Ireland ahead of target with €127 million in EU Research funding

Funding, Research and Innovation

Minister English calls on Industry to collaborate and innovate under Horizon 2020

Target under Action Plan for Jobs 2014 exceeded by €27 million

Mr. Damien English T.D., Minister for Skills Research and Innovation, today (28 July 2015) congratulated Ireland’s researchers and companies for their €127 million success in the first year of Horizon 2020, the current EU programme funding research and innovation. Ireland’s success exceeded the Action Plan for Jobs 2014 national target for 2014 by 27%

Speaking at a Horizon 2020 Industry Leadership Day at University College Cork (UCC) in Cork, the Minister commended Ireland’s researchers and companies for the outcome of their efforts: ‘In the particularly competitive environment for EU research and innovation funding, surpassing our national target by 27% and achieving €127 million is a great achievement.’

The Minister went on to say that: ‘85% of funding won in 2014 came from ICT, research grants from the European Research Council (ERC) and training grants for researchers (‘Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions’), Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, Biotechnology, Health and Agrifood.

‘I welcome this financial success but I am also equally conscious of the importance of Irish researchers and companies participating in the Horizon 2020 programme so that they get to collaborate and innovate with the best and brightest that Europe has to offer therefore resulting in further excellence in our national system.’

The Industry Leadership Day in Cork is one of the many events and activities which support Irish endeavours in Horizon 2020. This event today is aimed at increasing awareness of the industry related opportunities in Horizon 2020 as this programme is more innovation focussed than previous programmes. Ireland’s companies have achieved over €35 Million of the total won in 2014, of which almost three quarters went to SMEs.

Enterprise Ireland leads the National Support Network for Horizon 2020 and organised today’s event with the UCC Research Office. Dr Sergio Fernandez-Caballos, one of Enterprise Ireland’s EU advisors said: ‘Information days are a key step in positioning researchers and companies for success in future Horizon 2020 calls. By facilitating networking between these communities, and providing critical information, these days can lead to the development of quality, strong and successful funding proposals.’

The Minister concluded by commending the Horizon 2020 National Support Network for their work  and said: ‘I want to encourage industry in particular to build on the success to date and engage further. Horizon 2020, with its focus on competitiveness and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs, offers more opportunity for industry participation than ever before.’

English launches Pan-European research team to unearth pathways to sustainable land management

Farming, Food, Research and Innovation

“Making the most of our land” – English

imgres-2Launch of LANDMARK

The Pan-European research project LANDMARK was launched this week in
Castledockrell, Co. Wexford, Ireland, by Meath T.D. and Minister
Damien English, T.D., Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation.
LANDMARK is a brand new consortium of European researchers and
advisors that will seek to unearth practices and policy pathways that
make the most of Europe’s rich and diverse heritage of soils, which
are key to so many ecosystem services. LANDMARK receives €5 million in
European funding from the European Commission as part of its Horizon
2020 Research Programme.

Is Europe running out of land?

At the launch, Teagasc Director Prof Gerry Boyle explained that
LANDMARK addresses one of the most urgent challenges for European
agriculture: “the number of mouths to feed from each parcel of land
continues to rise. But the ecological footprint that we can afford
ourselves continues to shrink. Last autumn, the UN revised its
projections for population growth: the world’s population is no longer
expected to stabilise after 2050, instead it is now expected to
continue to grow and approach 11 billion people by 2100. These new
figures will certainly fuel the debate whether the world, including
Europe, is ‘running out of land’.”

The LANDMARK coordinator, Dr Rachel Creamer from Teagasc added: “Not
only do we expect Europe’s agricultural land to provide a nutritious
diet for all; we also expect it to provide clean water, to store
carbon, recycle our waste and provide a home for biodiversity. These
competing demands have now brought soil science sharply back into
focus. If we are to make the most of our land, we need to understand
the ‘engine room’ of agriculture in all its diversity.”

Towards sustainable practices and policies

LANDMARK aims to do exactly this: it will open up the soils of Europe
and assess farm practices and policies that optimise the delivery of
food and other ecosystem services. Since both the European food system
and ecosystems do not recognise borders, LANDMARK has taken an
international approach: it will bring together all the knowledge on
land management from European farmers, advisors, scientists and policy
makers.

By 2020, LANDMARK will produce three outcomes:

– For farmers: a Soil Navigator that provides advice on the
sustainable management of soils on ‘my farm’;
– For legislators: a framework for monitoring of soil quality and soil
functions that is applicable across Europe;
– For policy makers: an assessment of policies that can ensure that we
‘make the most of our land’, from both an agronomic and environmental
point of view.

Example of innovation

LANDMARK is an early example of the European Innovation Partnership,
where scientists, practitioners and policy makers work together to
generate new knowledge that can be put to use. At the launch, Minister
of State for Skills, Research & Innovation, Damien English, TD, said:
LANDMARK demonstrates Ireland’s international leadership in research
and innovation in the area of Sustainable Food Production. I
congratulate Teagasc for winning this first, highly competitive call
for research. Teagasc has demonstrated that it is possible for Irish
research institutions to assume a leadership role in securing funding
under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme”.

Visit to Science Foundation Ireland Ireland

Funding, Science

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.