Philip Nolan takes office as new SFI director

The NPHET member will also take on the role of chief scientific advisor to government

Prof Philip Nolan, the new director of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), assumes his position today. Nolan is a medical scientist who has served on the National Public Health Emergency Team since March 2020.

Between 2003 and 2004, Nolan led the University College Dublin Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, before being made a deputy president of the university. He then served as president of Maynooth University from 2011 to 2021, where he worked to widen the university’s research capacity.

Most notably, Nolan oversaw a €57 million “Technology Society and Innovation Project” at Maynooth.

Peter Clinch, SFI’s chairperson, noted that Nolan is a “distinguished researcher in his own right”. Clinch also expressed that he was hopeful for the future of the foundation with Nolan at its head, and said he “look[s] forward to working with him”.

In a statement published by SFI, Nolan said that the organisation had led a “transformation” of research in Ireland, and “[t]he opportunity now is to build on this success, focusing on excellence in research.”

“The insights of research, and the energy of innovation, can help us shape a future that is healthier.”

Professor Nolan follows Prof Mark Ferguson as director. During his 10-year term, Ferguson oversaw funding pools of up to €200m a year. In 2012, just after Ferguson took office, the role of director general of SFI was combined with that of chief scientific advisor to the government, a move some academics criticised. Prof Nolan will hold both roles.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris praised Ferguson on his departure, saying that the professor “influenced and shaped Irish and international scientific research” and that the field had “benefited greatly from Mark’s Passion and enthusiasm”.