Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) today announced that it will invest €72 million, over the next six years, in four new world-class SFI Research Centres in Ireland.

The new SFI Research Centres will be supported by 80 industry partners who will provide an additional €38 million to support cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, economic and societal impact. The decision follows a comprehensive international peer review process involving leading industry and academic experts over the last 12 months.

Innovation 2020, the Government’s five-year strategy for research and development, science and technology, directs that the network of SFI Research Centres should be further developed to build critical mass in strategic areas of research strength and address enterprise needs.

The announcement marks the third tranche of funding under the SFI Research Centres Programme. The first seven SFI Research Centres were established in 2013 and a further five were established 2015.

These 12 world-leading SFI Research Centres are recognised internationally for research excellence; attract talent and capital to Ireland; anchor, attract and spin-out businesses; consolidate excellent basic and applied research across Higher Education Institutions; and secure EU and other international funding.

The four new SFI Research Centres announced today, including two from University College Dublin (UCD), are:

  • Biological resources as alternative materials to finite fossil resources, led by Professor Kevin O’Connor (pictured right), UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (Project Title – BEACON)
  • Innovative techniques and processes in Additive Manufacturing, led by Professor Denis Dowling (pictured below right) UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (Project Title – Déantús)
  • Smart manufacturing IT and industrial automation systems, led by Professor Conor McCarthy, University of Limerick (Project Title – Confirm)
  • Diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of chronic and rare neurological diseases – led by Professor David Henshall, RCSI (Project Title – Future Neuro).

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “Our existing 12 SFI Research Centres are outstanding international examples of applied and basic combined (ABC) research. They are making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, developing critical skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation.

“They are drivers of Ireland’s increased rankings in research and innovation over the last number of years. They are also an important engine for the economy; companies engaged with the SFI Research Centres are located all over Ireland and globally.”

“The commitment of industry and academic bodies to come together to develop these new SFI Research Centres clearly demonstrates the potential economic and societal impact of the planned research. I look forward to working with the four new SFI Research Centres on their road to becoming world-class centres of research excellence.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact said, “This is a wonderful achievement by all involved at UCD. The research that will take place in these Centres over the coming years will advance knowledge, train excellent researchers, and deliver impact to the economy and society.”

The four new SFI Research Centres involve strong collaborative partnerships between research bodies in Ireland with funded researchers participating from institutions including; Athlone Institute of TechnologyBeaumont HospitalCork Institute of TechnologyDublin City UniversityMater HospitalMaynooth UniversityNUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in IrelandTeagascTemple Street Children’s HospitalTrinity College DublinTyndall National Institute (UCC), University College CorkUniversity College DublinUniversity of Limerick and Waterford Institute of Technology.

Four further SFI Research Centre proposals were approved in principle by the SFI Board following stringent assessment by international peer review.
SFI is seeking additional funding to support these centres over the next six years. These proposed SFI Research Centres involve collaborative partnerships with over 100 companies who have committed €60 million funding to the centres.

These proposals, including one from UCD, are:

  • Mapping the molecular causes of human diseases using Systems Biology led by Professor Walter Kolch (pictured right), UCD School of Medicine (Project Title – H-SYS)
  • Innovative technologies to support the production of dairy products: From Pasture, To Cow, To Food, led by Dr Donagh Berry, Teagasc (Project Title Future Milk)
  • Inflammation and Innate Immunology led by Professor Andrew Bowie, TCD (Project Title – INNATE)
  • Advanced Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing led by Professor Michael Butler, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) (Project Title – Bio-Logic).

Commenting on the SFI Board decision, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said, “We need to be ambitious and invest in areas of real potential to ensure our future economic competitiveness. In line with Innovation 2020 we have identified through the SFI Research Centre programme a further four proposals of strategic national importance that meet the high criteria of scientific excellence and impact.”

“Over the coming months we will be working to seek additional funding to support these four SFI Research Centres that have been approved in principle.  I am greatly encouraged by the high quality of research and the significant level of industry and international engagement in the proposals.”

The new SFI Research Centres will be formally launched in September 2017.