Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Taoiseach launches four new world-class Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres

07 September 2017

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD together with the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, TD, and the Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, TD, today announced four new world-class Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres, including the RCSI-led FutureNeuro centre.

The new SFI Research Centres represent an investment of €74 million from the Government over the next six years, with a further investment of €40m from industry. The investment will support cutting-edge basic and applied research with strong industry engagement, driving economic benefits and positive societal impact.

FutureNeuro is focused on addressing the socio-economic burden caused by chronic and rare neurological diseases. In an internationally unique manner, FutureNeuro links innovative neurotherapeutics development with genomic and biomarker-based patient stratification, a national eHealth infrastructure and a nationwide clinical network. Building initially on world-leading pre-clinical and clinical research into epilepsy and motor neurone disease, the FutureNeuro Centre is a scalable platform that will expand quickly to focus on other chronic and rare neurological diseases. FutureNeuro is relevant to the 700,000 people living with a neurological condition in Ireland, with an associated health and societal cost greater than €3 billion each year. It will strengthen Ireland’s ability to attract foreign direct investment from companies active in the multi-trillion euro global market for diagnostics, treatments and medtech for neurological diseases, and facilitate indigenous companies seeking to access this market.

Speaking at the launch of the four new SFI Research Centres, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, said: “Investing in leading-edge scientific and technological research is good for our economy and helps us to discover new innovations which can improve our quality of life. Our SFI Research Centres represent a virtuous triangle between government, industry and higher education, and show just what can be achieved when there is a shared vision about reaching your ambitions. These four new SFI Research Centres will be centres of activity where Irish and international researchers are trained and collaboration with private companies is facilitated to deliver new ideas and innovation. This in turn helps to create high-value jobs and drives economic growth and regional development. The SFI Research Centres show the value of investing in today, so we can imagine the world of the future."

Director of Research and Innovation at RCSI, Professor Ray Stallings, welcomed the announcement saying: “Today’s announcement of the RCSI-led FutureNeuro Centre as part of the SFI Research Centres programme is testament to the high-quality, impactful and innovative research taking place at RCSI. FutureNeuro represents a phenomenal achievement for Prof. David Henshall to lead this centre, along with RCSI co-applicants Prof. Gianpiero Cavalleri, Prof. Jochen Prehn and all of our academic, hospital and industry partners. By bringing expertise from this wide range of collaborating partners, the FutureNeuro Centre will have strong capabilities to carry out research that will ultimately lead to new and innovative treatments for a range of neurological diseases, transforming lives in Ireland and globally.”

Commenting at the announcement, Prof. David Henshall, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience in the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics at RCSI and Director of the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre said: “FutureNeuro brings together an exceptional team of scientists, clinicians and other experts to address the urgent needs of patients with chronic and rare neurological diseases such as epilepsy and motor neurone disease. In a globally unique way, the Centre will undertake cutting-edge research on diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders that leverages the emerging electronic healthcare infrastructure in Ireland. With our industry partners and hospital network, we can more quickly translate research into effective diagnostic supports, treatments and monitoring systems that will benefit the lives of patients living with these debilitating and often devastating conditions that impact more than 700,000 people in Ireland.”

David Henshall

Prof. David Henshall, Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience, Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, RCSI 

The four SFI Research Centres will engage in over 80 collaborations with industry partners, both indigenous and foreign, large and small.

Welcoming the announcement, An Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, TD, said: “The establishment of these new SFI Research Centres is a key action in the Government’s strategy for research and development, Innovation 2020. Today’s announcement of a co-investment by Government and industry of €114m will ensure that Ireland is adding important additional capacity through world-class centres of research excellence and scale. I believe these SFI Research Centres will be transformative for Irish scientific research and for companies in many sectors. These centres ensure that Ireland will be well placed to develop solutions to the challenges we face through advanced research and new technologies - delivering jobs, commercial opportunities, and societal benefit.”

Also speaking at the launch of the Centres, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, TD, said: “These SFI Research Centres are of critical importance to Ireland’s economy, as we need to be at the competitive edge of innovation to retain, attract and build new investment. Like previous investments by Science Foundation Ireland, the selection process for these new Research Centres was a highly competitive and rigorous international peer review process, involving leading industry and academic experts. I believe that all SFI Research Centres will deliver strategic benefits for Ireland in the years to come in terms of education and training, job creation, advancing key sectors and important scientific discoveries.”

Prof. Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland said: “In 2016, Ireland achieved for the first time a world ranking of 10th for the overall quality of its scientific research, an increase of 26 places in only 13 years. SFI Research Centres are making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, training students with critical, in-demand skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation. These new SFI Research Centres will continue this upward trajectory by attracting leading Irish and international researchers, winning competitive international funding, and establishing sustained fruitful partnerships with industry. For young researchers, like students undertaking PhDs or those progressing to post-doctoral research, these centres will provide opportunities for them to develop in strategic areas of scientific research, while also providing unparalleled training in entrepreneurship and science communication.”

The four new SFI Research Centres involve strong collaborative partnerships between research bodies in Ireland including Athlone Institute of Technology, Beaumont Hospital, Cork Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, Mater Hospital, Maynooth University, NUI Galway, RCSI, Teagasc, Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Trinity College Dublin, Tyndall National Institute (UCC), University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Limerick Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology.

Three further SFI Research Centres announced today will address the following:

 

  • CONFIRM (University of Limerick-led) aims to transform Ireland’s manufacturing industry to become a world-leader in smart manufacturing.
  • BEACON - Bioeconomy Research Centre (UCD-led) - will addresses multiple scientific, technological and social challenges to realise the vision for Ireland with bioeconomy being a key driver to stimulate rural and agricultural redevelopment.
  • I-FORM Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (UCD-led) will enhance processing efficiency for Irish manufacturing, allowing the production of highly customised 3-D printed components exhibiting superior performance.