Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Frontiers for the Future Programme will support excellent independent researchers to conduct highly innovative, collaborative research with the potential to deliver impact, whilst also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects.

Our Partners

The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme will be run in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  SFI will seek further opportunities for collaborative funding to support this programme.  Awards are co-funded by the European Union European Regional Development Fund.



The new programme comprises two streams – Frontiers for the Future Programme Projects and Frontiers for the Future Programme Awards

  • Frontiers for the Future Projects will provide funding for high-risk, high-reward research that facilitates highly innovative and novel approaches to research.
  • Frontiers for the Future Awards will provide larger scale funding for innovative, collaborative and excellent research programmes that have the potential to deliver economic and societal impact.

The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme will replace the SFI Investigators Programme and the SFI Career Development Award Programme.

The programme design is driven by recent feedback from the research community (SFI strategy workshops and SFI Researcher Survey) seeking funding for individual-led research and access to shorter-term project funding.

This new programme will seek to provide opportunities to address gender imbalance and to provide support for Emerging Investigators that may be returning to research after a period of leave.

  • To build research capacity, expertise and reputation through funding excellent scientific research ​
  • To fund highly innovative Awards with strong potential for impact and to provide the opportunity to conduct high-risk, high-reward Projects
  • To provide additional supports for excellent female researchers to secure funding
  • To retain and improve Ireland’s reputation as a place to carry out excellent research
  • To facilitate researchers based in Ireland to lead consortia and to win further support through various non-Exchequer funding schemes​
  • To allow Ireland-based researchers to win top-tier international prizes
  • To develop an integrated research ecosystem through partnerships with other agencies
  • To support relevant collaborations and partnerships
  • To support researchers returning to active academic research after a period of eligible leave

To be eligible for funding through the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme, all proposals must be aligned to one of the 14 Refreshed Priority Areas for 2018-2023, or to any other research area within SFI’s legal remit (i.e. oriented basic or applied research) where there is convincing evidence that there will be significant potential for economic and/or societal impact in Ireland.

Full details on programme eligibility are available in the call document. In summary:

  • Applicants must have held a PhD or equivalent qualification for at least three years by the pre-proposal deadline (28th March 2019).
  • Applicants are required to have demonstrated that they have been a senior author on at least three international peer-reviewed articles (see the programme call document for details).
  • Applicants must be members of the academic staff of an eligible Research Body (permanent or with a contract that covers the period of the grant), or, A contract researcher with a contract that covers the period of the grant, who is recognised by the Research Body as an independent investigator at the pre-proposal deadline (28th March 2019) and will have an independent office and research space at the host Research Body for which the researcher will be fully responsible for at least the duration of the SFI grant.
  • Lead Applicant or Co-Applicant salary is not an eligible cost for the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. Applicants must obtain their salary either from an award in their own name (excluding fellowship-type awards) or be salaried by the host institution. Postdoctoral researchers (or equivalent) are not eligible to apply to this call.
  • Applicants must be hosted by an Eligible Research Body. A list of Eligible Research Bodies is available here.
  • Further restrictions apply if the applicants currently hold an SFI Award or are under review for another SFI Programme. Please see the call document for further details.

Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply, see below for further details.

Applicants who fulfil the programme eligibility criteria listed above can choose to be reviewed as an “Emerging Investigator” if they also:

  • have not previously held a significant SFI research award or
  • are re-entering the competitive scientific field after a period of research leave

The “Emerging Investigator” category will be assessed alongside and against the same criteria as all other applicants; however, the weighting of the review scores will mean that there is increased emphasis on the quality of the research over the track record.

Please see the programme call document for further details.

SFI has recently become a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA) and, as such, is aligning its review and evaluation processes with DORA principles. To this end, all types of research output are recognised and SFI is committed to assessing the quality and impact of research through means other than journal impact factors. In the spirit of supporting open research and as a signatory of Plan S, SFI will also consider a commitment to making data and other types of research, open and accessible.

Applications will be reviewed by international scientific experts under three key review criteria:

  • Quality, significance, and relevance of the research record of the applicant and co-applicant (if relevant), commensurate with their career stage and research discipline*

Including, but not limited to, publication record (content, quality and availability (openness) of the publication, and not publication venue); record of securing relevant funding; visibility at and involvement in international conferences; stakeholder engagements, collaboration and partnerships; success with patent applications; relevant industrial experience; participation in reviews etc.

  • Quality, significance, novelty, and strategic relevance of the research plan 

Including importance, timeliness of the proposed research; quality of institutional support; communication and description of the research; comprehension of the current state of the art; value for money etc.

  • Potential impact and value to Ireland**

Including appreciation of how research may be developed and exploited in the medium-to-long term; realistic and convincing evaluation of the benefits that will result from a successful project; areas and fields where impacts are likely to be made etc.

* For the Emerging Investigator category, weighting of the review scores will mean that there is increased emphasis on the quality of the research over the track record
**The weighting of the review scores will mean that there is decreased emphasis on the impact criterion for SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme Projects compared to Awards. 

An outline of the Frontiers for the Future Programme review process can be found in the programme call document. A schematic of the review can be found here.

Lead Applicants on Frontiers for the Future proposals must submit a pre-proposal to SFI through their host institution Research Office before the deadline of 28th March 2019 at 13:00 Dublin Local Time.

Following international peer review of pre-proposals, it is estimated that the top 100 ranked Frontiers for the Future Programme Project applications and the top 50 Frontiers for the Future Programme Award applications will be invited to submit a full proposal.

The deadline for submission of invited full proposals is 29th August 2019 at 13:00 Dublin Local Time.

The SFI Impact Webinar is designed to assist applicants to SFI Programme calls in formulating their Impact Statement. Applicants are encouraged to view this webinar in advance of preparing an application to the programme. The SFI Impact Webinar is available to download here.

SFI will host a webinar for all full proposal applicants and research office staff on Monday 22nd July at 11.30, you can register for the webinar here.

Applicants invited to full proposal stage should refer to the Full Proposal Handbook for details on the application process.

All proposals are to be submitted via SESAME, SFI’s online grants and awards management system. SESAME is currently open for full proposal applications.

If accessing SESAME for the first time, researchers should contact their local Research Office to be set up on this system. For more information on SESAME see here.

Queries on the SESAME management system should first be directed to your Institute’s Research Office. If still unresolved, queries should be e-mailed to Please be aware that response time for queries may be up to 5 working days.

Please note that SFI is expecting a very high application rate to this programme, and has limited SESAME helpdesk resources. To avoid any delays in submission, researchers should familiarise themselves with the SESAME system and online help resources provided well in advance of the SFI and institution internal call deadlines.

SFI is committed to increasing the number of SFI grants held by female researchers, as described in its Gender Strategy. Towards achieving this goal, the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme will provide additional supports for excellent female researchers to secure funding. When ranking applications, in the event of applications receiving the same final score, SFI will give priority in the review process to applications from female candidates. Although SFI receives more applications from male candidates compared to female candidates, the success rates for male and female candidates is comparable following peer-review. 

  • The success rate for both female and male applicants across SFI’s portfolio of awards is ~ 30%
  • Successful female applicants, on average, receive smaller awards, than male applicants; however, male applicants, on average, request more funding than female applicants

Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply to this funding call. We encourage applicants to consider the above points when preparing their application budgets and associated justification. Further details on SFI’s data on application submission and success rates by gender can be found on the SFI Gender Dashboard.

As outlined in the call document, researchers applying to the Frontiers for the Future Programme should refer to the July 2016 version of the SFI Grant Applications Budget Policy.

For Programme related queries please contact