New funding round to focus on firms


EU RESEARCH BUDGET:IRISH RESEARCHERS have proved highly effective at getting financial support from the EU research budget.

Almost €430 million has been granted to more than 1,300 applicants, and the total is expected to reach €600 million by the end of 2013.

Details of how our academic and company-based researchers are winning funding from the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) budget were outlined yesterday in Dublin by Dr Imelda Lambkin, who heads a unit within Enterprise Ireland to promote research applications to the EU.

The EU on Monday announced the largest single block of funding to come out of FP7. The €8.1 billion put on offer will also be the last block from that programme until its replacement, Horizon 2020, comes on stream in 2014.

Irish research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn spoke at the event at the European Commission offices in Dublin, linked to the opening yesterday in Dublin of the EuroScience Open Forum. The commissioner explained how the funding would support applied and basic research in third-level institutions and companies.

It would fund research into the oceans of the future, raw materials, smart cities and clean energy. The key to promoting jobs and enterprise was by producing knowledge through research, she said, and this was critical given Ireland’s small open economy.

She said the academic research sector had proved highly successful in winning support, but the new funding round would place a “huge focus” on participation by small to medium enterprises. There was €1.2 billion available in support of company involvement.

“We are in a very strong position at this stage of the programme,” Dr Lambkin told the meeting.

There had been 1,357 successful applicants who had drawn down €429.5 million, equal to €1.5 million a week going into Irish-based research.

The commission had hoped that 15 per cent of applicants from any country would be from companies, but Ireland had reached more than 20 per cent.

The head of research and innovation at Waterford Institute of Technology, Dr William Donnelly, warned Ireland had been “haemorrhaging” graduates over the past few years, but success in winning EU research funding could help bring them back.

He said he had 100 researchers working in his telecommunications software and systems group at Waterford IT and had been involved in 62 projects.