€300million investment largest ever state/industry co-funded research project in Ireland

Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Sean Sherlock, TD, Minister for Research and Innovation today (Monday) announced a landmark investment by the Government in scientific research which is closely aligned to industry and enterprise needs, job opportunities and societal goals.

€200 million of Irish exchequer funding will be invested in seven world class research centres of scale. The new funding will be delivered through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Research Centres Programme coupled with over €100 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industry partners, making it the largest ever combined state/industry co-funding announcement of its kind in the research field in Ireland. The funding will be provided over the next six years with a mid-term review.

Thus far 156 industry partners are connected to the centres, spanning multinationals and SMEs, including Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Medtronic, GSK, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, BT, Kerry Group, The Irish Times, ESB, Alere, Intune Networks, Intel, IBM, Roche, UTRC Ireland and many more.

Today’s announcement marks the delivery of a key commitment in Action Plan 2013.

Among the research activities funded are:

  • “Big Data”, a sector currently growing at up to 40% per annum
  • Advanced food research based around microbes which live in the gut
  • World-leading research to take advantage of Ireland’s natural advantages in marine energies
  • Research to develop screening and diagnostic tests for perinatal and neonatal conditions

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said, “A key part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to build on the major achievements in scientific research we have built up over the past decade and turn more good ideas into good jobs. Today’s announcement will lead to the establishment in Ireland of world-class centres of research excellence and scale which will be game-changers for Irish scientific research.”

“The €300million investment announced today, and the seven new, large-scale, world-class research centres it will support, are aimed at achieving a step-change in the reputation and performance of Ireland’s research system. This will support more than 800 talented scientists, develop cutting-edge research and new technologies, attract dynamic partnerships with industry and ultimately help to create the jobs we need.”

Speaking at the announcement the Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock TD said, “This is a landmark moment in the evolution of Ireland’s research system which will deliver major economic and societal benefits for Ireland in the years to come. Today’s unprecedented funding announcement will help deliver the quality jobs of the future for Ireland in a range of areas such as information and communications technology; internet based services; pharmaceuticals; medical technologies and energy amongst other things.”

Minister Sherlock added, “The sheer scale of the industry involvement with a commitment so far of over €100m also indicates a major endorsement of Ireland’s research capability. Industry globally clearly recognizes that this is a really good country in which to conduct their business. Today also delivers another milestone for this Government’s Research Prioritisation objectives, with SFI leading the way.  Importantly, these centres will also strongly position Irish based scientists with EU research programmes, and should enable us to win further significant investments to these shores in the coming years. “

The seven research centres mark a new collaborative approach and bring together multidisciplinary teams comprising 800 scientists from across Ireland’s leading higher education and research institutions and interacting with 156 industry partners. The centres will be in the following areas:

  1. Big Data – with the explosion of internet based information through this centre we will see the development of breakthrough data analytics technologies to make Ireland a global leader in this rapidly expanding area;
  2. Marine renewable energy – Ireland is one of the best locations in the world in terms of marine renewable energy resources. This centre will look to generate energy technologies for industry from wave, tidal and floating wind devices.
  3. Nanotechnology/engineered materials – will deliver world-leading research across a number of key enterprise sectors, most notably ICT, industrial technology and medical devices and delivery systems. Ireland is currently ranked 6th globally in nanotechnology and 8th in materials science.
  4. Food for health/functional foods; the centre will address important issues such as disease prevention, healthy ageing and improved population health in general. Ireland is currently ranked 2nd in the world in probiotics research.
  5. Photonics – which is the generation, manipulation and utilization of light, is an important enabling technology that underpins many areas such as future networks, communications systems and medical devices.
  6. Perinatal Translational Research – which will focus on fast-tracking discoveries relating to most complications of pregnancy and newborn babies and service a huge societal and economic need globally.
  7. Drug synthesis/crystallization – this centre will develop new mechanisms and better control processes to produce new and improved drug formulations and safe medicines. This centre is of major importance to Ireland’s pharmaceutical sector, a sector which generated over €56 billion in exports in 2012.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI, said, “These seven funded research centres were selected from 35 proposals following a highly competitive and rigorous international peer review process. This 20% success rate is comparable to international funding success rates. Each centre proposal was examined for scientific excellence through international scientific review by eminent scientists from the world’s leading universities and for potential economic impact through an international impact review by distinguished industrial R&D leaders, high technology investors, translational institute directors and tech transfer directors from world leading universities. Over 100 esteemed international reviewers have joined with Industry and agency experts to ensure that the centres supported have excellent science with the potential to deliver societal and economic impact. ”

“Each centre will become a hub for platform research areas of national importance, for example, data analytics or renewable energy with an overall operations capability. This model enables the centres to add new industry and academic partners in ‘spokes’ or linked research streams to ensure that funding is used in a collaborative and consolidated way. This ‘hub and spoke’ model will allow every centre to maximize the potential of the platform research provide flexibility and scalability by allowing new and existing multi-national companies, SMEs and academic groups to partner in research projects and potentially create new research breakthroughs.”

The seven centres involve a collaborative partnership across research institutions in Ireland with participation from University College Cork, University College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute (UCC), Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, NUI Galway, Dublin City University, Cork Institute of Technology, Teagasc, the Marine Institute, Geological Survey Ireland, Royal College of Surgeons and CSO Cork amongst others.