13 April 2023
Programme fosters a cohesive research and innovation ecosystem that supports Ireland’s competitiveness.
The 2023 Science Foundation Ireland Industry RD&I Fellowship programme is open for proposals with two submission deadlines of June 13th and October 3rd next.
The programme supports academic researchers at faculty or postdoctoral level in Irish third-level institutions who wish to spend time in industry worldwide through temporary placements with industry partners.
Fellowships can have a duration of up to 12 months if full-time, and between two and 24 months if part-time.
SFI funding provides a contribution of up to €100,000 towards the direct costs of the fellowship with the amount varying from 25 per cent and 80 per cent of total project costs depending on the size of the industry partner and the category of research being undertaken, with the industry partner contributing the remainder of the project costs.
“It is a great programme to start collaborations between industry and academia,” says SFI head of Enterprise Partnerships Aisling McEvoy. “The aim is to support interactions between the two in order to address industry‐informed challenges.”
The programme is part of SFI’s overall aim of fostering a cohesive research and innovation ecosystem that supports Ireland’s competitiveness, she explains.
“Ireland’s societal and economic wellbeing requires excellent research and innovation to help us compete for the best global talent, international funding, and foreign direct investment. This drives job creation, the growth of small and medium enterprises and academic-industry research partnerships, to achieve our national goal to be an Innovation leader.
“SFI works in collaboration with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to develop and support the innovation ecosystem, encouraging enterprise to collaborate with researchers in our higher education institutions. The Fellowship Programme is a great vehicle for that.”
The benefits of these strategic partnerships between industry and academia include the development of new products, innovations and services, along with the creation of new companies and spinouts from universities, she needs.
“There are many benefits to industry when partnering with academia, from connecting into world-class expertise and research to progress projects, gaining access to specialised facilities and testbeds, and of course access to talent with many of the highly skilled graduates moving on to work with partner companies,” McEvoy added.
“The researchers bring their skills to bear on industry challenges in areas like new product development where companies need specific expertise which doesn’t exist in-house. This accelerates the pace of innovation.”
The researchers also benefit by gaining a working knowledge of the challenges faced by industry and an understanding of the way businesses operate.
“This helps prepare them for future careers in industry and maximises the impact of their training. Researchers speak about the amazing opportunity the fellowships provide to upskill, work on industry relevant projects, and develop networks. This is so useful as they move on in their careers.
“The fellowships can also lead to further collaborative research projects with industry which can grow to a more significant scale. They can also benefit other research projects in the university.”
The programme can be particularly beneficial for SMEs, McEvoy adds.
“SMEs need to continually innovate to remain competitive. That can be particularly challenging for smaller companies who don’t have the resources to devote to it. The SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship programme gives them access to the research expertise they need, and it can lead on to the development of long-term collaborations between the SMEs, the researchers, and the third level sector.”
The programme also helps to meet the skills development objectives of the Preparing for Tomorrow theme outlined in SFI’s Shaping Our Future strategy.
“The researcher is developing their own skills by working in an industry environment but they are also imparting their own knowledge and developing the skills of the staff within the company so there is industry-academic partnership and skills development.”
To date, SFI has awarded 237 fellowships under the current programme and its predecessor Industry Fellowship Programme.
Companies and researchers wishing to apply can join the Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme LinkedIn group set up by SFI to facilitate networking between potential partners.
“We are encouraging companies to make their interest known to the academic community, or to advertise specific research opportunities by posting on the group’s page. We are also encouraging academic researchers to engage with relevant companies.”
Companies seeking potential academic partners can also utilise the SFI researcher database and the Knowledge Transfer Ireland expert. While these databases do not include postdoctoral researcher, companies can use them to identify the appropriate team leader to contact to discuss whether there are eligible researchers in their group.
“Research offices in the academic and research institutions may also assist companies in identifying prospective academic partners,” said McEvoy.
Source: The Irish Times