Skip to main content
Representation in Ireland logo
Representation in Ireland

EU research and innovation in Ireland

Research and innovation (R&I) are key components in securing Ireland’s economic future and they’re at the heart of the European Commission’s policies to boost jobs, growth and investment.

Researcher at work

Research and Innovation (R&I) policy is driving the European Union’s green and digital transitions and it contributes significantly to achieving each of the European Commission’s six headline priorities for 2019-24.

European research and innovation is also at the forefront of the EU’s response to the health, social and economic challenges caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

EU support for research and innovation allows Irish researchers to be involved with, or take the lead in, projects that are making breakthrough discoveries in science, health, transport, climate change and digital technologies.


European Innovation Scoreboard 2021: Colour-coded map showing the performance of each EU Member State

The European Innovation Council (EIC) is Europe’s flagship innovation programme to identify, develop and support new technologies and game-changing innovations. About two-thirds of Europe's economic growth over the last few decades has been driven by innovation.

Ireland has transformed itself over the past 40 years into one of Europe’s top innovation nations. The country is classed as a ‘strong innovator’ Member State and was placed eleventh in the European Innovation Scoreboard for 2021, which provides an analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries, and regional neighbours.

The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has helped attract billions of euro to Ireland in foreign direct investment (FDI) from companies in hi-tech sectors like Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Pharmaceuticals, Digital Media and Social Media.

But innovation isn’t confined to big business and the EU provides funding and support to Irish start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with breakthrough innovation projects through funding sources such as EIC Accelerator.

European Innovation Council

European innovation scoreboard 2020

Questions and answers on the European Scorecard 2020

EIC funding opportunities


Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation over the 2021-27 period. It has a budget of around €95.5 billion that’s used to help tackle climate change, to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to boost the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

By the end of 2020, Ireland had received over €1.06 billion under the previous Horizon 2020 programme, with the final figure expected to reach €1.25 billion.

Horizon Europe will allow researchers, scientists and innovators to lead a more green, digital and inclusive recovery. With Ireland being a strong innovator, I am confident that its top talents will continue to participate with great success and help deliver new knowledge and solutions for a sustainable future.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Areas of success for Irish funding under Horizon 2020 include the European Research Council which secured over €135 million and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) from which Ireland was awarded more than €176 million. Irish SMEs enjoyed considerable success with funding, accounting for €280 million of the overall total.

EU support for research and innovation encourages cooperation between research teams across countries and disciplines, which is vital in making breakthrough discoveries.

This means Irish researchers can be part of, or even take the lead in, projects that can deliver on EU priority goals like smart technologies, sustainable transport or ‘green’ energy sources.

Being part of the European Research Area (ERA) is another way Ireland can contribute significantly to global research and development. The ERA was created to help Europe become the world’s leading ‘knowledge economy’ by developing a single, borderless market for research, innovation and technology across the EU.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe in Ireland

European Research Area

European Research Council

Funding for Ireland

Irish researchers with viable proposals can search for funding opportunities on the Single Electronic Data Interchange Area (SEDIA), which is the single-entry point for finding and managing EU grants and procurement contracts.

The Horizon 2020 & Horizon Europe funding streams give participants exposure to a large European network of relevant research organisations, business advisory services, investors and companies.

Christine O’Meara, Walton Institute, AgROBOfood, Horizon 2020 project
Researcher at Waterford Institute of Technology

Over 2,700 Irish organisations have been involved in Horizon 2020 projects, receiving over €1.1 billion in EU funding. Irish SMEs have been granted over €280 million of this total. Ireland’s success rate in applying for research funding is above the EU average and Irish SMEs are ranked amongst the best in the EU for innovation.

Examples of EU-funded Irish projects:

Covid-19 research

Coronavirus research

The European Union has been at the forefront of supporting research and innovation into combating pandemics since long before the outbreak of Covid-19. In fact, between 2007 and 2019 €4.1 billion was invested in research into; epidemiology, preparedness and response to outbreaks, the development of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.

Within hours of the World Health Organisation declaring COVID-19 a global public health concern on January 30, 2020, the European Commission launched a €10 million emergency call for Coronavirus research projects.

The European Commission has pledged just over €1 billion from Horizon 2020 for diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and research into all aspects of the pandemic and EU Research Ministers accelerated support to European research teams by endorsing the ten-point ERAvsCorona action plan to combat the coronavirus, including the funding of innovative approaches for researchers to deliver quick results.

The European Commission also launched a new European Research Area (ERA) corona platform to provide information, dedicated support and real-time updates on funding opportunities for coronavirus related research and innovation.

Examples of Irish researchers involved in projects dedicated to finding solutions to Covid-19 problems include:

  • Remedy Biologics Limited developed an antibody platform to help identify the optimal antibodies to treat severe cases of the disease.
  • Eight Irish SMEs were amongst 72 innovative companies across Europe to receive Horizon 2020 grants totalling €314 million to combat COVID-19.
  • Irish SME Pintail Ltd is coordinating the PORSAV project developing new technology to protect surgeons and patients from COVID-19.

Coronavirus research and innovation

European Research Area (ERA) corona platform

ERAvsCorona action plan

Latest research news