Government committed to supporting research
By assessing areas of greatest market opportunity for Ireland and evaluating the research strengths built to date, this ambitious project identified 14 priority areas which, along with six underpinning platform technologies and infrastructure, will become the focus of the majority share of competitive State funding in research for the next five years.
Implementation will see funding aligned with priority areas where we are most likely to get economic returns, particularly jobs.
The priority areas, which encompass areas such as food, health, ICT, manufacturing, energy, and innovation in services and business processes, build on existing research strengths and investments and target public investment towards areas which will ensure that Ireland is a top-tier location for knowledge and innovation intensive enterprises and jobs for the future.
This approach is driving new behaviours and systems are being put in place to ensure that research funders address the needs of each priority area in a holistic way, leading to the development of synergies across research funders and the elimination of duplication of effort.
Research centre stage
In our current fiscal and economic crisis, we are ensuring that research remains centre stage in the Government’s economic strategy. Most researchers understand the approach we are taking and why this is the right strategy for this time of crisis.
There are some researchers who criticise the Government’s determination to maximise jobs from public investment in research. I welcome open debate and the views of the research community but some commentary leads me to question if there are some pockets of researchers that are really in touch with the economic realities.
Research has, down through the years, always been subject to evaluation in terms of potential impact and while the criteria may now be more demanding, it is still the case that research proposals, including those of fundamental, “blue-skies” research, if they are of sufficient quality, will still receive public backing and funding.
No discipline is excluded from the new approach which requires researchers to prove the relevance of their work to the priority areas as well as proving impact and excellence. For example, maths is particularly relevant to the three priority areas within ICT; biology and chemistry underpin research in the health areas in particular therapeutics and diagnostics; physics is relevant to the manufacturing, energy and services related priority areas.
There is no question about the Government’s commitment to supporting science, technology and innovation given its critical role in economic and social development. We are keeping science centre stage by ensuring that it is impactful and that by delivering for the economy it is also delivering for our society.
Sean Sherlock is the Minister of State for Research and Innovation