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SFI annual report and census released

Irish science has developed a stronger international edge, according to figures published in the Science Foundation Ireland 2010 annual report and in an accompanying census.

Researchers here are increasingly looking abroad both for funding but also for collaborators, the figures show.

The junior minister for research, Sean Sherlock, launched the documents on 8 September. He congratulated SFI for its achievements and welcomed the rise in the number of foreign and indigenous collaborations, saying it was in keeping with the government’s agenda “to facilitate greater commercialisation of research”.

The internationalisation of Irish research is apparent in several ways, according to SFI’s director of policy and communications, Graham Love.

He said there had been an exceptional jump in the amount of research funding being sought and won by academics pursuing non-local sources.

The drawdown from the EU’s Framework 7 research budget rose 63 per cent year on year to more than €62 million, Love said: “The economy in general has dropped but the science community has moved to external sources of funding.”

This demonstrated a greater confidence in being able to bid for and win support in a highly competitive international setting, he said. Irish researchers often now took lead roles in the conduct of collaborative, EU-funded research projects.

Irish scientists were involved in 1,700 international collaborations, with partners based in 58 countries, the report said. Collaborative research with multinational firms was also on the rise with 237 firms working with SFI-funded researchers, a 30 per cent rise on 2009.

The number of Irish research papers reaching the journals climbed to just under 5,000, a 22 per cent increase over 2009, Love said. Overall, Ireland ranked 20th in the world in the citations-based research listings published by Thomson Reuters.

“There has also been a nice increase in international co-authorships, international papers that have Irish and foreign authors,” Love added. More than one in three published research papers involving Irish-based scientists also had an international partner.

The foundation viewed indigenous company involvement as particularly important, he said. The figures showed that collaborative ventures involving Irish companies and third-level research academics rose by 44 per cent with 380 collaborations in 2009 rising to 534 in 2010.

“There has been a major growth on the SME [small to medium enterprise] indigenous side,” said Love. “I think the indigenous engine is beginning to rev up.”

This had supported an increase in the commercialisation of research with more discoveries being moved to market.

“The main thing is we are starting to see outputs that mean something to Irish companies,” said Love.