Tánaiste defends €24m research spend


TÁNAISTE MARY Coughlan has defended a €24 million investment in scientific research, saying it would help create jobs and build a “smart economy” for Ireland.

The Government was committed to this investment and would support research despite the economic difficulties, Ms Coughlan said yesterday.

She was speaking at the launch in Dublin of five new “strategic research clusters” that will build links between academic scientists and private sector companies.

“With this kind of research we can attract and sustain employment,” she said.

Funding for the clusters comes via Science Foundation Ireland (SFI),

When asked whether the money might have been better spent in public services, she defended the investment. “Certainly I can appreciate that comment, but strategically the Government has decided that we are going to continue our investment in science and innovation.”

It was designed to increase Ireland’s reputation as a world centre for research, but it also helped to strengthen companies here, attract more foreign direct investment and also supported job creation.

“This is where the world is at in terms of sustaining employment and creating new opportunities,” Ms Coughlan said.

The five new clusters bring to 17 the number being supported by SFI grants.

Two of the five newcomers are based at Dublin City University with others at University College Dublin, NUI Galway and at Waterford Institute of Technology.

Ms Coughlan highlighted the Waterford investment, the first cluster to be established at an institute of technology. Each cluster has at least one academic partner and one or more firms attached to it. The partners collaborate in research with the expectation that new products would arise.

The subjects under study in the five new clusters include information technology, advanced biochemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry and new materials.

The five will employ 173 researchers and involve 22 companies including household names such as IBM, Intel, Ericsson and Pfizer, to name a few.

The investment would see “research translated into jobs”, Minister of State for Science Jimmy Devins said at the launch.