IRISH universities and businesses are getting €1 million a week in research grants from the EU, but government R&D spending will have to be cut this year, Junior Minister Conor Lenihan has declared.
More than 23% of Irish applicants for a share of the EU’s €50 billion research budget have been successful which is higher than the average.
To date, more than €107m has been awarded and the target is €600m by 2013.
Research and development is vital for the future health of the economy and exports, Mr Lenihan, who is Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, has said.
The recession and a more industry-focused programme by the EU have encouraged more Irish businesses to apply for EU funding.
Already, about 30% of businesses have projects approved for funding compared to 20% under the last programme and of these 75% are small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).
Universities and public bodies like Teagasc have secured 70% of the funds to date. Each project must have a number of businesses from different member states and research labs involved.
“R&D spending is vital to our recovery and we see that the 800 SMEs involved in research are increasing their exports,” Mr Lenihan said, adding that 40% of foreign direct investors last year were R&D based and this was a significant factor in companies like Google and Facebook setting up in the country.
This year the Government’s budget for research will be more closely watched with spending by all departments on R&D gathered together in one budget line, he said. This is to avoid a repeat of last year’s inadvertent 15% cut in such spending, he added.
However, Bord Snip recommended that the R&D budget be cut – it is currently set at 1.6% of GDP with a target of 2% by 2013 and two thirds of this coming from the private sector. The EU target is 2% by 2010.
Research funding from the EU fund does not require co-funding and will provide a stable source of income for research over the next few years, Mr Lenihan said.
Most of the research funds are for information and communication technologies; nanoscience, materials and production processes and health.
Companies involved include Intel with a series of projects, Wavebob Ltd for a wave energy converter, and Cork-based Sensl, a hi-tech firm developing cancer diagnostic tools.
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