Government plans for €5bn spend on scientific research

Programme aims to increase numbers working in R&D by 15,000 over five years

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern

 

The Government will today reveal a €5 billion spending programme which will see the numbers involved in scientific research and development (R&D) activities rise from 25,000 to 40,000 over the next five years.

It will also see a rapid rise in the availability of highly qualified young researchers holding master’s degrees and PhDs from 1,750 to 2,250 by 2020.

The plan, “Innovation 2020”, will be launched later today by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Dublin’s Convention Centre. It details a wide range of initiatives all designed to increase Ireland’s engagement with scientific research and the commercialisation of research discoveries.

It declares Ireland’s intent to seek memberships of two international research bodies: the European Southern Observatory and Cern, Europe’s nuclear research centre.

The plan sets a target for combined State and private sector investment in research at 2.5 per cent of gross national product, up from a current figure of about 1.8 per cent.

Private sector

The new strategy is designed to help Ireland break into the “innovation leader” group in the EU’s Innovation Scorecard, which includes countries such as Sweden.

The plan was drawn up by the Interdepartmental Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation, a group which includes all 10 departments involved in supporting research along with the Higher Education Authority and the chief scientific adviser to Government.

All disciplines

Irish Research Council

There will also be an increase in capital spending, used for buildings but also for advanced research equipment and to maintain the equipment already in the labs. Applications for funding will open in 2016 and payments under the existing capital scheme, the Programme for Research In Third Level Institutions, would start to roll in 2017, it is understood. The new plan also retains the strong emphasis placed by the current Government on the need to see a return on the State investment made in research.

The plan suggests that knowledge transfer will be a central element in the system. This includes seeking to turn intellectual property into value generation. International collaboration is also strongly emphasised which particularly relates to securing funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 budget.

Horizon 2020

The assumption is this target will more readily be achieved by 2020 given a more active research and innovation ecosystem.

Science Foundation Ireland, one of the main funding bodies along with others such as the Health Research Board and Teagasc, will see increased funding for activities in overseeing Ireland’s 12 major research centres. The number of centres is likely to increase over the next five years.

It also funds a range of programmes, for example to facilitate the movement of researchers from academia into industry for a time before returning to their role in higher education. The need to convince students of good career options in science, technology, engineering and maths also features. It is one of 93 “actions” to be achieved up to 2020.

The Government will establish the Innovation 2020 Implementation Group to oversee the the strategy. This body will ensure departments use their funding for research and that the 93 actions are completed.