Science Foundation Ireland and the American Chamber of Commerce host thought leaders to develop new challenge-based funding programme

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Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland is pictured with leading author and advisor on innovation and creativity, Charles Leadbeater, and Mark Gantly, Senior R&D Director, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and American Chamber of Commerce Vice President at the Challenge-based funding ‘Think In’ at Croke Park today.

Croke Park May 24th - Science Foundation Ireland, in partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, is today hosting a 'Think-In' in Croke Park to bring together a group of senior opinion leaders from industry and public-sector organisations to develop a new challenge-based funding programme. The aim is to identify visionary, inspirational and achievable challenges significant to Ireland suitable for funding proposals.

A key objective of the new National Development Plan is to target disruptive technologies and innovation. Challenge-based funding is a highly successful form of incentivised research, development and innovation aimed at addressing important societal and economic issues. Central to its success is the input and collaboration of multiple, divergent stakeholder groups from regulators to academics, industry leaders, and the general public. Capturing their contribution early on will allow for the development of more rounded impactful challenges that will have a measurable benefit to Irish society.

Speaking at the Think-In today, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson said: “Challenge-based funding is an initiative Science Foundation Ireland has been pursuing for some time. This 'defined challenge' form of funding will sit complimentary to the Foundation’s conventional funding programmes and we are aiming to begin reviewing proposals as soon as possible this year. This form of funding is highly inclusive and will involve participants from industry, academia, the public sector, regulation, and innovation. History has shown us that solutions to grand challenges often arise outside of the mainstream: we hope to bring some of the more non-traditional, yet highly innovative, voices into the research milieu."

A report published by the American Chamber last year into ways of increasing innovative spend in Ireland, through challenge funding, made them natural partners in this initial challenge development process. The report, “Establishing a Grand Innovation Challenge Process for Ireland” also highlighted Ireland’s innovation investment levels as trailing those of other leading innovative nations, making engagement in public-private partnerships a pivotal model for driving the country’s innovation-led economy.

Mark Gantly, Senior R&D Director, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and American Chamber of Commerce Vice President commented: “The American Chamber of Commerce is delighted to be partnering with Science Foundation Ireland on this exciting new funding programme. Ireland is uniquely placed to capitalise on the true value of challenge based funding. The ability to bring together so many thought leaders from various backgrounds and the well-established collaborative nature of the Irish research community allows for greater opportunities in solving economic and societal challenges on a country-wide scale. The government has committed to delivering change through the new €500 million disruptive innovation fund, and it is important that industry likewise responds.”

The think-in today aims to identify a number of challenges from a variety of themes, aligning to the government's national research prioritisation areas, that are critical to Ireland and the Irish people.