Higher education international research

The higher education division within the Department is currently providing funding for Northern Ireland universities to participate in the following International Research Programmes:

  • The US-Ireland Research and Development (R&D) Partnership
  • The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)-DFE Investigators Programme Partnership (2014 and 2015 Calls)

US - Ireland R&D Partnership

The Governments of the United States of America, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have come together for a unique initiative to advance scientific progress in fields that will have a significant impact on the health, well-being and economic prosperity of all their citizens.

The “US-Ireland R&D Partnership” helps link scientists and engineers in partnerships across academia to address crucial research questions; fosters new and existing industrial research activity that could make an important contribution to the respective economies; and expands educational and research career opportunities in science & engineering.

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.  

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
  • Health
  • Agriculture (pilot)

How the Partnership operates

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

The Partnership is guided by a joint steering group composed of senior representatives from government and academia across the three jurisdictions.

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.

In Northern Ireland:

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

National Science Foundation (NSF) US - Ireland R&D Partnership programme guidelines

The Department has agreed to consider funding requests from Northern Ireland higher education institutions wishing to engage in tri-jurisdictional collaborative research projects in the following areas: Sensors and Sensor Networks, Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Telecommunications and Energy/Sustainability.

A minimum of one co-principal investigator from each jurisdiction – Northern Ireland, United States, and Republic of Ireland, must be named on the proposal to be deemed eligible for funding under the Partnership. 

The scientific application with supporting materials will be jointly prepared by the co-investigators.

To facilitate a ‘single-proposal, single-review’ mechanism, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has agreed to accept submissions from tri-jurisdictional teams to a number of their existing funding programmes. Consequently applicants should design their proposal (including the total requested budget) based on the guidelines and criteria outlined in the relevant programme call and associated documentation.

Following scientific merit review, if the proposal is being actively considered for funding, the NSF will provide the Department with appropriate feedback to facilitate the Department's funding decision on the Northern Ireland applicant’s budget request.

How to apply

Applicants should read the guidance for submission to NSF Programmes and FAQs before completing the DfE pre-approval documentation:

Applicants in Northern Ireland must obtain pre-approval and gain funding commitment from DfE before applying to the NSF Call.

This involves a two stage process:

(i) Mandatory intention to submit an application (new and resubmitted) – required at least 10 weeks in advance of the NSF full proposal deadline

Details of the requirements can be found in the guidance for RoI and NI applicants document.

 (ii) Draft “Tri-Partite” proposal submission (new and resubmitted)  – required at least six weeks in advance of the NSF full proposal deadline

Details of the requirements can be found in the guidance for RoI and NI applicants document.

All NSF mandatory intentions to submit (new and resubmitted) should be submitted to the Department for pre-approval a minimum of ten weeks before the NSF deadline. Documentation received outside the ten week deadline will be declined.

Similarly all NSF Draft “Tri-Partite” proposal submissions (new and resubmitted) should be submitted to the Department for pre-approval a minimum of six weeks before the NSF deadline. Applications received outside the six week deadline will be declined.

In the first instance NI applicants should contact the respective Research Office at Queen’s University or Ulster University.

For further information contact:

Department for the Economy

Higher education research policy branch
Email: usireland@economy-ni.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)28 90257637
 

Secretariat for the Partnership on the island of Ireland is provided by InterTradeIreland

Website: Intertradeireland 

The agency and representative from the Republic of Ireland involved in the partnership is Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)

Email: usireland@sfi.ie
Website: Science Foundation Ireland

Centre-to Centre Partnership

Under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Centre to Centre agreement, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its partner organisations Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland (DfE NI) have developed a mechanism to link SFI-funded Research Centres, NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and researchers in 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.

Funding decisions will be based upon standard NSF Review Criteria in addition to the relevant ERC specific criteria in support of its vision, strategic plan, and ongoing activities.

The proposed plan for Centre-to-Centre, tri-lateral activities to be coordinated between US, Ireland, and Northern Ireland should be delivered by the relevant NSF ERC Centre at the same time the Annual Report is submitted to NSF. The site visit team (SVT) will review the Plan and provide written feedback. The feedback will be based on their review of the Plan and will be discussed with the relevant ERC Centre during the site visit.

Eligibility

As Northern Ireland does not have large scale Research Centres like the NSF and SFI Research Centres, the Department will assess Northern Ireland applications (NI) on a case by case basis.

