ANN CAHILL: Ireland to target €1bn from EU research fund

Ireland will target winning at least €1 billion for scientific research from the EU’s fund, and a conference to launch the bid will be held in Brussels next year.

It will be hosted by Sean Kelly, Ireland South MEP, who held a high-level discussion on the future of scientific funding opportunities in the European Parliament.

The EU’s research budget, Horizon 2020, worth €80 billion will come on stream in 2014 and will cover a seven-year period. It is the single largest research fund in the world.

The country has done well from the current research fund. So far more than 1,130 proposals worth €362 million have been approved.

The level of investment in research and development by both the state and industry is lower than the EU average at little more than 2%, but Mr Kelly said he believes that Ireland can do much better in future.

He plans a conference in the Parliament in March 2013 to bring together 100 countries to identify 100 projects with 100 Irish partners to secure the €1bn in funding.

Professor Patrick Cunningham, the chief scientific adviser to the government, was the keynote speaker at the discussion that included representatives from higher education institutions and technology-based industries from around the country.

He pointed out that according to the World Bank’s figures for the wealth of nations, 83% of the country’s wealth was listed as human and social, with just 14% of it production and 3% natural.

The country has big advantages including a higher than average number of people in the 25-34 age group with third level education. But spending on R&D is far less than most EU countries.

The number of scientific papers produced here in 2006 was well above the EU and the US average. In terms of innovation the country comes ninth in the EU. Professor Cunningham said the aim should be to make it into the top four leading countries, and he estimated this could be achieved inside 10 years.

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