SFI invests in academic researchers who are most likely to generate new knowledge

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Nov 26 2012, 06:18am hrs
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is a statutory body in the Republic of Ireland with responsibility for disbursing funds for basic science research. SFI invests in academic researchers and research teams who are most likely to generate new knowledge, leading edge technologies and competitive enterprises in the fields of science and engineering underpinning three broad areas of biotechnology; information and communications technology; and sustainable energy and energy-efficient technologies. Dr Ruth Freeman, director, programmes, enterprise and international affairs, SFI, who is in India currently as part of the first-ever ministerial-led Irish higher education mission, in an interaction with FEs Vikram Chaudhary, shares how SFI invests in academic researchers who are most likely to generate new knowledge and competitive enterprises in the fields of science and engineering. Excerpts:

How did SFI come into being

SFI is a statutory body established in 2003, under the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Act, 2003. In 1998, the Irish government commissioned economic research across a broad spectrum of subjects with a view as to how these areas could be developed in the long term. Through this research the government established that both biotechnology and ICT represented the engines of future growth in the global economy and that research within specific facets of these disciplines would be an essential foundation for future growth. Following this, the government set up SFI.

Who funds SFI

SFI is the Irish governments science agency, funded through the department of jobs, enterprise and innovation. It is funded by the Irish government.

What kind of activities is SFI involved in

SFI has just published its new strategyAgenda 2020. It has four primary objectives: (1) To be the best science funding agency in the world at creating impact from excellent research and demonstrating clear value for money invested; (2) to be the exemplar in building partnerships that fund excellent science and drive it out into the market; (3) to have the most engaged and scientifically informed public; and (4) to represent the ideal modern public service organisation, staffed in a lean and flexible manner, with efficient and effective management. SFI invests in academic researchers who are most likely to generate new knowledge, cutting-edge technologies and competitive enterprises in the fields of science and engineering. SFI also advances cooperative efforts among education, government and industry that support its fields of emphasis and promotes Irelands reputation for science and engineering research.

What kind of SFI funding is available to Indian researchers/students

SFI provides awards for researchers from all around the world who wish to relocate to Ireland and those already based in Ireland. There are opportunities for students to study and take up research positions in these SFI-funded teams. SFI also provides funding to Irish institutions to support exchanges and fellowship with Indian students and researchers. Indian students wishing to avail of these opportunities should contact the Irish institution they would like to visit.

What SFI mechanisms exist for international collaboration, especially India

Internationally, SFI seeks to build collaborative partnerships between SFI researchers and international researchers. SFI research groups now collaborate with over 68 countries, including India. All SFI project funding can include specific support for collaborations with Indian researchers.

In addition, in 2012, SFI launched a specific programme to support Irish institutions to build meaningful collaborations with their Indian counterparts. This scheme is called the International Strategic Cooperation Award and the results of the first call will be released before the end of the year. Awards size will be in the region of 500,000 euros over a 12-month period.

What kind of partnership you look forward to in India

In March 2011, SFI intensified its collaboration with India by co-hosting a series of symposia in Bangalore with the Indian Institute of Science and National Centre for Biological Sciences. The symposia covered specialised areas under three themesinformation security, neuroscience and plant biology. The symposia also featured formal presentations by SFI-funded researchers. SFI and Irish higher education and research institutes are looking forward to seeking out and establishing further collaborations with India and the Indian research community.

Are you also looking forward to tie-ups with Indian institutes/universities

SFIs role is to support the Irish research institutes to develop links with their Indian counterparts. SFI does this by providing financial support to researchers and institutions. Funding is provided to Irish institutions so they can provide fellowships and studentships to enable Indian researchers to come to Ireland.