Investment of €104m in four Science Foundation Ireland centres to be announced

Money will fund 600-plus research roles in bioeconomy, agrifood, neurological disease and advanced manufacturing

A €104 million investment in Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centres, specialising in bioeconomy, agrifood, neurological disease and advanced manufacturing is to be announced on Tuesday. The funding will create more than 600 research positions.

BiOrbic Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre in UCD; FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre for Neurological Diseases hosted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; I-Form SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing in UCD; and VistaMilk SFI Research Centre based at Teagasc’s facility in Moorepark, Co Cork, will benefit from the funding.

The funding will be announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Patrick O’Donovan and Minister for Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue. An additional €21 million has been committed by the centres’ industry partners.

Speaking in advance, Mr O’Donovan said: “The bioeconomy, agrifood, neurological disease and manufacturing are each critically important to how we function as individuals and how we develop our economy. While significant scientific advances have been made in these areas by Ireland’s research ecosystem, we need to remain vigilant in addressing challenges old and new, and turning these opportunities into real-world impacts.”


The investment was a result of close collaboration between individual researchers, research teams, research institutions, industry and government departments, he said.

Mr McConalogue said supporting VistaMilk SFI Research Centre would drive development and deployment of digital technology to improve the sustainability and competitiveness of Irish dairy production and processing. This “will help to secure a sustainable food system that delivers safe and nutritious dairy products, positively impacts the environment and safeguards viable livelihoods for primary producers and rural communities”, he added.

SFI deputy director general Dr Ciarán Seoighe said continued investment for the SFI centres “follows a rigorous and extensive expert international peer-review process of scientific excellence and strategic impact of each centre”.

They represent a national research network of 17 host and partner institutions which has collaborated with more than 130 industry partners ranging from SMEs to multinationals, across all regions and in a variety of sectors, he said.

“Research Centres play a vital role in developing and nurturing the next generation of research leaders and innovators, and today’s funding awards will support researchers at senior researcher, postdoctoral, PhD and MSc levels.”

It emerged last week that an investigation into misconduct allegations made by senior staff against SFI director general Prof Philip Nolan found his conduct was “at the upper end of inappropriate behaviour and just below bullying”. The allegations have been denied by Prof Nolan, who is due to take over an expanded national research group, Research Ireland, an amalgamation of SFI and the Irish Research Council.

The State-funded research agency, which oversees the awarding of more than €200 million in grants, confirmed it received five protected disclosures in late December. The SFI board is due to consider the outcome of the fact-finding investigation, which concluded there had been no breaches of corporate governance and did not make any finding of misconduct.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times