1 March 2021

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD have launched Science Foundation Ireland’s new five year strategy.

 Shaping Our Future sets out ambitious actions and targets to deliver reform today and protect us for the challenges of the future.

 Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said:

New ideas and innovations continue to bring about major transformation of our society and economy, and that is why a focus on this area is of critical importance to this Government. We are deeply committed to the development of research in Ireland. This has been evident through the establishment of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, and the focus on research in the Programme for Government. 

 We have seen the incredible contribution of the sector during the pandemic and I believe our research sector is positioned to positively inform how we respond to the challenges we are facing today as a nation and to ensure we can grasp the opportunities to improve our society for the better. I very much welcome the new strategic focus of delivering today, preparing for tomorrow.

 Speaking today, Minister Harris said:

With the world still struggling with COVID-19, the future is uncertain in relation to how we predict, manage, and prevent future global health crises.

The Irish research community were key to Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to grow this capacity further, both to live with the virus and to better prepare for potential future pandemics and other threats such as climate change.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change are critical issues for mankind and Ireland can become a leader in developing climate action solutions.  This strategy aims to offer support for today and plan for tomorrow.

In Budget 2021 additional funding was allocated to support SFI to allow for the implementation of the strategy.  The increase of €10.8 million in  capital allocation for 2021 allows for a new joint SFI and IRC programme for early career researchers, allows for the support of more frontiers awards, and potentially an increase in All Island research collaboration.

 Launching the new strategy, Professor Peter Clinch, Chairman Science Foundation Ireland said:

I am delighted to introduce Science Foundation Ireland’s new strategy Shaping Our Future today.  This strategy is an ambitious one.  Investment in research is a key determinant of the long-term success and prosperity of Ireland and its people.  Our vision is that Ireland will be a global innovation leader in scientific and engineering research for the advancement of Ireland’s economy and society.  By ‘Delivering Today while Preparing for Tomorrow’, SFI’s new strategy is designed to meet current challenges and to position Ireland to take advantage of future opportunities.

Speaking at the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said:

From the mechanisation of agriculture to the invention of television, from vaccines to the internet, from mobile phones to electric cars, the positive contribution that science, research, and innovation makes to people’s lives globally is unquestionable. Discovery, invention and innovation fuel great progress.

Under our previous strategy, SFI focused on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Irish RD&I system.  This was successful with Eurostat citing Ireland as the most R&D efficient country in Europe, generating more innovation output per euro of public funds invested than any other country.  But there are limits to efficiency gains and the system now needs, and is prepared for, increased investment (within the context of the NDP review) SFI looks forward to working in collaboration with the new Department and research system to implement Shaping Our Future.

Minister of State Anne Rabbitte welcomed the announcement:

Meaningful investment in Discovery, invention and innovation will ensure Ireland positions itself as an important player during the pandemic and in the aftermath.