Carlow IT criticises neglect of south-east in the funding of research


Less than 1 per cent of funding for higher education research and development is spent in the south-east, according to figures produced by the State's institutes of technology.

Despite having 11 per cent of the State's population, the region attracted just 0.69 per cent of higher education research and development funding in a three-year period up to last year, it is claimed.

Carlow Institute of Technology has called on the next government to address the imbalance. The director of the institute, Mr John Gallagher, said that while Carlow IT had received €1.82 million in funding for its research programmes in biotechnology, environmental science and other areas during the period in question, far greater levels of support would be required if the institute was to fulfil its role in supporting economic development.

"The importance of an institute such as ourselves being positioned to attract high-technology industries to the region, and more importantly to grow indigenous companies, cannot be over-estimated," he said. "Our success in supporting such development relies heavily on our R&D capabilities."

Figures compiled by the directors of the State's institutes of technology show, they say, that two-thirds of all third-level R&D funding is spent in the Dublin region, and most of that by a handful of university departments.

The "inevitable consequence", according to Carlow IT, will be the continued growth and expansion of Dublin, at the expense of the rest of the State.

The Department of Education, it claims, has failed to implement the 1992 and 1994 Regional Technical Colleges Acts, which provided a legislative framework for institutes of technology to increase their involvement in R&D. "Ten years on, a meagre 10 per cent of research funding is provided to the IR sector."

Funding for third-level R&D is provided by a variety of sources, including the Department of Education, the Higher Education Authority and the EU.

A new and creative approach is required, says Carlow IT, to push research funding to the regions, release untapped potential and spur the establishment of spin-off enterprises. The figures compiled by the institute directors, showing regional distribution of higher education research funding from 1999 to 2001, show the IT sector received €38.7 million, or 10.7 per cent of the total.

The Mid East/Dublin region got €235 million, or 65 per cent of the total, compared to €2.5 million, or 0.69 per cent, for the south-east.