SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is pleased to launch the Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme 2023 which seeks to support academia-industry interactions in order to address industry‐informed challenges. Awards under this programme can be made to academic researchers (at faculty and postdoctoral level) wishing to spend time in industry worldwide through the temporary placement of academic researchers with an industry partner.
Fellowships can have a duration of between 1 and 12 months if full-time, and between 2 and 24 months if part-time. Grants awarded under this programme will be subject to the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) under EU State aid guidelines. As such, the SFI funding rate will vary from 25% to a maximum of 80% of total project costs depending on the size of the industry partner company and the category of research being undertaken, with the industry partner contributing the remainder of the project costs. The maximum SFI contribution to the Fellowship costs is €100,000 direct costs. Please refer to the 2023 Programme Call document for further details.
A LinkedIn group called SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme has been set up by SFI to facilitate networking between academic and industry researchers. Companies are encouraged to make their interest known to the academic community, and/or to advertise specific research opportunities, by posting on this 900+ members group’s page. Academic researchers are encouraged to engage with relevant companies. Several companies have already published an advertisement and got a response – join the group today!
The SFI researcher database and the KTI Expert database list potential academic research partners. Postdoctoral researchers do not appear in these databases – companies can identify the appropriate team leader from the database and contact them to discuss whether there are eligible researchers in their group (faculty and/or postdoctoral researchers). The Research Offices of the Irish academic and research institutions may also assist companies in identifying prospective academic partners.
Note: Prior to commencing your search for a partner, please refer to the Industry RD&I Fellowship Call document in order to understand the eligibility criteria associated with this programme. Academic and industry partners should jointly prepare an application. The academic researcher will submit the application to SFI via SESAME, SFI’s grants and awards management system. Additionally, industry partners will be required to provide SFI with the latest set of financial records and financial declarations.
For general queries, including eligibility queries, applicants are advised to contact the Research Office of the Research Body to whom they intend to submit their application. For additional information or clarification, contact email@example.com.
SFI is committed to increasing the number of SFI grants held by women researchers, as described in its Gender Strategy. Towards achieving this goal, the SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme will provide additional supports for excellent women researchers to secure funding. When ranking applications, in the event of applications receiving the same final score when evaluated for their quality, SFI will give priority in the review process to applications from women candidates. Woman candidates are strongly encouraged to apply to this funding call.
All proposals are to be submitted via SESAME, SFI’s online grants and awards management system. If accessing SESAME for the first time, researchers should contact their local Research Office to get access to the system.
For more information, view the SESAME User Guides or read the SESAME Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Please note that SFI expects a high volume of applications to be submitted 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 institutional internal call deadlines.
Queries relating to SESAME which are not answered in the SESAME FAQ document referred to above should first be directed to your Research Body’s Research Office. If still unresolved, queries should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware that the response time for queries may be up to 5 working days.
A webinar outlining the SFI Industry RD&I fellowship call and its application process took place on Wednesday 15th March 2023.
Please find the webinar slides here.
View webinar below.
SFI Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme Experiences
Dr Marco Monopoli
Dr Marco Monopoli
Dr Marco Monopoli, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at RCSI, was awarded an SFI Industry Fellowship* award in 2016 to spend time at Ludger Ltd. in the United Kingdom to develop glycoprofiling technologies for biological therapeutics. Read about Dr Monopoli’s experience as a former SFI Industry Fellow here.
“The best science is collaborative but the SFI Industry Fellowship is something more impactful than that. In my case, it allowed me to have a year of total immersion in an industry environment where I learned new techniques and methods that I am now routinely implementing in my laboratory after my return to academia.”
What were your research interests at the time?
When I applied to the SFI Industry Fellowship, I was a senior postdoctoral fellow in UCD working in Prof. Kenneth Dawson’s research group. I was studying the effects of biological fluid and environmental media on nanoparticle behaviour, to understand and predict their potential toxicity. In the last year of my postdoctoral fellowship, I developed my interest in glycobiology when I had the opportunity to collaborate with Professor Pauline Rudd in NIBRT, a world-renowned leader on this topic.
