SFI publishes strategic plan


Research funding body Science Foundation Ireland has published an eight-year strategic plan that will see a strong bias towards research that delivers an economic return.

The foundation also released details of a €30 million investment in infrastructure projects and essential equipment needed to pursue advanced science.

The need for the research investment to yield “commercial outcomes” was echoed when the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton launched the document “Agenda 2020” in Dublin today.

The Government’s plans for jobs and growth depend on ensuring that “we get more as an economy out of our investment in scientific research”, he said.

The plan was based on achieving “excellence with impact”, said the director general of the foundation, Prof Mark Ferguson.

Future funding would support excellent science, but only if it also had impact in the advancement of society and the economy, he said at the launch.

Projects submitted for consideration for funding would also have to be aligned with 14 priority research areas, designated in a report published last March by a committee set up to define what research areas should attract State funding.

The plan called for partnership between academics, industry and government agencies, he said. It was also predicated on improving public awareness and engagement with science in order to help people understand why the investment in science was important.

“I think the system is working but it could work better,” Mr Bruton said. Research investment could help support an economy built on enterprise, innovation and exports, he added.

The €30 million will be used to buy specialised equipment needed to support 37 separate research projects.

These include a specialised electron microscope that can see individual atoms which will be installed at Trinity College Dublin and a national germ-free research facility for University College Cork.