A €360m research investment unveiled by the government today will create almost 2,500 jobs and help drive Ireland's economic recovery, the Taoiseach pledged today.
The initiative is one of the biggest financial boosts to the sector in the history of the State.
It will see a range of projects undertaken at universities and colleges across the country through the ongoing Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI).
The construction of many new infrastructure developments such as laboratories and research facilities will also be funded.
The announcement comes hot on the heels of the launch in New York earlier this week of the Government's €500m Innovation Fund Ireland, which aims to foster a new culture of entrepreneurialism in the country.
The latest investment represents the fifth phase of the PRTLI - a scheme first established in 1998 with the financial support from Irish American tycoon and philanthropist Chuck Feeney.
Mr Cowen, who outlined the PRTLI Cycle 5 at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, said: "The investment of €360m in research and innovation is about creating and protecting sustainable Irish jobs.
"This investment, one of the largest ever in research and innovation, will create jobs and drive economic growth in a number of ways.
"Nearly 2,000 construction-related jobs will be created immediately through capital investment in buildings, laboratories and other physical infrastructure. Nearly 400 jobs will be directly created through the projects themselves.
"However, much more importantly, the projects being supported are in areas of strategic importance to Ireland's economic development."
Under Cycle 5 of the programme, which will run from next year to 2016, the Government will invest €296.1m, with €62.6m coming from private non-Exchequer sources.
Among the major projects the investment will fund include a €75m biomedical sciences development at Trinity College Dublin and €53m science centre at UCD.
Mr Cowen said the project was part of the Government's strategy to kick-start the economy.
"This announcement is another clear signal that we are confident about the future of our country," he said.
"As with the launch earlier this week in New York of Innovation Fund Ireland, we are signalling our confidence - to ourselves and to the world - with concrete measures to support our economy and create new jobs.
"The Government's plan for economic recovery has three pillars - correcting the public finances, reforming and restoring the banking system and building a sustainable, competitive smart economy.
"Today is about enhancing competitiveness through investing in the productive capacity of the economy and the future of all of our young people.
"The massive investment of €360m in our national research capacity is another key step forward."
Launching PRTLI Cycle 5 with the Taoiseach, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O'Keeffe TD, said the five-year plan would help to create "smart" jobs and make Ireland Europe's innovation hub.
"The Government's investment of €296m under PRTLI Cycle 5 is crucial to our economic recovery," he said.
"It will transform Ireland's research landscape and lay the foundations for a prosperity based on sustainable high-quality jobs.
"By investing in research, buildings and people, we can continue to make our higher education institutions among the best in the world and drive a new culture of innovation that will create smart jobs for smart people."