Thirty-six researchers have been announced as the first recipients of funding under the government's new frontier research programme.

In total the group will receive almost €30 million in grants as part of the Irish Research Council (IRC) administered Laureate Awards.

The programme aims to increase the number and variety of basic or blue-sky research projects funded by the state.

Basic research studies are typically exploratory, with no immediate or obvious commercial application, but which might in time lead to one.

Areas funded under the first round of the awards include life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and the arts, humanities and social sciences. 

The awards were designed to address a perceived gap in the research funding landscape here, which was identified in the government's research and development strategy, Innovation 2020.

"Frontier basic research is very much at the cutting edge of new knowledge," said Minister for Education, Richard Bruton.

"It is research that is daring, that pushes boundaries, and that moves beyond the frontiers of our current understanding."

Among the studies to receive funding are those related to age-related vision loss, sustainable food production and the role of independent commissions in peace processes.
 
There are two streams to the programme, including 'Starting' Laureate Awards aimed at supporting excellent early-career researchers to establish their own independent research programme and 'Consolidator' Laureate Awards providing funding for excellent mid-career researchers with an established track record to progress to the next level.

Eighteen 'Starting' awards totalling €7 million were announced today alongside €10.6 million in 'Consolidator' awards.
 
A further €12 million was also announced for a series of Advanced Grants under the Laureate programme which will be open to senior researchers and could be worth up to €1 million over four years.

A call for this stream will be opened in the coming weeks.

The announcement was warmly welcomed by Professor Orla Feely, University College Dublin (UCD) Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, and former IRC Chair, who said the programme is long awaited and much needed.

UCD researchers are to receive 10 of the 36 awards.

The development was also welcomed by the Irish Universities Association, which said it an important milestone in research funding.

But the IUA also said it is essential that this tranche of funding is further supported by increased investment in research as part of the government's ambition to grow our research funding from the current level of 1.5% of GDP to in excess of 2%.