Commission announces winners of 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators

Brussels, 10 March 2016

The three winners of the 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators have been announced.

The winners, from Ireland, Finland and Portugal, have all received EU research and innovation funding at some point in their careers, and recently founded or co-founded a successful company based on their innovative ideas.

The winners are:

  1.  Dr. Susana Sargento, co-founder of Veniam in Portugal, turns vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots and builds city-scale vehicular networks that collect terabytes of urban data.
  2. Prof. Sirpa Jalkanen, co-founder of BioTie Therapies in Finland, discovered unique targets for drug development for harmful inflammations and cancer treatment.
  3. Dr. Sarah Bourke, co-founder of Skytek in Ireland, develops software for the International Space Station and received innovation awards from NASA.
 The three winners received their prizes from Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation during a Citizens’ Dialogue event in Brussels on the importance of women in Business and Research.

Commissioner Moedas said: “I want to congratulate the three winners of the 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators on their outstanding achievements. Europe needs to support more innovators like them: the people who combine scientific excellence with a head for business; the people who turn their research into employment opportunities and their ideas into positive impacts for our society and our economy.”

The winners received prizes of €100,000, €50,000 and €30,000 respectively. They were chosen by an independent jury from a total of 64 applications.

To learn more about the EU Prize for Women Innovators and the participants in this year’s prize:


The 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators is the largest prize of its kind worldwide, and follows previous editions in 2011 and 2014. The Prize aims to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more female entrepreneurs, and to highlight the achievements of the most successful women innovators.

Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises – only 29% of entrepreneurs in the EU are women.

Although the proportion of female researchers in Europe is increasing, women are still under-represented in scientific disciplines and careers. The latest ‘She Figures‘ statistics published by the European Commission on the occasion of the award ceremony show that women are gaining ground in science but their progress is still slow and uneven. Women PhD graduates rose from 43% in 2004 to 47% in 2014.

Women are also making progress as heads of higher education institutions, rising from 16% to 20%. However, the proportion of women researchers in general remains stable and the share of female professors has only slightly increased to 20.9%. The ‘She Figures’ publication is the main source of Pan-European comparable statistics on the state of gender equality in research and innovation.

Government publishes ambitious Innovation Strategy – Innovation 2020: Excellence Talent Impact

The Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD, together with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Jobs, today published Innovation 2020, Ireland’s 5-year strategy for research and development, science and technology at the Innovation Showcase 2016 event on 8th December at the Convention Centre Dublin.

This innovation plan is a key element of the Government’s overall jobs strategy, Enterprise 2025, aimed at building a new economy based on exports and enterprise, and delivering full employment on a sustainable basis.

The strategy is aimed at building on the significant successes delivered by the Government’s science strategy over the past decade, which has seen Ireland dramatically improve its performance globally in this area. The next phase of the strategy is aimed at building on existing infrastructures and achieving ambitious private-public collaborations.

A key ambition of the Strategy is to increase total investment in R&D in Ireland, led by the private sector, to 2.5% of GNP. On current official projections, this would mean that over €5billion will be invested per year in R&D by the private and public sectors by 2020. This will represent almost doubling current levels of investment (€2.9billion in 2014).

Among the other ambitious targets to be delivered by the strategy are:

  • the number of research personnel in enterprise will be increased by 60% to 40,000
  • research masters and PhD enrolments will be increased by 30% to 2,250;
  • private investment of R&D performed in the public research system will be doubled
  • 40% increase in the share of PhD researchers transferring from SFI research teams to industry
  • Ireland’s participation in International Research Organisations will be expanded – we will apply for full membership of ELIXIR, and we will explore membership options for CERN and ESO
  • the network of Research Centres will be further developed, building critical mass and addressing enterprise needs;
  • a successor to the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions will be rolled out to include investment in the creation of new, and the maintenance and upgrading of existing, facilities and equipment and ensure full utilisation;
  • €1.25bn funding under the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 will be drawn down;
  • a new Programme of Funding for Frontier Research will be introduced, providing resilience and responsiveness to meet new challenges or opportunities as they emerge;
  • challenge-centric research will be initiated to stimulate solutions-driven collaborations bringing together enterprise, higher education institutions and public sector to identify and address national challenges
  • horizon-scanning – in the coming years a formal horizon-scanning exercise will be undertaken to identify areas of strategic commercial opportunity for Irish-based enterprises. This process will feed into the next research prioritisation exercise in 2018
  • international benchmarking – we will benchmark Ireland’s performance in these areas against other comparable economies, and develop steps to improve our comparative performance

