Cowen hails €360m third-level research spend

IRELAND’S research reputation and job-creation potential is to get a major boost through a €359 million investment that will create almost 2,400 jobs, according to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

All but €99.3m of the latest cycle of the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) will go into 16 new buildings and facilities at various campuses, creating around 2,000 construction jobs up to 2016. The budget is mostly coming from Government funding, with a €62.6m share being injected by private sources, although billionaire Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies, which fuelled a large proportion of the programme’s previous €865m investment, is not believed to be among the main donors.

The PRTLI funding will create 379 direct jobs with €204m targeted at increasing research capacity in the bioscience and biomedical fields. The other sectors to benefit will be material sciences and sustainable energy (€66m), environment, marine and sustainable energy (€53m) and innovation, arts, humanities and social sciences (€36m).

Mr Cowen said the investment over the past decade that has established Ireland’s strong research environment and scientific excellence needs to be translated into sustainable jobs in strategic areas. “The big focus is how you commercialise the research that is coming out of our universities.

“There are areas of research in Ireland where we are up to world standard, and we want to augment that”, he said, announcing the initiative alongside Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Minister Batt O’Keeffe.

The projects have been chosen after an 18-month process of inviting and assessing proposals, with a focus on collaboration between third-level institutions.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) boasted involvement in 17 projects valued at €81m, while research programmes it will lead with University College Dublin (UCD) have secured more than €15m of capital and recurrent funding.

While the announcement last year that TCD and UCD were forming a research and innovation alliance prompted fears by other colleges that they could be sidelined from funding, the PRTLI funds appear to be well spread across higher education institutions.

UCC is the lead institution in three projects to receive €31m and a joint partner in seven others, while National University of Ireland Galway will get three new research buildings valued at €50m.

Mr O’Keeffe said the investment will transform the country’s research landscape, driving a culture of innovation to create smart jobs for smart people.

He said the number of spinout companies emerging from higher education research rose from eight to 35 between 2006 and 2009, while half of IDA foreign investments secured last year were in research, development and innovation, and were valued at €500m.

A range of Irish and multinational companies are among the supporting partners on many projects, including Boston Scientific, Analog Devices, Seagate Technology, Bord Gáis and ESB.


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