SFI is aiming for a greener and more diverse future for STEM researchers


SFI’s latest annual report highlighted the “cutting edge science with a real world impact” that took place in a challenging pandemic year.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has released its annual report outlining the organization’s impact on the scientific and research community throughout 2020.

Launching the report today (15 November), Minister for Higher and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, praised SFI for its contribution to Irish research during the pandemic.

“I would like to congratulate SFI and its collaborators in the higher education sector and the industry for their hard work, determination and dedication in delivering an important and impressive work schedule during a difficult time,” he said.

Despite the limitations set by the pandemic, SFI-supported researchers produced 5,888 publications in 2020.

Inclusiveness and involvement

“In 2020, SFI supported 1,966 postgraduate students and its researchers provided over 2,000 virtual education and public engagement activities, ensuring that access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) remained fair and inclusive,” he said. Harris added.

SFI wants to continue working to make science more inclusive, diverse and innovative.

His Borders program for the future received government funding of € 52 million last year and encouraged applications from more emerging researchers and women. Areas covered by the funded researchers include spinal cord injury, new materials, species biodiversity in food production, computer graphics and information security, and 45% of the grants went to female researchers.

Last year, 41pc of the 179 students who started their PhDs under the SFI Centers for Research Training programs in the areas of ICT data and skills for the future were women.

Collaborative future

Professor Peter Clinch, President of SFI, attributed the organization’s success in 2020 to “strongly collaborative partnerships” developed with researchers, higher education institutions, industry and government.

“SFI funding has supported nearly 3,000 industry collaborations, helping to fulfill Ireland’s ambition to be a global innovation leader and place for research investment,” he said.

“SFI’s ambitious new strategy, Shaping Our Future 2020-2025, launched earlier this year, shows how SFI will deliver the impact of today’s research as it prepares for tomorrow’s challenges. Strong and continuous investment in research will play a key role in determining the future success and prosperity of Ireland and its people. “

Earlier this year, it was announced that five SFI research centers will be supported over the next six years with a investment of € 193m. This commitment is supported by 200 industrial partners who will contribute an additional 91 million euros.

A further € 8.5 million was invested in three awards under the SFI Strategic Partnership Program, which supports academic researchers in building strategic partnerships. As part of the program, significant co-funding is matched to a company, funding agency, charity, philanthropic organization or higher education institution or a combination of these.

The Public Service Scholarship Program it also made 12 prizes representing an investment of € 699,000. This funding will contribute to the government’s goal of fostering a culture of innovation through collaboration, knowledge exchange and the development of evidence-based and data-driven projects for state agencies.

Six awards were awarded as part of a joint funding collaboration between the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and SFI’s Joint Funding Research Program. A total investment of € 2.1 million was awarded to support research on environmental sensors, quantum technologies, augmented and virtual reality, energy system and cryptocurrencies, energy system decarbonisation, materials science and more.

Sustainable future

Professor Mark Ferguson, SFI’s outgoing CEO, said that despite the many challenges faced throughout 2020, the SFI research community came together to “deliver exceptional, cutting-edge science with a real-world impact. , often quickly “.

“We have successfully competed at the highest level in Europe, with € 106 million won by the EU and 10 prestigious European Research Council awards won by SFI researchers, with Ireland for the first time winning more competitive funding than the its contribution to the Horizon 2020 budget, “he added.

Ferguson also highlighted the organization’s sustainability strategy and its goal of supporting Irish research in a greener future. “Looking ahead, SFI’s new five-year strategy, Shaping Our Future, is charting a path to Ireland becoming a leader in green, sustainable, deep tech innovation, ensuring we have the skills and talent to deliver the solutions. to meet the needs of tomorrow, “he said.

Last year’s SFI annual report stated that the organization had seen a fivefold return on his research investment to the Irish economy in 2019.

Today’s report marks Ferguson’s latest as the leader of SFI. NPHET Professor Philip Nolan wants replace Ferguson as general manager early 2022.

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