What drew you to the SFI Industry Fellowship?
The all-too-common state of career limbo that many postdoctoral researchers find themselves in creates strong feelings of doubt and uncertainty about the future. The SFI Industry Fellowship spoke to me because it was specifically tailored to the development of the postdoctoral researcher, and I knew this was the right programme for me. Another thing was its bottom-up approach to funding which gave me the motivation to pursue the research that I was most passionate about. Preparing for career grants can be incredibly time consuming which causes high levels of anxiety and limits your ability to plan too far ahead. The SFI Industry Fellowship application process was straightforward and much less complex than other funding schemes and also had a much higher success rate. It was clear to me what was being asked of me, and this made the process more accessible and less intimidating. I would describe it as being like a Q&A style of application so writing the proposal felt very natural.
How did you go about finding an industry partner?
Bridging the academia-industry gap is difficult! At the beginning, I was a bit scared to send out emails to companies. I wish I had been more proactive about this. I think you could try a hundred different things and if one of those things works then you are lucky! You should have a strong idea of what it is you want to do and which companies operate in that space. Identify topics in the R&D space that excite you and make a list of keywords. When scoping out companies, check to see if they have a track record of securing funding? Are they open to academic collaborations? Use your existing network. Check the employer’s LinkedIn profile, do you have any mutual connections here? Ask for an introduction. At the time, I knew there must be some company working in the glycobiology space that is a partner on a European level project (that’s how I got the partnership with Ludger Ltd. who I found on the European Commission website). Ultimately, it’s a bilateral partnership so you need to be strategic and offer something that will also be of value to the company. Be confident in your abilities and be generous with your skill set.
Do you have any additional advice for applicants hoping to apply to the SFI Industry Fellowship?
Don’t be afraid, reach out to companies often and early. You may need to be very patient waiting for a response from a company director. In my case, it took weeks. Know your worth – postdoctoral researchers are highly trained scientists that are extremely valuable to companies. We are often most comfortable when talking to other scientists and academics but there can be a much broader infrastructure behind you. I was lucky to have the support of the technology transfer office (TTO) in UCD who were friendly, approachable and brought a lot of knowledge around IP and possible inventions. They were enthusiastic and open to having those talks with me. Engage with your TTO/innovation office as soon as possible.
What impact did the SFI Industry Fellowship have on your career?
My Industry Fellowship was a lot like a sabbatical. Without the added responsibilities of teaching or supervising, it gave me the time and space I needed to apply myself fully, think more deeply about what I could develop and how I could plan for the next stage of my career. I was highly active in the laboratory from day one and was treated like any other team member. We learned a great deal from each other by sharing knowledge and solving problems through our collaborative work. After I returned to Ireland and joined RCSI, I had built a much stronger professional network. When it comes to applying for the next grant that Ludger also fits, I know that I can pick up the phone and we can have that conversation – we have so many ideas! I also bought equipment that I now know how to use and could continue to do what I did at Ludger. For example, with the new machines, I was able to secure two other European grants where this expertise was needed. I believe I couldn’t have achieved this in a solely academic setting.
Dr Marco Monopoli is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at RCSI where he is establishing a multidisciplinary laboratory focused on obtaining a complete understanding of the mechanisms of interaction between nanomaterials and living systems.
*The SFI Industry Fellowship Programme was re-launched in 2021 as “Industry RD&I Fellowship Programme"
Associate Professor Marcus Baumann
Associate Professor Marcus Baumann
Dr Marcus Baumann, Associate Professor of Continuous Flow Chemistry and Lecturer at University College Dublin, was awarded an SFI Industry Fellowship* in 2020 to spend time at Almac Group Ltd. in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, to collaborate on the development of technologies for manufacturing chemical intermediates and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) via the synergetic marriage of continuous flow and biocatalytic processes.