Launching the report, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said: “Developing the talent of our population is an underlying aim of Innovation 2020 and will be critical to the successful realisation of our national vision, of Ireland as an innovation leader.  Our success in delivering on our vision will depend on our people – undertaking the research, working in and creating successful enterprises, and contributing to the society in which we live.  We will support talent development from primary level through to Postdoctoral research and from frontier research across all disciplines to practical application. We will support the successful deployment of that talent and research in driving innovation in enterprises and public services.”

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD said: “Innovation 2020 is a key element in our plan to keep the recovery going by helping to create new jobs and new opportunities for research. It sets out a vision in which Ireland would become a Global Innovation Leader, with research, development, science and technology all contributing to this goal. Our reputation for research excellence has been a major catalyst in our success in attracting and maintaining foreign direct investment, and this Strategy demonstrates that we remain strongly committed to maintaining and improving standards in the excellence of our research.”

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “At the heart of our overall jobs strategy is rebuilding a sustainable economy based on enterprise, exports and innovation, to replace the failed economy based on debt and property that was built up during the last decade. A key part of this is improving our performance in innovation. In recent years we have built up a base of performance in innovation that has brought us into the top 10 of the international rankings – the aim now is to improve on this, and truly make Ireland a global leader in this area. This strategy sets out a range of ambitious actions for delivering on this, and under the leadership of Minister Damien English I am confident that we can deliver on this – with massive impact on our ability to grow the economy and create the jobs we need”.

Welcoming the launch of the strategy, Professor Mark WJ Ferguson, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “I welcome the new strategy Innovation 2020 which highlights the importance of scientific research and innovation to all aspects of Ireland’s future and which confirms the Government’s commitment to increase both public and private investment in this area.  Innovation 2020 builds on the considerable past successes and outlines some ambitious new plans such as challenge based funding.  Science, innovation and technology are driving rapid global changes and the world is becoming more competitive. Ireland needs to continue to push forward: be the creators and owners of new ideas and innovations, upskill our people, strengthen and future proof our economy and society. Implementation of Innovation 2020 will allow us to do that: excellence, talent and impact.”


For further information contact Press Office, D/Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation ph. 6312200 or

Notes for Editors

Innovation 2020 Full and Key Messages

Improvement in Ireland’s performance in R&D over recent years:

  • Ireland has improved its ranking in the Innovation Union Scoreboard having moved from 10th place in 2013 to 8th place in 2015 – ranked first in Innovators and Economic Effects i.e. how innovative firms are and economic success stemming from innovation in terms of employment, revenue and exports.
  • Ireland is 8th in the Global Innovation Index 2015 (out of 141 countries) [Source: Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO 2015]
  • Ireland is 13th in the world for university-industry collaboration on R&D [Source: Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014]
  • Ireland is listed amongst the top 20 countries in global rankings for the quality of our scientific research moving up to 16th place in 2014. We have excelled in certain scientific disciplines and Ireland is ranked 1st in immunology, 1st in animal and dairy, 3rd in nanotechnology and 4th in computer science. [Source: Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators]

 Background to Innovation 2020

In June 2006, Government published the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation (SSTI) 2006 to 2013 which provided the framework for Government’s investment in research and innovation. As a result significant steps were made in establishing a strong public research environment based on scientific excellence in a number of strategic areas, in many cases meeting and exceeding targets set out in the SSTI. Research Prioritisation emerged in the intervening period as the Government’s primary science, technology and innovation policy goal and this saw a concentration of the majority of competitive funding on areas which were deemed most likely to secure greater economic and societal impact, particularly in the form of jobs. Innovation 2020 places Research Prioritisation and the focus on research relevance and impact within a broader context and incorporates policy around research to support the broader knowledge base and research to support the development of policy in key sectors of relevance to the economy and society.

