About the Irish Research Council

Summary

To address the broad skills and research needs within society, the Irish Research Council supports excellent researchers in all disciplines from Arts to Zoology. An agency of the Department of Education and Skills, the Council primarily funds early stage career researchers: namely, postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Diverse career opportunities are enabled through a suite of programmes which partner with employers. The other key area of activity for the Council is the funding of research projects with a societal focus; the Council has established partnerships across government and civic society. The Council represents Ireland in particular dimensions of Horizon 2020 and, by providing supports for H2020 applicants, enhances opportunities for the Irish research community.

More About the Council

The mission of the Irish Research Council is to enable and sustain a vibrant research community in Ireland.

To that end, the Council, which was established in 2012 through the merging of the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), provides funding to excellent researchers across all disciplines – from Art to Zoology. We also have a very important function as a policy advisory body on graduate education and research nationally and internationally. In giving us this role, the Minister for Research and Innovation asked us to pay particular attention to arts, humanities and social sciences. We take every opportunity to engage with the research community in order to ensure that we are aware of the most up-to-date information about cutting edge research and that we have their views on the best policy practice. We then use the feedback that we receive from the research community both to provide good advice to the Minister and others and to develop our own funding programmes so that they are of greatest benefit to researchers.

The main aim of our funding programmes is to provide opportunities for researchers at different stages of their careers, particularly those at an early stage, i.e. postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. This strategy reflects the belief that it is important to encourage individuals to become independent researchers early in their careers and our programmes are designed to act as the first steps on a researcher’s career ladder. Put another way, the Council wants to open doors for excellent researchers and to support individuals so that they have a range of career opportunities open to them. To that end, we provide up to four years of funding for PhD students where it can be shown that the student is getting a quality experience and is developing additional knowledge and competencies beyond the core research work. The Council is strongly supportive of structured degrees and programmes, seeing those as a means to ensure the best student experience and to maximise career options.

In line with this, for those who wish to consider careers outside academia, we have established a number of programmes in partnership with employers – specifically the Enterprise Partnership Scheme, the Employment Based Postgraduate Programme and the ELEVATE Postdoctoral Programme. These programmes allow researchers to experience the realities of the workplace for themselves. Up to 225 companies have worked with the Council on these initiatives, and many other employers are eligible as partner organisations from within the public, voluntary and NGO sectors.

In addition to our major funding programmes, we offer a number of research development grant schemes which include interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary options. We recognise that combining expertise and knowledge from different disciplines is important both for national and international research.

Last but not least, the Council is very focused on enhancing opportunities for researchers through European and international engagements. Through our function as the representative body for Ireland across a number of different aspects of FP7 and now Horizon 2020, we strive to ensure that the work of the European Research Council (ERC), the Marie Curie programme and other facets of Horizon 2020 serve the needs of the Irish research community. We are the joint national delegates to the ERC, the Marie-Curie programme and we represent Ireland in many socioeconomic sciences and humanities programmes and discussion fora.

On the international stage, in addition to our representational roles in Europe, we have become the national agent and academic partner for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Prizewinners Meeting and we are very proud of the fact that the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins is the patron of this engagement. Five nominees who are selected annually through a national competitive process are entered into the highly celebrated international contest to attend this prestigious meeting. Those who are ultimately successful get the opportunity to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Prizewinners Meeting and to meet up to 40 Nobel Laureates. 

Finally, the Council looks forward to playing our distinct role in creating a system where new and novel ideas, and the fantastic people who come up with them, can compete and obtain support. We also, through our emphasis on developing the skills of the individual, look forward to assisting the cultivation of creative and innovative people who can translate new ideas and knowledge into benefits for society. These benefits could improve our understanding of the past and present, or in many different ways could improve our quality of life, our society and our economy both in Ireland and globally as part of the worldwide community.