Science agency unveils plan to open large research centres

Funding body’s financial resources to remain at €157m – unaltered from 2015 budget

Science Foundation Ireland’s review comes only a week after the release of the Government’s research and development strategy, Innovation 2020, which seeks to make Ireland a global innovation leader. Photograph: Getty Images

Science Foundation Ireland’s review comes only a week after the release of the Government’s research and development strategy, Innovation 2020, which seeks to make Ireland a global innovation leader. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Science Foundation Ireland expects to open three to five large research centres.

The foundation also plans a new research programme to encourage more blue skies and close to market research and will continue to address gender imbalance in Ireland’s labs.

The research funding body will not see any increase in its annual budget, however, with the 2016 figure of €157 million remaining unchanged from 2015.

The Foundation released its annual review of the year on Tuesday, detailing accomplishments during 2015 and stating goals for 2016. The coming year will be notable for a stronger emphasis on ensuring scientists can see career opportunities in academia or the private sector, said the foundation’s director general Prof Mark Ferguson.

The review comes only a week after the release of the Government’s research and development strategy, Innovation 2020, which seeks to make Ireland a global innovation leader.

The foundation’s plans for 2016 track ambitions outlined in the strategy, said Prof Ferguson.

The strategy and the foundation’s 2016 plan stressed the need for highly talented graduates. It also seeks to encourage top international scientists to conduct their research and development in Ireland.

Uncompetitive

He acknowledged there were challenges in achieving this related to salaries and salary deductions. “In some cases that makes us uncompetitive,” said Prof Ferguson.

Even so, the 12 large foundation research centres were successfully attracting world leaders in areas such as chemistry and electronics and were finding the post-doctoral research fellows needed to help make discoveries.

There would be more research “studentships” offered during the coming year to encourage good researchers to stay and there would also be opportunities for academics and younger researchers to spend time working in the private sector. There would be an open call looking for proposals for at least three new centres during 2016, he said.

The foundation will also open up a consultation process looking at running challenge- based research projects on big issues such as climate, global food supplies and health programmes. The goal would be to launch a funding programme for this in 2017, said Prof Ferguson.

January 2016 will be marked by awards made for new buildings, laboratories and specialised equipment, he added.