Can you tell us a bit about your research background?
My background is in Organic Chemistry. In 2017, I moved to Ireland to join University College Dublin (UCD) as an Assistant Professor in Continuous Flow Chemistry to pursue an independent research career. I currently lead the Baumann Research Group. We are a synthetic chemistry group exploiting flow reactor technology in combination with photochemistry and biocatalysis to create molecules with interesting biological properties. Continuous flow chemistry is practical for industrial applications because it allows for faster reaction times and a scaled-up process, better quality product and critically, the ability to perform chemistry that is difficult or impossible to do in batch mode. It also produces less waste which makes it a lot safer and environmentally more friendly.
How did the partnership with Almac Group come about?
I first met Professor Tom Moody (Almac’s VP of Technology Development and Commercialisation) in 2018 at an event in Manchester where I had delivered a talk. Almac have extensive expertise in biocatalysis (using enzymes to do chemical transformations) which is a highly valued enabling technology for pharmaceutical research and development. It was something I didn’t have a lot of hands-on experience in at the time. Almac were also interested in continuous flow chemistry, an area I had already been working in for more than 7 years. It was an opportunity to marry the two technologies. Shortly after, I travelled to Almac's site at Craigavon and delivered a presentation. In the 6 months leading up to the Fellowship there was some back and forth as we discussed options for collaboration.
What drew you to the SFI Industry Fellowship?
I applied to the SFI Industry Fellowship Programme in 2019. It was Dr Megan Smyth (Team Leader at Almac Group Ltd.) that introduced me to the SFI Industry Fellowship. As an established faculty researcher with an independent group, it was an opportunity for me to extend my research portfolio into industrially relevant fields and in turn, an opportunity for Almac to further expand their existing flow chemistry platforms. The chemical and pharmaceutical sector in Ireland is large and biocatalysis and flow chemistry are both recognised as key technologies to produce sustainable chemicals globally. So, of course there is a lot of interest from academia in training students in these newer technologies. Comparably, there is also the interest from industry to hire people that have these skills. In this way, my research lab was a perfect match for Almac and the SFI Industry Fellowship was an ideal entry point for meaningful collaboration.
How did you benefit from the SFI Industry Fellowship?
The SFI Industry Fellowship was invaluable in getting the collaboration with Almac up and running. Synergy and transfer of knowledge and expertise were a priority. It offered me insights into working with enzymes in flow which is something we will certainly intensify in our lab. Another benefit was the open-dialogue and exchange of ideas that took place throughout. It has allowed us to work on a number of interesting and industry-relevant projects, jointly publish our results while also still achieving the objectives outlined in the Fellowship proposal. We currently have 6 joint-publications and are working on a 7th. We have since been featured on the cover of the Journal of Organic Chemistry and the European Journal of Organic Chemistry. It also allowed us to apply for, and secure, extra funding to recruit postgraduates that we are jointly supervising. For example, I was recently awarded a Frontiers for the Future grant from SFI (Almac Group are a collaborator). I was able to reduce my teaching hours which was crucial at the beginning to get things off the ground. I spent a lot of time at Almac's site at Craigavon where I saw how research is carried out in an industrial environment and have since transferred some of these insights back to my own lab at UCD.
What additional advice can you give to other faculty researchers thinking about applying?
Having an established industry contact early on was a huge advantage and accelerated the process. Approach the fellowship as a stepping-stone to expand your industry network. When engaging with companies, have a strong idea of what you want to achieve with a partnership and have a good strategy in place in terms of shared research. Almac Group Ltd. are a company that are very open to publishing which meant that we were productive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and it brought a lot of positive exposure and visibility to the partnership. This is good for me as an academic but also for the postgraduate students that were involved in the research. I would say that the Fellowship was the driving force behind our continued collaboration with Almac today. Applicants should keep this in mind whether you are a senior postdoctoral researcher or already starting to build an independent career in research.