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Foundation announces research funding worth €60m

Science Foundation Ireland has announced its latest research grants, with 85 projects sharing a combined €60 million.

Details of the awards were released on 25 January by jobs minister Richard Bruton and the junior minister for research, Sean Sherlock. The funds come from the foundation’s Investigator Programme.

The funding will directly support the work of 250 researchers, with financial supports ranging from three to five years. Awards vary in value from about €200,000 up to the highest award of €2.7m.

The foundation received 419 applications for funding so the success rate was about 20 per cent.

There were 33 large awards and 52 smaller awards. The large awards had an average value of €1.4m and accounted for €46.4m while the smaller awards had an average value of €270,000 and received a combined €14.4m.

A wide range of subjects received backing, but all ultimately match up with 14 priority research areas agreed by government after a research prioritisation exercise published last year.

The largest award was in support of applied mathematics research at the University of Limerick. Other areas receiving support include inflammatory diseases, hepatitis C, tissue engineering, information and communications technology, genetics and disease susceptibility.

The projects are selected by a group of international peers based outside Ireland, said Mark Ferguson, head of the foundation. They represent a balance between basic and near to market research and a wide range of research disciplines, he said.

However, the Irish Federation of University Teachers expressed concern that the balance may have shifted in favour of applied research. The government needed to maintain a longer-term view, said the federation’s Mike Jennings.

The Irish Research Staff Association expressed satisfaction with the selection and the fact that so many researchers would be supported under this funding round.

The government has emphasised the need to support research with the potential to create spin out companies and jobs. It was a central part of its growth plan to ensure that research was “better targeted at turning the good ideas of researchers into good products and good jobs”, Bruton said when announcing the funding.

The benefits of Ireland’s heavy investment in research over the past decade were “clearly visible”, Sherlock said. It was therefore “heartening” that many projects would be pursued in collaboration with industry partners.