearing up, with 39 extra staff for Enterprise Ireland and nine more for IDA Ireland to prepare for Brexit, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O'Connor said on Monday.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.