Higher education international research

The Higher Education Division within the department is currently providing funding for Northern Ireland universities to participate in the US-Ireland Research and Development (R&D) Partnership.

US - Ireland R&D Partnership

The US-Ireland R&D Partnership has its origins in the US-Ireland Business Summit that took place in Washington, DC in 2002.

The US-Ireland R&D Partnership is a tri-jurisdictional alliance which was officially launched in 2006. Its aim is to promote collaborative innovative research projects which create value above and beyond individual efforts.

Through the partnership, the governments of the United States of America, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland support collaborative research with the potential to generate valuable discoveries and innovations which are transferable to the marketplace or will lead to enhancements in health promotions, disease prevention and healthcare.

The “US-Ireland R&D Partnership” helps link scientists and engineers in partnerships across academia to address crucial research questions and to expand educational and research career opportunities in science and engineering.

The government departments and agencies across the three jurisdictions supporting this initiative are:

Thematic areas 

The following thematic areas have been prioritised as important research challenges for the health and prosperity of the citizens of the United States, Ireland and Northern Ireland:

  • sensors and sensor networks
  • nanoscale science and engineering
  • telecommunications
  • energy and sustainability
  • cybersecurity
  • health
  • agriculture.

How the partnership operates

The partnership is guided by a joint steering group composed of senior representatives from government and academia across the three jurisdictions. Secretariat for the partnership is provided by InterTradeIreland.

Under the US-Ireland R&D process, the partnership facilitates university researchers to submit joint research proposals in the identified priority areas. As part of this funding process, the governments (and/or relevant government research agencies within the partnership) contribute to the costs of researchers based in their jurisdictions. All proposals submitted under the auspices of the partnership must have significant research involvement from researchers in all three jurisdictions. Excellent science is considered fundamental and this is ensured by utilising the competitive peer review systems of the NSF and the NIH, which are gold standards for quality in scientific peer review.

In Northern Ireland:

  • DfE supports projects in the eligible areas of sensors and sensor networks, nanoscale science and engineering, telecommunications, energy/sustainability and cybersecurity which fall under the jurisdiction of the NSF in the US
  • the Health and Social care (HSC) R&D Division of the Public Health Agency supports health-related projects which fall under the jurisdiction of the NIH in the US
  • DAERA supports agriculture related projects which fall under the jurisdiction of the NIFA in the US.

For further details of pre-approval and submission procedures, please see the guidelines on the website of the relevant funding agency.  

US Ireland R&D Partnership - Centre to Centre Agreement

Under the associated US-Ireland R&D Partnership Centre to Centre agreement, the NSF and its partner organisations Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Dfe have developed a mechanism to link SFI-funded Research centres, NSF-funded engineering research centres (ERCs) and researchers in academic research centres in Northern Ireland.

This opportunity, building upon previous individual investigator driven collaborations between US researchers and colleagues in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, seeks to build centre-based research collaborations.

As Northern Ireland does not have large scale research centres like the NSF and SFI Research Centres, the department will assess Northern Ireland applications on a case by case basis. Depending on the volume of applications received, the department may have to prioritise which applications can be supported based on the greatest potential benefits to the NI economy.and may restrict the number of awards to one centre to centre award at a time.

How to apply

Downloadable forms and FAQs  are available at:

Further information

In the first instance, prospective NI applicants should contact the respective research office at Queen’s University Belfast or Ulster University.

Department for the Economy

Higher Education Research and Knowledge Exchange branch
Email: usireland@economy-ni.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)28 90257637

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