Government’s plan to target core €500million research budget at turning good ideas into good jobs

Ministers Bruton and Sherlock launch Research Prioritisation Plan

The Minister for Jobs,Enterpriseand Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton, T.D., along with the Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Sean Sherlock, T.D., today [Thursday 1st March] launched the Government’s plan to target the majority of the Government’s core €500million budget that the State spends on scientific research every year on areas with the greatest potential for economic return. The Report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group, chaired by Mr Jim O’Hara, former General Manager of IntelIreland, which recommended 14 specific areas of greatest opportunity, was approved by the Government on 21 February 2012.

Today’s event represents the delivery of a major action due for implementation in Q1 under the Action Plan for Jobs 2012.

The Government also announced the establishment of a Prioritisation Action Group, chaired by Minister Sherlock, which will oversee implementation of the recommendations of the report. Membership of the group, which will report to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Jobs, will include all Government agencies which are responsible for research budgets and their parent Departments. This group will include Science FoundationIreland, the Higher Education Authority, IDA Ireland,EnterpriseIreland, the Health Research Board, Teagasc, the Marine Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. This Group will be responsible for identifying actions, timelines and lead actors, consulting with industry players and identifying necessary sources of funding.

 As part of the prioritisation process, the following four criteria had to be fulfilled:

  • A global market exists in which Irish-based enterprises can compete
  • Public R&D inIrelandis required to exploit the opportunity
  • Ireland has strengths in related research disciplines
  • A national or global challenge exists whichIrelandshould respond to 

This announcement comes as part of a series of Government measures aimed at better targeting the State’s scientific research budget at achieving commercial outcomes. In January Minister Sherlock announced that he had secured Government approval for legislation to extend the remit of Science FoundationIrelandto include applied research in areas of strategic opportunity forIreland.

Minister Bruton said: “A key part of the Government’s plan to create the employment we need is to ensure that the Government’s core €500million research budget is focused on turning good ideas into good jobs. Today we are outlining a series of steps we are taking in order to ensure that this happens. Firstly, we have identified 14 specific areas where we believe our research can be best targeted in order to achieve commercial outcomes. We have also identified a series of actions necessary in order to deliver the changes needed. And finally, we have established an implementation group, chaired by Minister Sherlock, reporting to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Jobs, in order to ensure that the necessary changes happen.

“In recent years we have built up a very substantial base of world-class scientific research taking place inIreland. The challenge now is to ensure that this activity is translated into commercial outcomes and sustainable businesses and sustainable jobs. With determined implementation of the recommendations of this report we can make sure that this happens”.

Minister Sherlock said that the Government had agreed to the future alignment of public investment by research funders consistent with the 14 areas of priority identified in the report and that he would be driving implementation of the recommendations. He said that he will personally chair a Prioritisation Action Group and he indicated that all relevant Government Departments as well as all research funders will be involved and input from external experts and industry will be secured.

Minister Sherlock said, “We need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of research programmes and structures and a vital element here will be measuring the impact on the priority areas – we need to have indicators that measure outcomes and impacts rather than just looking at inputs.”

Minister Sherlock joined Minister Bruton in thanking, on behalf of the Government, the Chairman and members of the Steering Group as well as all those who participated in the working groups that fed into the analysis, for their expertise and the considerable amount of time they dedicated to this exercise.

Mr Jim O’Hara, Chairman of the Steering Group that produced the report pointed out that, “The investment that has been made in research is one of the really good things that we have done inIrelandin terms of supporting enterprise. We need to go further now. Our group has proposed to Government that the over-riding goal for the years ahead should be to accelerate the delivery of specific economic outcomes from our investment in research. The priority areas that we have identified focus on key areas of relevance to the economy and society including manufacturing and business services, remote healthcare and digital services, smart energy grids and sustainable food production.”

Mr O’Hara went on to say that “The 14 areas we recommend stand up well in terms of the potential for economic impact including jobs. However, it is as much about how money gets spent in this area. We recommend a stage-gate process that will require researchers to demonstrate the economic relevance of their work as well as its scientific excellence if they are to get funding under the priority areas. Our other recommendations will also help to move to a more needs-driven approach.”

Mr Martin D. Shanahan, Chief Executive, Forfás, said, “The group’s work has been based on evidence assembled by Forfás around market opportunities andIreland’s existing research strengths. The adoption of the group’s recommendations is one of the most significant developments in science, technology and innovation policy since the Technology Foresight exercise in the late 1990s.”