Government announces €29.6m investment in frontier research

Gerry O'Sullivan

Posted: 22 March, 2018

Thirty-six researchers will receive funding under the Irish Research Council’s new Laureate Awards to conduct ground-breaking research in the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, and the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Projects to be funded under the inaugural Laureate Awards range from research into age-related vision loss to sustainable food production.  The details were announced in Dublin by Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education and Skills, and John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation and Research and Development as part of a €29.6 million investment by the Irish Research Council in ‘frontier research’ projects.

Minister Bruton said: “Frontier basic research is very much at the cutting edge of new knowledge.  It is research that is daring, that pushes boundaries, and that moves beyond the frontiers of our current understanding.

“Innovation 2020, Ireland’s five-year strategy for science and technology, research and development, identified a significant gap in the Irish research and innovation landscape in the area of frontier basic research. The Laureate Awards scheme was designed specifically to address this gap, and the Irish Research Council has, through the programme, identified a wealth of clearly talented researchers with brilliant ideas. Investing in cutting-edge, world-class research will strengthen our knowledge base and enhance Ireland’s international reputation, taking us further along our journey to becoming the best education and training service in Europe by 2026”

Minister Halligan added: “Frontier research is key to understanding the world around us and developing the bedrock of knowledge necessary for social, technological and environmental progress. We would not have devices like mobile phones, or indeed the internet, without frontier basic research.  Innovation 2020 targets Ireland to become an Innovation Leader, and the investment being announced today by the Department is a very positive step on the way to achieving this.”

Funding for Laureate Awards

Two streams of funding are being announced:

  1. ‘Starting’ Laureate Awards, which are aimed at supporting excellent early-career researchers to establish their own independent research programme. Eighteen awards – totalling €7 million
  1. ‘Consolidator’ Laureate Awards, which provide funding for excellent mid-career researchers with an established track record to progress to the next level. €10.6 million in funding was announced for the Consolidator Laureate Awards, to fund a further eighteen new Laureates.

In addition to the investment in the first round of awards, the Department of Education and Skills also announced a further investment of €12 million for a series of Advanced Grants under the Laureate programme. Senior researchers in Ireland’s higher education and research institutions will have the opportunity to compete for an Advanced Laureate grant with a value of up to €1 million over four years. The Advanced Grant call will be opened by the Irish Research Council in the coming weeks.

Welcoming the announcements, Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “Supporting research that pushes out the frontiers of knowledge is a key priority of the Irish Research Council. With the establishment of the Laureate Awards we are taking steps to ensure that exceptional individual researchers are supported to achieve world-class standing in their respective areas of expertise.

“The independent international panels that assessed applications for the Laureate Awards were extremely impressed with the quality of individual researchers in the Irish research system. With continued investment in frontier research across all disciplines, Ireland will reap benefits for the long-term and will leverage greater success in European research programmes, in particular the European Research Council.

Researchers who will be funded by these Laureate Awards include:

  • Dr. Sarah Doyle, based at Trinity College Dublin, whose research is focused on age-related vision loss;
  • Dr. Larisa Florea, based at Dublin City University, who will develop micro-vehicles to navigate through the human body to recognise, diagnose and treat a variety of diseases;
  • Dr. Jacopo Bisagni, based at National University of Ireland, Galway, who is researching how intellectual exchanges between Ireland, Brittany and Francia during the Carolingian age (c. AD 750-1000) laid the foundations of Europe as we know it; and
  • Dr. Dawn Walsh, based at University College Dublin, whose research will explore the role played by independent commissions in peace processes.

Further information about the Laureate Awards is available at


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