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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- The Walton Institute, part of the Waterford Institute of Technology, is encouraging and facilitating the uptake of robotics in the agri-food sector.
- A University College Cork-led research project received €3.5m in EU funding to develop a revolutionary way of converting waste heat into electricity.
- NUI Galway is leading a major project that is developing innovative, sustainable ways to manufacture ethylene using artificial photosynthesis.
- Dublin-based Deciphex is working with other SMEs from Belgium and Switzerland on its project to use Artificial Intelligence to transform drug and chemical safety testing.
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.
Latest research news
5 Irish companies are among 65 innovative start-ups and SMEs selected by the European Innovation Council to receive €363 million of funding for breakthrough innovations.
Irish company Remedy Biologics Limited is receiving EU funding to help identify the optimal antibodies to treat severe cases of Covid-19.