John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development charts the research and innovation landscape in Ireland today.
Over the past thirty years, Ireland has built a growing reputation for scientific excellence and is a world leader in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress. Innovation is a cornerstone of Ireland’s overall economic development policy. As a small country, we know that innovation is key to maintaining competitiveness for Ireland in global markets – and thereby providing employment and sustainable growth in our economy. We recognise that innovation is crucial to creating and maintaining high-value jobs and attracting, developing and nurturing business, scientists, researchers and innovators.
Ireland is one of the leading RDI (Research, Development and Innovation) locations in the world. It offers the ideal commercial, political and social environment for companies to carry out successful and profitable RDI activities. This has attracted global leaders in key high-tech industries to undertake RDI projects in areas such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, ICT and financial services.
Innovation 2020 is our cross-government strategy for research and innovation, science and technology. Launched in 2015, it contains a large number of initiatives to support broad-based innovation, focusing on excellence, talent and impact to deliver on our vision to become a global innovation leader, driving a strong, sustainable economy and a better society.
From pre-primary through to further and higher education and throughout an individual’s career, skills and knowledge need to be continuously enhanced if individuals, employers and countries are to realise their potential. Our success has always depended and will always depend, on our people.
To address the many global challenges that we face across society and the economy, we are ensuring that future generations of problem solvers can be inspired. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research. Its work in promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to the public stimulates very important public conversations around scientific research and encourages young people to consider pursuing a career path in these areas.
Initiatives being funded through SFI’s Discover programme help generate enthusiasm for STEM and highlight the individual, societal and economic value of encouraging more people in Ireland to get involved.
It is vital that Ireland has a strong pipeline of STEM talent and cohorts of academically outstanding future research leaders with the skills and knowledge required to address the future challenges of an ever-changing work environment. Enhancing skills, developing and attracting talent is a pillar of the Irish Government’s Future Jobs Ireland plan.
Further to this, earlier this year I launched the SFI Centres for Research Training, aimed at providing 700 PhD students trained in digital, data and ICT skills for the future, in collaboration with industry. Ireland will take a cohort-based approach to research training, allowing for better integration and collaboration across disciplines and ultimately, individuals who are well rounded, well-equipped and confident to help achieve our RDI ambitions. The cohort approach will expose students to the wider scientific relevance of their research, encourage peer-to-peer learning and facilitate the establishment of networks, empowering them to take on positions of leadership.
Supporting collaboration between academics and industry is something that we have been very successful here in Ireland. It is an important part of how we transfer knowledge from our higher education institutions (HEIs) to industry.
Ireland’s pro-business knowledge transfer eco-system is proven. Our business development agency, Enterprise Ireland, works with researchers in higher education and other research performing organisations (RPOs) to help maximise the commercial return from publicly-funded research. Investment in RPOs the length and breadth of the country is critical and as such, it must go hand in hand with an effective strategy to put that research into the hands of businesses for the benefit of the Irish economy and society. The commercialisation of public research to drive innovation and Ireland’s economic competitiveness is a key pillar of Innovation 2020. Our recently revised National IP Protocol is a key element of that strategy. The revised IP Protocol is the product of an extensive consultative process facilitated by Knowledge Transfer Ireland with representatives from industry, investors, entrepreneurs, agencies and research organisations to ensure that government policy supports all types of enterprises engaging with publicly-funded research in Ireland.
Generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress is a key priority. By transforming the level and quality of interactions between our higher education research institutions and enterprise, we are developing a strong capacity to commercialise our public research and we are ranked first in the world for knowledge diffusion.
International cooperation maximises the impact of international and national investment in research and innovation. It contributes to the development of Ireland as a research and enterprise partner, underscoring and enhancing the excellence of our research and innovation system and facilitating engagement with the Irish diaspora. A significant component of our engagement in international cooperation is the participation by our researchers and enterprises in the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The benefits of Horizon 2020 extend far beyond the potential monetary rewards. It provides a mechanism to network and collaborate with the best researchers and leading companies across Europe and engages the RDI community in addressing common societal challenges. These benefits are particularly important for a small, island nation.
In the current context, more than ever, it is vital that we harness the considerable abilities of Ireland’s researchers, to give our businesses the best possible competitive edge on the global stage.
John Halligan TD
Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation,
Research and Development
Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation
Tel: +353 1 631 2121