Science Foundation Ireland was established in 2003 to promote, development and assist in carrying out orientated research in strategic areas of scientific endeavour, that concerns future development and competitiveness of industry and enterprise in the State. The legislation contemplated a number of strategic areas, including information and communications technologies, biotechnology and later, sustainable energy and energy efficient technology. It contemplated that regulations would be used to designate areas supporting economic and social objectives, competitiveness and environmentally sustainable development.
SFI may award grants to researchers to develop better methodologies to assess the impact of research funding. The Act allows SFI to promote and support understanding and awareness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
SFI may provide funding to an institution based in Northern Ireland, where it is in partnership with an institution based in the State. SFI may with the consent of the Minster, participate or contribute to funding international research projects, which are relevant to strategic areas of opportunities for the State. Many such projects are undertaken under the auspices of the EU.
The Industrial Development (Science Foundation Act 2003) established Science Foundation Ireland. The functions of Science Foundation Ireland are:
- to promote, develop and assist the carrying out of oriented basic research in strategic areas of scientific endeavor that concerns the future development and competitiveness of industry and enterprise in the State;
- ensure a standard of excellence in oriented basic research as measured by peer review on an international basis;
- develop and extend the capacity to carry out oriented basic research in institutions;
- promote the attraction of research teams and individuals with an interest in research that are of world class standard with a view to their being carrying out oriented basic research in the State;
- advise the Minister allocate, monitor and evaluate grants, schemes and other financial facilities requiring disbursements of funds authorised by the minister of finance or with his agreement;
- carry out functions, concerned oriented basic research in strategic areas of scientific endeavor as may be assigned;
- collaborate and cooperate other bodies and the promotion and encouragement of oriented basic research.
Strategic areas of scientific endeavor include information and communication technology, biotechnology and such other areas, concerning economic and social benefit, long term industrial competiveness and / or environmentally sustainable development as may be prescribed.
The board consists of 12 members appointed by the Minister in consultation with other Ministers who may make nominations. The board has a director general, officers and staff. The director general is accountable to Dail committees.
The legislation changed the maximum aggregate employment granted may be made available. It provided for amendment of the terms on which research and development grants, may be granted. It provided that the agencies may consult with a range of bodies and vary the maximum research and development grants and percentage contributions allowable.
In the case of small undertakings as defined, the Minister may pay up to one third of a research grant prior to the approved cost being incurred, on condition that they are repaid it if is not carried out. Grants above certain levels may be paid, only with the consent of the Government. Overall limits were established in respect of payments to a single undertaking, which may only be exceeded with the consent of the Government.
Science Foundation Ireland was formed under the Industrial Development and Science Foundation Ireland Act 2003. Its board is appointed by the Minister for Jobs Enterprise, and Innovation, to whom it is responsible. SFI assists in academic research which is likely to generate knowledge and technologies in the fields of science and engineering and particular, in the areas of biotechnology, information and communication technology as well as a sustainable energy and energy efficient technologies.
The Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Amendment Act 2013 extends the remit of Science Foundation Ireland. It is enabled to fund, applied research in addition to its prior remit to fund, orientated basic research. Orientated basic research is an international recognised category of research, that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge likely to form the basis of the solution to recognised or expected current technical problems or possibilities. Applied research is research directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.
The 2009 made provision for enabling SFI to promote and support awareness and understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Minister transferred responsibility for the delivery of the Discover Science and Engineering program from Forfas to SFI on an administrative basis in 2012.
Science Foundation Ireland has an important role in the implementation of the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013 and the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation 2006 to 2013. Originally a budget of €8 billion was allocated for science research under the National Development Plan and the SSTI.
The Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Amendment Act 2013 extends the remit of Science Foundation Ireland. The 2013 Act confirms the overall purpose for the exercise of all SFI’s functions is to promote and assist the development of competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in the State. It is empowered to fund applied research in addition to funding more basic research.
It is enabled to fund, applied research in addition to its prior remit to fund, orientated basic research. Orientated basic research is an international recognised category of research, that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge likely to form the basis of the solution to recognised or expected current technical problems or possibilities. Applied research is research directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.
The original 2003 SFI legislation specified a relatively limited number of strategic areas of scientific endeavour. Due to the evolution of Ireland strategic priorities, the 2009 Act provides that no specific areas is to be specified in primary legislation. Instead, regulations are to designate the areas that support economic and social benefit, long-term industrial competitiveness and environmental sustainable development.
SFI provides grants to researchers and research groups based in higher education institutions on the basis of the competitive cost of proposals and international peer review.
The function of promoting, developing and assisting the carrying out of applied research is specified as a function of SFI. This is in additional to its existing functions of promoting, developing and assisting the carrying out of oriented basic research. The Minister may prescribe strategic areas of opportunity relating to science and technology, to be promoted, developed and assisted by SFI. The Minister may specify priority areas on the basis of an assessment of Ireland’s potential in accordance with the recommendations of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group.
The Act specifies an overall purpose for the exercise of SFI’s function. This is the promotion and assistance of the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in the State. “Employment” is included as an additional objective.
SFI may award grants to researchers to develop methodologies to assess the impact of research funding. SFI is enabled to promote and support the awareness and understanding of sciences, technology, engineering and maths.
SFI foundation may provide funding to institutions based in Northern Ireland where it is in partnership with institutions based in the State.
SFI, with the consent of the Minister may participate in and contribute funding to international research projects which relates to strategic areas of opportunity for the State.
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