ERCIM News No.43 - October 2000 [contents]

Irish Government invests over EUR 635 Million in Basic Research

Science Foundation Ireland, the National Foundation for Excellence in Scientific Research, was launched by the Irish Government to establish Ireland as a centre of research excellence in strategic areas relevant to economic development, particularly Biotechnology and Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). The foundation has over E635 million at its disposal.

The Technology Foresight Reports published in 1999 had recommended that the Government establish a major fund to develop Ireland as a centre for world class research excellence in strategic niches of Biotechnology and ICT. As part of its response, the Government approved a Technology Foresight Fund of over E635 million for investment in research in the years 2000-2006. Of this fund, E63 million has been allocated to set up a new research and development institute located in Dublin in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The new institute will be known as Media Lab Europe and will specialise in multimedia, digital content and internet technologies.

This Fund is part of a E2.5 billion initiative on R&D that the Irish Government has earmarked for Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) activities in the National Development Plan 2000-2006. Science Foundation Ireland is responsible for the management, allocation, disbursement and evaluation of expenditure of the Technology Foresight Fund. The Foundation will be set up initially as a sub-Board of Forfás, the National Policy and Advisory Board for Enterprise, Trade, Science, Technology and Innovation.

Speaking at the launch of the first call for Proposals to the Foundation on the 27th of July, 2000, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mary Harney, said that the Irish Government was keen to establish Ireland as a centre of research excellence in ICT and Biotechnology. “We wish to attract the best scientific brains available in the international research community, particularly in the areas of Biotechnology and ICT, to develop their research in Ireland. The large amount of funding being made available demonstrates the Irish government’s commitment to this vitally important project.”

Advisory Panels with international experts in Biotechnology and Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) have been set up to advise on the overall strategy of Science Foundation Ireland, including Dr. Gerard van Oortmerssen, chairman of ERCIM, who comments: “The decision by the Irish Government to make a major strategic investment in fundamental research in ICT shows vision and courage and is an example for other European countries. It is fortunate that Ireland recently joined ERCIM. We are looking forward to co-operating with a strong research community in Ireland.”

The aim of the first call of the proposals is to identify and fund, at a level of up to E1.3 million per year, a small number of outstanding researchers and their teams who will carry out their work in public research organisations in Ireland. Applications are invited not only from Irish scientists at home and abroad but also from the global research community. Selection will be by an international peer review system. The funding awards will cover the cost of research teams, possibly up to 12 people, over a three to five year period. The SFI Principal Investigator and his/her team will function within a research body in Ireland; either in an Irish University, Institute of Technology or public research organisation. International co-operation will be encouraged.

This initiative will be observed with interest by other European countries, and investment decisions made now will have far-reaching effects for future research in Ireland.

Science Foundation Ireland:
Media Lab Europe:

Please contact:
Josephine Lynch - Science Foundation Ireland
Tel: +353 1 6073 200