Visit to Science Foundation Ireland Ireland

Today, Thursday 15th January, as Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, I visited Science Foundation Ireland HQ at Wilton Park House to join Professor Mark Ferguson in launching SFI’s review of 2014 and outlining of plans for 2015.

You can see coverage and commentary of the event on the RTE website below…

http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0115/672804-research-minister-says-science-spend-has-to-rise

It’s clear that 2014 was a very productive and busy year for the agency and that 2015 promises to be equally so for SFI, the research community and for your industry partners.

We have begun the process to put in place a new Government strategy for science and technology for Ireland.

The Government continues to be focused on implementing the Action Plan for Jobs. Integral to this, is building upon the major achievements and investment in scientific research we have realised over the past decade.

A key element of SFI’s strategic plan – Agenda 2020 is the investment under the SFI Research Centres programme, which has to date seen an investment of €355 million in Government funding and which has attracted €190 million commitment in industry funding.

The scale of investment in the SFI Centres programme, along with continued support through Budget 2015, is evidence of the Government’s commitment to supporting science, technology and innovation in Ireland, and to helping our academic institutions and researchers to leverage funding to attain additional funding streams.

These 12 SFI Research Centres of scale and excellence have multiple industry partners including both multinational companies and SMEs. They are focused on strategic areas of importance to Ireland – Pharma, Big Data, Medical Devices, Nanotechnology/Materials, Marine Renewable Energy, Food for Health/Functional Foods, Perinatal Research, Applied Geosciences, Software, Digital Content, Telecommunications and Medical Devices etc.

By establishing a collaborative research ecosystem with a focus on excellence and impact, we are also positioning Ireland’s researchers to compete effectively for EU funding, through Horizon 2020 research programme.

As you will be aware, this is a €1billion research fund that Irish researchers, institutes and enterprises can target.

We have a good track record in this space, having secured €600 million in funding through Horizon 2020’s predecessor FP7. However we are now more ambitious – and I’m pleased to see that SFI’s plans are geared towards supporting the delivery of these targets.

I was particular pleased to see the numbers applying, being short-listed and securing funding from European Research Council programmes increasing – the success in the Starting Grants at the end of last year was very positive.

I am delighted to see that SFI has a suite of programmes to support researchers at different stages for their career – from early career researchers to large scale centres. The recent renewal of the partnership with the HRB and the Wellcome Trust was also a positive for Ireland’s biomedical research community.

Having visited the BT Young Scientist Exhibition last week it is important that we continue to highlight the achievements of our researchers, explaining what they do for the public, as well as presenting research information in a tangible, attractive and engaging way.

We are making inroads in this regard. In this year’s Leaving Certificate results, there were 27% of students sitting higher level maths and significant increases in the numbers of students opting for science, technology, engineering and maths linked courses.

First preference applications to Science courses in 2014 increased by almost 8%; engineering also rose to 3,215 applications and technology courses rose to 13,608 applications.

I know that the Smart Futures programme managed by SFI Discover will be working with partners in industry and HEIs to encourage more young people to look at STEM career options.

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