Government committed to supporting research
We are keeping science centre stage by ensuring that it is delivers for the economy and society
Public investment in scientific research has been a key factor in building Ireland’s skills base, our capacity to deliver world class research and our attractiveness to companies investing here.
Around 50 per cent of IDA client company announcements in 2012 had links to Science Foundation Ireland.
Ireland has enhanced its standing in global research by steadily building a credible research base – for example, our publication rates have doubled, with Ireland’s citation rates now surpassing US and EU averages.
There has been a consistent ramping up of investment in publicly funded research over the past 15 years or so. Government budget appropriations and outlays on research and development (GBAORD) increased from €504 million in 2002 to €823 million in 2011.
However, what this Government is doing differently is not only maintaining that level of investment but asking some searching questions.
For example, we need to know what has those years of investment given us in terms of areas of strength. We need to know what those years of investment have given us in terms of physical infrastructure, equipment and human capital.
We need to ask if we are optimally aligned with high potential areas of growth and opportunity in terms of innovative products and services and global trends. We need to ask our research community: “How can you help this economy and our society to meet the challenges that we now face?”
The jobs crisis is perhaps the greatest economic and social challenge we face. We know that people at most risk of poverty are those without jobs. Structural long-term unemployment has a devastating impact on life chances including educational opportunities and health outcomes.
The failed economy which the Government inherited is being turned around. However, we continue to borrow around €300 million per week to maintain public services and to fund our investment programmes including public research. We need to ensure that we are investing in those areas that are likely to yield the greatest return in terms of jobs and innovative products and services.
Health Innovation Hub
That is why, for example, we have established a pilot Health Innovation Hub which brings together health service providers, leading-edge researchers in third-level institutions and representatives of the many life sciences and health sector companies based in Ireland.
This hub is trying to develop innovative products and services which not only have commercial and jobs potential but could make a real difference to our health service in areas such as post-hospital patient care, more effective sanitation of hospital mattresses and patient management systems.
The research prioritisation exercise undertaken in my department and across the Government was the most ambitious of its kind. It involved extensive research, analysis and stakeholder consultation.