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Minister Harris appoints Professor Philip Nolan as CEO Designate of the Research and Innovation funding agency

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today announced the appointment of Professor Philip Nolan as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Designate of the new Research and Innovation funding agency.  


The appointment of Professor Nolan marks a pivotal moment in the process to establish the agency, which will be created on the passing of the Research and Innovation Bill 2023. 


The legislation, which goes through the Oireachtas later this year, will also amalgamate the activities and functions of the Irish Research Council (IRC) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).   


Professor Nolan is currently the Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and will stay in this role until the establishment of the new agency.  


Previously, he served as the President of Maynooth University and was Deputy President of University College Dublin prior to that.  


Announcing the appointment today, Minister Harris said: 


“I am delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Nolan, who will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role.  


“This appointment marks a significant milestone in the establishment of the agency. It will allow for the operational and transitional work required to set up the agency proceed at pace, alongside the legislative process.  


“The appointment of Professor Nolan will provide important continuity and leadership during the transitional period and the early stages of the new agency. 


“Professor Nolan will engage closely with my Department, as well as the Irish Research Council, in progressing the body of work required to ensure the agency is prepared to serve the research community well shortly after the enactment of the legislation.  


“At the same time, Professor Nolan will continue in his role as Director General of Science Foundation Ireland.  


“Researchers can be reassured that there will be no interruption to ongoing services and funding programmes while the new agency is being set up. It will be business as usual in the IRC and SFI.” 


Speaking today, Professor Philip Nolan said:  


“I am honoured and excited to have been appointed by Minister Simon Harris TD as the CEO-designate of the new national research and innovation agency.  


“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive a step change in public investment in research, and give us the talent, knowledge and expertise to address the major societal challenges and changes that we must confront over the coming decades.  


“SFI and the IRC have both made vital contributions to research, scholarship, and innovation, and I look forward to working with the Minister and all stakeholders to bring together the strengths of these two excellent agencies, better to serve society, and to get the very best for all of us from the taxpayers’ investment in research and innovation”. 

The creation of the new research and innovation funding agency is a key action in Impact 2030: Ireland’s Research and Innovation Strategy.  


The new agency will capitalise on the recognised strengths of the Irish Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland in driving world class research and innovation in Ireland. 


The new agency will fund research and innovation excellence in all disciplines across the spectrum of Arts, Engineering, Humanities, Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences, Technology and others.   


The new legislation will place Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences research on a statutory footing for the first time.  


The establishment of the agency in statute also ensures parity of esteem for the IRC’s critical mission of supporting researchers at all career stages.  


In making competitive funding awards across all disciplines and of varying sizes, the agency will significantly broaden the access of researchers in all areas to an improved range of research funding programmes.  


It is expected that the new agency should come into operation in January 2024.  


Professor Nolan’s appointment is effective from today and he will assume the role for the formative years of the new agency.  





Notes to Editor: 


The creation of a new research and innovation agency is set against an ambitious programme of reform in the tertiary sector.

This comprises the establishment of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science itself, including the development of a unified tertiary system, its remit for the national research and innovation system and other key policy developments. 

For the purposes of the legislation, the unifying agency name of “Research and Innovation Ireland” will be used. However, this is a working title only and the Department will work with stakeholders on the selection of a final name which is deemed appropriate in a national and international context and is inclusive of all disciplines. 

A programme of stakeholder consultation has been taking place since the development of Impact 2030 and was integral to the development of that whole-of-government strategy on Irish research and innovation. Consultation with wider stakeholders, with particular regard to the research and innovation community, is being prepared in order to seek feedback on the operationalisation of the functions of the new agency and to keep them informed about progress. It is foreseen that this will be led by the CEO Designate of the agency. 

The main objectives of the General Scheme of the Research and Innovation Bill are: 

  • to promote and support excellence in research and innovation across all disciplines 
  • to promote and support research and innovation’s contribution to Ireland’s economic, social, cultural and environmental development and sustainability 
  • to strengthen engagement between the research and innovation system and enterprise, Government and public bodies, the voluntary sector and society  
  • in collaboration with the HEA and other public research funders, to grow Ireland’s international offering and reputation as a location for undertaking excellent research and innovation  
  • to advance equality, diversity and inclusion in research and innovation  
  • to promote, develop and assist the carrying out of oriented basic research in strategic areas of endeavour that concerns the future development and competitiveness of the State. 


Read more here: - General Scheme of Research and Innovation Bill, 2023 ( 

Impact 2030: Ireland's Research and Innovation Strategy

General Scheme of the Research and Innovation Bill - Explanatory note