An Interdepartmental Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation (IDC) chaired by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and comprising representatives from key Government Departments, along with the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government and representatives from the Higher Education Authority, was convened at the end of 2014 to formulate the new Strategy.

A number of studies were undertaken and their findings were taken into consideration in the development of the Strategy. The studies were in areas including Ireland’s future research infrastructure needs; an independent review of Research Prioritisation; strengthening enterprise R&D; the market focused research centre landscape; the IP capability of Irish firms; and Ireland’s participation in international research organisations.

Ireland’s Future Research Infrastructure Needs Study

Review of Progress in Implementing Research Prioritisation

Optimising Policy Intervention to Strengthen the Impacts of Enterprise RD&I in Ireland

Strengthening Ireland’s Market Focused Research Centre Landscape

Enhancing the Intellectual Property Activities in the Firm Base in Ireland

Review of Irish Membership of International Research Organisations

An in-depth consultation process was undertaken. A detailed consultation paper setting out key issues was circulated to stakeholders in February 2015 and some 80 written responses were received. A Consultative Forum involving 120 key stakeholders from industry, the public sector and academia was held in July 2015.  The Forum focused on a number of thematic areas which emerged from the workings of the IDC and from the written consultation process. A report of the Forum was also commissioned.

The goals of Innovation 2020 are:

  • Excellent research performed in strategically important areas with relevance and impact for the economy and society
  • A strong, innovative and internationally competitive enterprise base, growing employment, sales and exports
  • A renowned pool of talent in Ireland’s public research system and in industry, which maximises exchange of talent and knowledge between the two
  • A coherent, joined-up innovation ecosystem, responsive to emerging opportunities, delivering enhanced impact through the creation and application of knowledge
  • An internationally competitive research system that acts as a magnet and catalyst for talent and industry.

This will mean:

  • More enterprises engaged in RDI, including enterprises in the locally traded sectors, to drive productivity performance
  • More enterprises progressing from early engagement with RDI to embedding innovation as a key part of their business model in a self-sustaining way
  • Businesses across the enterprise base embracing new technologies to build successful business models
  • Achieving innovation leadership in key sectors where we can sustain a competitive edge
  • Greater utilisation by enterprises of the research assets of our Higher Education Institutes, by engaging with Research Centres and Technology Centres
  • Greater success in translating intellectual property or new thinking into commercial products and services – by providing better supports for knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship, infrastructure for test-bedding, and access to funding
  • Greater use of RDI to find solutions to pressing societal challenges in areas such as public health and energy
  • Government departments using research to inform evidence-based policy and regulation, e.g. relating to the environment and
  • Public services embracing an increased investment in RDI as a way of delivering higher productivity and service-user experience, including a greater openness to partnering with enterprise to fund solutions for difficult challenges.

Ireland performs strongly winning €180 million from EU Programme for Research and Innovation ‘Horizon 2020’

Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation, Damien English TD, today announced Ireland’s latest successes in Horizon 2020, the EU Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) with a budget of approximately €80 billion. In welcoming the success the Minister said: ‘I would like to congratulate researchers from academia and industry in Ireland who have secured this prestigious funding. Irish Researchers are punching above their weight & continue to excel at winning competitive funding against the Europe’s best researchers’.

Click here to read more


Work Programme 2016 – 2017

The current main Horizon 2020 work programme comprises an introduction, 18 thematic sections and the general annexes describing general rules such as standard admissibility conditions and eligibility criteria, types of action, selection and award criteria, etc. Each thematic section is self-contained, and describes the overall objectives, the respective calls for proposals, and the topics within each call.

This Horizon 2020 work programme is complemented by the separate work programmes for the European Research Council, Euratom, the Joint Research Centre and the Strategic Innovation Agenda for the European Institute of Innovation and technology (EIT).
More section-oriented information on the input to the preparation of the current work programmes can be found for the following topics:

Ireland’s innovation success in the EU

Minister English welcomes Ireland’s improved position, now 8th in Innovation Union Scoreboard, up one from 2014.

Announces over €97 Million of funding won by researchers and companies in Horizon 2020 EU Programme for Research and Innovation.