NI applicants applying under Centre to Centre agreement must be part of a Centre or Research Institute please refer to Stage 1 (below) for further details.

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.

Due to budget restrictions the NI Centre to Centre total budget for each project is capped at £300,000 per project and NI Centres/Research Institutes can only hold one Centre to Centre award at a time.

Summary of the timeline to obtain US-Ireland Centre to Centre funding commitment from DfE

*Please note the NSF Submission deadline referenced below is not the same as the NSF ERC annual site visit date and is typically 5 weeks in advance of the site visit

Stage 1 NI Centre

Send an expression of interest to the DfE US-Ireland mailbox USIreland@economy-ni.gov.uk no later than 12 weeks in advance of the NSF submission deadline*

DfE

DfE will review the information supplied at Stage 1 and assess if the proposed collaboration fits within the scope of the Centre to Centre agreement. If content, the NI applicant will be invited to proceed to Stage 2.

Stage 2 NI Centre

The 'close to final' single tri-jurisdictional proposal and DfE proposal submission documentation should be submitted to the DfE US-Ireland mailbox USIreland@economy-ni.gov.uk at least six weeks in advance of the relevant NSF submission submission deadline.*

DfE

The Department will review this information and if content, will issue a funding commitment letter in support of the Centre to Centre partnership to the NI Centre at least two weeks in advance of the NSF submission deadline.*

Stage 1

Send an expression of interest to the DfE US-Ireland mailbox USIreland@economy-ni.gov.uk no later than 12 weeks in advance of the NSF submission deadline.*

This summary should be composed of two sections:

  • The first section (approximately one page in length) should address the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the proposed collaboration - focusing on the proposed research, the value of the international collaboration, the role of each participant, and the anticipated budget scale for each centre (detailed information on the budget is not necessary).
  • The second section (approximately two pages in length) should focus on how the proposed project fits within the larger scope of the NI Centre/Research Institute, and include a short section on how intellectual property issues will be addressed within the context of participating Centres and universities.

NI applicants applying under the Centre to Centre agreement will need to provide supporting evidence to demonstrate the Centre based partnership will provide more scope and opportunity than individual PI led US-Ireland R&D Partnership projects.

Details of the research aims of the NI Centre/Research Institute should be provided to the Department and how the proposed collaborative research will fit within the larger scope of the NI Centre/Research Institute. The NI Centre/Research Institute should also have close links to industry.

If DfE is content with the information supplied at Stage 1 and is content the proposed collaboration fits within the scope of the Centre to Centre agreement, the NI applicant will be invited to proceed to Stage 2.

Stage 2

All partners should collaborate to produce a single tri-jurisdictional proposal. Details of the proposal requirements and criteria for feedback / analysis of Centre-to-Centre plan can be downloaded from:

From a Northern Ireland point of view, the existing application process is largely the same and maximum budget available is £300,000. A completed DfE budget table, US-Ireland R&D Partnership Application Tri-Partite proposal submission template and US-Ireland cover sheet should be submitted along with the single joint proposal. These are available from:

The 'close to final' single tri-jurisdictional proposal and DfE proposal submission documentation should be submitted to DfE US-Ireland mailbox (USIreland@economy-ni.gov.uk) at least six weeks in advance of the NSF submission deadline.*

The Department will review this information and if content, will issue a funding commitment letter in support of the Centre to Centre partnership to the NI Centre/Research Institute at least two weeks in advance of the NSF submission deadline.*

When DfE NI funding commitment letter has been issued this should be sent to the US Centre partner for inclusion in the final tri-jurisdictional proposal.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) - Department for the Economy (DfE) Investigators Programme Partnership pilot

In 2014 the Department and SFI announced a ground-breaking collaboration which allowed NI universities to participate as full academic partners in SFI’s prestigious "Investigators Programme". The Collaboration Agreement covered the 2014 and 2015 calls only.

The "SFI/DfE`s Investigators Programme Partnership" is supporting collaborative projects involving universities from both jurisdictions to undertake internationally peer reviewed, leading edge, discovery and fundamental research.

Successful projects from the 2014 Call started in August 2015 and are expected to finish in July 2020. The successful projects from the 2015 Call started in August 2016 and February 2017 and are expected to finish in July 2021 and January 2022. 

Further details of submission procedures and guidelines can be found on the Science Foundation Ireland website. 

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