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Researchers invited to apply for industry fellowship

The Science Foundation Ireland programme grants funding to work in the field for up to two years

A call for applications for funding under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Industry Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) Fellowship Programme is expected to open shortly. The programme supports academic researchers to work on research projects with companies for a period of up to two years. The main objectives are to enhance the skills and breadth of training of researchers and to support industry research, development and innovation.

“SFI is the national funder for research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Dr Aisling McEvoy, head of enterprise partnerships with SFI. “Partnerships are core to what we do. It’s about bringing innovative ideas to life and contributing to the country’s economic success. The RD&I Fellowship is probably our most accessible programme. It’s very impactful.”

The programme helps to embed expertise in companies by bringing academia and industry together. “The academic researchers and work with companies to propose possible ideas for projects,” she explains. “They co-create the project and develop a framework for a programme of research. The research fellow submits the proposal to us after that. All proposals are subject to international peer review to obtain validation of the quality of the projects and partnerships.”

To be eligible to participate in the programme, researchers will have completed a PhD and be either a postdoctoral researcher or a lecturer with a tenured position in a third level institution. There are no real restrictions on companies. “All shapes and sizes of company participate, from spinouts to SMEs to large multinationals,” says McEvoy.


“If a project is approved for funding support the researcher works in the company for 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time. SFI provides funding of up to €100,000 to cover the researcher’s salary and some travel costs,” she adds. “The company covers the in-house costs associated with hosting the fellow. It’s a co-funding arrangement that provides very good value for money for the companies involved.”

The researchers benefit as well. “Researchers who have completed a body of work for their PhD get to understand how industry works,” says McEvoy. “That’s really beneficial. We have had fellows who have used it to explore what a career in industry is like. The get to develop an understanding of business drivers, how business works, and to develop their networks both within the company they are working with and potentially with other companies as well. That’s a real benefit to a postdoctoral researcher who is trying to decide on the next step on their career.”

It can also be helpful for lecturers. “It helps seed future collaborations with industry,” she explains. “The lecturer can see the challenges faced by the company and that can help shape the direction of their future research.”

Benefits for industry partners vary depending on the size of company involved. “Multinational companies can use the programme to bring in expertise to help with new product development, for example. The academic researcher may have specific expertise that the company doesn’t have within its current workforce. It’s a great way to bring it in. It can be particularly impactful for SMEs. It can be a real challenge for them to invest in research capability. This offers them a way to get the expertise they need for research projects and for the innovation which is key to the success of many SMEs.”

The programme also allows companies to develop deep collaborations with the academic research base. “One example of this is the partnership between Kastus Technologies, an Irish nanotechnology company, and Trinity College Dublin where the company has established strong collaborative links with TCD through the fellowship programme.”

It also allows companies to assess potential recruits. “It is often the case that fellows go on to get a job with the company. The programme sets them up for a career in industry. That is very useful as only a limited number of researchers will end up with jobs in academia.”

To participate in the programme, researchers need to approach a potential industry partner with a proposal for a project. Initial contact can often be made through universities. “Universities increasingly have partnerships and relationships with companies,” says McEvoy. “And individual researchers may have links with companies. SFI can do signposting to help researchers find partners. We have a LinkedIn group for researchers and companies to join. Researchers can post their expertise there and companies can post examples of areas where they are interested in undertaking projects. That’s part of the role we play. Also, if companies or researchers are interested in learning more about the programme, we are very happy to set up a call with them.”