Encourages even more industry participation in Horizon 2020.

7th May 2015

Ireland moves up one place to 8th position in the 2015 Innovation Union Scoreboard of 28 Member States published today, 7th May 2015. Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD welcomed the improved ranking and said: “This is the second year in a row in which Ireland’s ranking has improved, up from 9th in 2014 and 10th in 2013. In particular, I am pleased to see Ireland ranked first on two specific dimensions: Innovators; and Economic Effects which shows that our strategy of accelerating the economic and societal returns on our public investment in research and innovation is paying off. “

“In June 2013 Government set a range of system level targets in the context of implementation of research prioritisation and one of those targets was to move to 8th place in the Innovation Union Scoreboard by 2017 – as a result of a range of policy measures targeting our investment at areas of greatest economic and societal return, encouraging greater collaboration between academia and industry and enhancing the commercialisation of research we have met our target ahead of schedule”, continued the Minister. ”

Of the eight dimensions that make up the European Commission’s Innovation Union Scoreboard, Ireland ranked first in two of them: Innovators; and Economic Effects. The Innovators dimension measures how innovative firms are, while the Economic Effects captures economic success stemming from innovation in terms of employment, revenue and exports.

“The strengthening of our Innovation performance is bolstering our capacity to compete under HORIZON 2020 – the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation – and I am very pleased with the results for the first 9 months of the programme which show that we are on track to exceed our target for success in the first year.”

Ireland’s researchers and companies have been successful in winning €97 Million of funding in the first 9 months of Horizon 2020.

Ireland has traditionally performed well in areas such as ICT and research fellowships and researcher mobility across all disciplines (Marie Curie Actions).  In these areas, Ireland’s researchers have been awarded over €24 Million and €13 Million respectively. Ireland has also been very successful in the Agri-food (€11 Million) and Health (€10 Million) areas.

Ireland’s success in competing for European Research Council (ERC) grants under Horizon 2020 has significantly exceeded our performance in previous programmes.  The ERC’s prestigious grants support frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence. The funding to ERC grantees in Horizon 2020 so far is over €19 Million.

In welcoming the success to date, Minister of for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said “I am confident that, based on the pipeline of activity, we will surpass our target of €100 Million for the first year of the Programme. I would like to congratulate the Higher Education Institutions which account for over 70% of the success to date. Irish companies account for almost 20% of Ireland’s success, with 62% of this going to SMEs”.

Commenting on the industry engagement figures, Minister English added: “I would also like to commend industry and in particular Ireland’s innovative SMEs. The latest Innovation Union rankings demonstrate how innovative Ireland is at the level of the firm.  There are many more opportunities which innovative firms, including SMEs, can exploit in Horizon 2020. I want to encourage more industry participation. Success brings not only financial rewards but also a chance to collaborate with the best and brightest in Europe.  Enterprise Ireland’s Horizon 2020 industry experts are available to offer advice and support to companies on the Programme, its opportunities and how to apply”.

Noting the progress to date, Enterprise Ireland Chief Executive Officer, Julie Sinnamon said: “Enterprise Ireland is proud to lead Ireland’s participation in Horizon 2020. The latest results from the EU Commission show that IrishSMEs continue to shine in Europe– we are particularly interested to see our high potential start-ups and established companies with disruptive technologies reaping the rewards of the new SME focussed programmes. These programmes offer new and different opportunities to those in previous framework programmes and are at a scale suited to real impact on company development”

Collaboration is at the heart of Horizon 2020 – between industry and academia and between countries.

Among the Irish Universities, NUI Galway has had a noteworthy success rate, attracting the highest Horizon 2020 funding, with projects that exemplify the collaborative approach. One of their projects involves Irish SME Sports Surgery Clinic Dublin collaborating with the University on a large-scale clinical trial using adult stem cells to treat knee osteoarthritis. The project, which is co-ordinated by Professor Frank Barry of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, has been funded to the value of almost €6 million and trials are expected to be underway across Europe by the end of 2015.

