Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), which is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research, invests in academic researchers and released the figures.

The most expensive research carried out looks into bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in cattle and providing the next generation of BTB diagnostics. The study, entitled Development of Next-generation Control Tools for Bovine Tuberculosis: a One-Health Approach, was awarded €1,849,519 in funding and is carried out at University College Dublin (UCD). "We will also establish how bacterial infection is established and identify host genetic variation for breeding healthier animals with enhanced disease resistance," the project's proponents say.

A further €568,131 was allocated to UCD for another piece of research on “Biodiversity, resilience and

food security: understanding the role of biodiversity in maintaining food production.”

“This project focuses on grassland productivity to investigate if the biodiversity surrounding farm grasslands promote resilient agricultural productivity,” the researchers said. “We will use information from satellite images, unmanned aerial drones and experimental plots. We will then produce maps of Ireland that look into the near future, showing areas where production is riskier when faced with extreme events, such as the conditions that created the fodder crisis of 2012-13.”

Salmon study

Another piece of research carried out in University College Cork (UCC), entitled Wild Farmed Interactions in a Changing World: Formulation of a Predictive Methodology to Inform Environmental Best Practice to Secure Long-term Sustainability of Global Wild and Farm Fish Populations, costs €1,709,586. This study investigates how Atlantic salmon escaping from farms reduce the survival potential of wild salmon when they breed together in rivers.

Another piece of agricultural research, entitled EndoGrass: Manipulating the Microbiome to Improve Forage Crops, was placed on the reserve list of projects so has not got the go-ahead. It would have been awarded funding over €1.5m. It may be supported "if budgets permit later in the year".

Platform for researchers

Announcing the funding this week, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell-O’Connor said it “provides an important platform for researchers to advance their investigations and further enhance Ireland’s reputation for excellence in sectors such as health, agriculture, marine, energy and technology”.

The minister announced nearly €40m in research funding for 24 major research projects, with awards ranging from €500,000 to €2.7m over four- to five-year periods supporting over 200 researchers.

Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Government, added: “The SFI Investigators Programme supports the highest standard of impactful research, as clearly demonstrated by the outcomes of previous awards. I have high expectations for these projects; all have undergone rigorous peer review by international experts and we have funded only those projects deemed to be at the pinnacle of scientific excellence.”