An investment of €11.8 million in frontier research was announced by Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. and Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan T.D. The investment will fund 12 researchers under the Irish Research Council’s 2019 Advanced Laureate Awards Programme.

The 12 researchers receiving funding are at an advanced stage in their careers and will be supported to conduct ground-breaking, world-class research across a wide range of disciplines. Their research areas range from new approaches to breast cancer treatment, to the development of 3-D printed batteries, to digitally mapping the full range of cultural activity, across languages and ethnic groups, in early modern Ireland. Each awardee will receive a maximum of €1 million in funding, over a period of four years.

Supporting ‘blue-sky’ research

Commenting on today’s investment, Minister McHugh said: “ The Irish Research Council Advanced Laureate Programme was specifically designed to address gaps in the Irish research and innovation landscape in the area of frontier basic research, as identified in Innovation 2020, Ireland’s five-year strategy for science and technology, research and development. Minister Halligan and I are delighted to launch this round of awards and to congratulate each of the awardees.

“Funding frontier research is vital in order for us to compete with our counterparts on the global stage, and to promote Ireland as an attractive location for world-class talent, both homegrown and international, in order to bring new knowledge, skills and innovations to our research institutions.”

Minister of State Halligan also welcomed today’s announcement: “The projects that will be funded under the Advanced Laureate Programme have the potential to break new ground and enhance our understanding in a diverse range of areas. They are great examples of why it is important to fund basic research. Supporting these exceptional researchers will help to strengthen Ireland’s knowledge base and enhance our international reputation,” he said.

Exceptional standard

Also commenting, Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “The 12 researchers who will receive funding under the Advanced Laureate Awards Programme are all exceptional in their fields and have been selected following a rigorous and independent international peer-review process.

“A total of 140 applications were received under this funding call. In addition to the 12 funded awards, a further 48 proposals were deemed to be excellent and fundable by the international panels of experts. This illustrates the high quality of researchers and the calibre of proposals being generated in frontier research in Ireland. The Council is committed to establishing regular calls under the Laureate awards to ensure that leading-edge, world-class research does not go unfunded.”

The overall gender breakdown of awardees was 75% male and 25% female.

“The gendered distribution of research grants at the advanced career stage is a very real issue, both in Ireland and internationally,” said Peter Brown. “Although this outcome is similar to benchmarks such as the European Research Council Advanced Grant, no-one can be satisfied with the current imbalance. Ireland is now taking major steps to address the gender disparity in senior research and academic positions, as outlined in the Gender Equality Taskforce Action Plan. The Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor T.D., and the Department of Education and Skills have made gender equality a key policy priority moving forward.”

The Irish Research Council opened the first call under the Laureate Awards Programme in 2017, resulting in 36 awards with an associated investment of €18 million.

Further information on the Advanced Laureate Awards is available here.

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