Research & Innovation


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April 24
14:26 2015

Government funding will support 100 research positions working on 23 research projects involving 40 companies

Investment will support world-class research in key priority areas in Ireland

Dublin, 24 April 2015 – Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD today announced over €30 million of research funding for 23 major research projects. The funding will be delivered by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Investigators Programme. The Programme will provide funding over a four to five year period, for 23 research projects involving over 100 researchers. Funding for each project will range from €500,000 to €2.3 million.

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said, “This funding provides assistance to individual researchers to advance their investigations and address key research questions in sectors such as energy, medicine, food and nutrition, technology and agriculture. It allows researchers to further their careers and build partnerships with leading industry partners who also benefit from access to some of the leading academic talent on this island. The Investigators Programme is an important contributor to Ireland’s credentials as a research leader in a number of sectors.”

The SFI Investigators Programme supports excellent scientific research that has the potential to impact Ireland’s society and economy. The 23 projects were selected by competitive peer review involving 400 international scientists after a call for proposals across a number of thematic areas of national and international importance. The awards include research in areas such as materials science, data management, medicine and pharmaceuticals, food and nutrition, agriculture and veterinary research and have links to 40 companies.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added, “The SFI Investigators Programme provides important support to researchers in Ireland, creating employment opportunities and allowing them to leverage State funding to access additional funding streams, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme. Their research focuses on areas such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, animal breeding and disease prevention, ICT and data storage, as well as bioenergy among other topics. These are areas that will make a difference to both Ireland’s economy and society.  All of the successful projects have been peer reviewed by international experts to ensure scientific excellence and we have funded every project deemed to be of the highest standard internationally.”

Examples of projects supported:

  • Prof. Martin Steinhoff, University College Dublin – Worldwide, itch is the most frequent symptom in dermatology with a significant impact on quality-of-life for patients and their family members. Therapy-resistant itch is a major medical burden in many diseases (skin, renal, dialysis, liver, leukemias) and elderly people. A major barrier for therapeutic progress is our poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms of itch in humans. To develop new treatments against therapy-resistant itch, we will first identify in a translational setting key cytokines and chemokines in different human itch subtypes. With companies, we will then test in human studies the beneficial effects of treating itch by blocking cytokine/chemokine pathways.
  • Prof. Fiona Doohan, University College Dublin – The challenge of increasing wheat production by 70% to feed the world population in 2050 is great. We have to make a concerted international effort to increase yields, not least by controlling the diseases that reduce yield and contaminate grain with toxins. This project focuses on unravelling novel mechanisms involved in wheat response to stress and delivering knowledge and tools that can be used in plant breeding and crop biotechnology in order to improve wheat resistance to disease. Consequently, it will contribute to our understanding of plant biology, and to the development of sustainable means for enhancing food productivity.
  • Prof. Justin Holmes, University College Cork – Increasing the number of transistors on a silicon chip enables the production of faster and smaller mobile and computing devices. However, current and prospective future mobile devices based on existing technology are energy inefficient due to high power consumption and the dissipation of a large amount of heat, leading to wasteful battery usage or the requirement for elaborate cooling systems. This project will develop new nanoscale materials for “energy efficient” electronic devices. Successful implementation of the materials developed in this project could lead to smarter and “greener” electronic gadgets.
  • Prof. Noel O’Dowd and Prof. Sean Leen, University of Limerick – This aims to develop new modelling tools for Irish industry for more accurate design and assessment of materials and structures. The focus will be on welds, which are the most common location of failure in engineering components. The tools will be used to provide tailored combinations of welding and heat treatment parameters, to design material structures at the nano-, micro- and macro-scale. Specific applications are the design for optimum grain size in power-plant steels and improved designs for steel pipelines used in oil and gas offshore platforms.
  • Prof. Stefano Sanvito, Trinity College Dublin – Our society produces immense quantities of data. In 2050 a hard disk with the diameter equal to the distance between the earth and the moon will be necessary to record all the information produced by humanity. For this reason the development of new, denser and faster ways to store information is key to maintain our standard of life. This project will construct a range of designing tools for developing such next generation of recording devices. In particular it will create a simulator for fast magnetic memories and a protocol for identifying the most useful materials to fabricate such devices.
  • Dr. Donagh Berry, Teagasc – The Agri-Food industry is the largest indigenous industry in Ireland. The objective of this proposal is to achieve the Irish Government’s strategy of increased animal production through: 1) greater exploitation of more precise genetic information, 2) more precise estimation of how each genetic variant affects performance and 3) development of precision mating plans. The results will be disseminated to industry through low-cost, customised tools and resources, which are also applicable to other species and breeds.

Under the SFI Investigators Programme, 23 research projects were funded through 14 research bodies, as follows: Dublin City University (2), Dublin Institute of Technology (1), Marine Institute (1), National University of Ireland Galway (3), Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (1), Teagasc (1), Trinity College Dublin (5), University College Cork (2), University College Dublin (6) and University of Limerick (1).

About SFI Investigators Programme:

The SFI Investigators Programme alternates between thematic and open calls for proposals.  The current call was thematic and included a new partnership with the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland.Projects supported under the partnership in Northern Ireland will be announced at a later date.

Details of the thematic areas can be found at

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