In a separate multi-million euro clinical trial in the area of diabetic complications led by Professor Tim O’Brien of REMEDI and CÚRAM at NUI Galway. Galway-based Orbsen Therapeutics, a spin-out from NUI Galway will also play a key role in the project which will include partners in Northern Ireland and across Europe.

In both projects Dublin-based SME Pintail Ltd will ensure effective collaboration between the partners and support the management and delivery of the funded projects.
NUI Galway’s strong performance has ranged across many sectors, from the biosciences to the social sciences. Commenting on NUI Galway’s success, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research commented:  ‘NUI Galway views EU collaboration and funding as a key priority to strengthen our research and its impact on society. The University is working with government agencies and the EU to actively encourage, enable and support researchers to participate in EU funding programmes. We are also focusing on mentoring and supporting our younger generation of researchers to participate in EU funding calls. Our success so far is the success of our researchers who are investing their time, energy and passion for research and innovation in a highly competitive process.’

Dr. Imelda Lambkin, National Director for Horizon 2020, Enterprise Ireland said: “The Irish approach is to provide hands on assistance to our Horizon 2020 applicants – this level of support, building on national research and innovation investments, is paying off. Ireland’s researchers and companies are responding and showing that they can compete with the best internationally.”


For more information please contact:

Press Office, Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation: 01 – 631 2200 or

Notes to Editors:

Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015

Ireland’s overall innovation performance is above the EU average and is ranked 8th out of 28, placing Ireland in the second tier of countries, designated the “Innovation Followers”. This is the second year in a row in which Ireland’s ranking has improved: up from 9th in 2014 and 10th in 2013.

Based on the average innovation performance, Member States fall into four different performance groups: 
1.        Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden are “Innovation leaders” with innovation performance well above that of the EU average – Sweden tops this ranking; 
2.        Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia and the UK are “Innovation followers” with innovation performance above or close to that of the EU average; 
3.        The performance of Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain is below that of the EU average. These countries are “Moderate innovators”; 
4.        Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania are “Modest innovators” with innovation performance well below that of the EU average. 

While a direct comparison of Ireland’s performance in 2014 and 2015 (actual score, rather than ranking) is not possible due to changes in the measurement framework, an indirect comparison using adjusted data, carried out by the European Commission, indicates that Ireland had the largest increase in overall innovation performance among the western EU states and the fourth largest among the EU28.

Please see link to Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015 Report

The Government has set an ambitious target for Ireland in Horizon 2020 and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the Horizon 2020 national strategy. DJEI chairs the Horizon 2020 High Level Group whose core role is to oversee the development and implementation of the Horizon 2020 national strategy. The Horizon 2020 HLG consists of members from across Departments and Agencies: Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Department of Education and Skills; Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Department of Finance; Department of Health; Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; DIT; Enterprise Ireland; Environmental Protection Agency; Health Research Board; Higher Education Authority; IDA Ireland; InterTradeIreland; IOTI; Irish Research Council; Irish Universities Association; Marine Institute; Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU; Science Foundation Ireland; Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Teagasc.

EU Joint Programming Initiative ‘A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’ (JPI HDHL)

Preliminary announcement of a Joint Transnational Call on Intestinal Microbiomics

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is an active member of the JPI HDHL, a partnership of research funding agencies from across Europe and beyond which are working together to address the major societal challenge of healthy lifestyles and nutrition.

The JPI HDHL has developed a joint transnational call on Intestinal Microbiomics and has released a pre-announcement of this call.

The call will be officially launched on the 19 March 2015.

The call seeks proposals that will use innovative approaches to increase our knowledge of

  • the effects of diet on human intestinal microbiota
  • the functional impact of diet-related variations in the intestinal microbiota on human health

This action will support multidisciplinary transnational research consortia for a period of 3 years. The submission deadline for pre-proposals is expected to be on 18 April 2015.

For further details and the preliminary announcement document, please visit the call page on the JPI HDHL website.


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  • The Department for Agriculture Food and the Marine
  • The Environmental Protection Agency Ireland
  • Health Research Board
  • Higher Education Authority
  • Irish Research Council
  •  Irish Universities Association
  • The Marine Institute
  • Science Foundation Ireland (SFI
  • The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Horizon 2020 national support network led by Enterprise Ireland