The five-day forum, the largest of its kind across Europe, is a golden opportunity for Ireland to showcase the best of Irish scientific research.
The conference will cover all of the current major global scientific challenges, including health, food, genetics and climate change.
President Higgins said the fruits of Ireland’s significant science and research investment programme undertaken in recent years could be appropriately highlighted on the international stage. “Nearly half of all foreign direct investment in Ireland from business last year was in research and development projects. We have also seen the addition of many new scientific posts to our third-level institutions.”
Speaking partly in Irish, he said Irish people sometimes failed to realise that the country’s inventiveness and original thinking had not been confined to the arts but has had a significant impact on the world of science and on the shaping of the technological age.
“As a nation, we must continue to remember our proven aptitude for physics, for chemistry, for technological development; our great ability to push the boundaries outwards, our restless, creative energy and curiosity that translates to a constant exploration of how things work and how they can be done better, more effectively, more efficiently,” he said.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton also referred to the country’s long history of scientific achievement at the conference.
In 2003, Ireland was ranked 36th in the world for quality of scientific output — seven years later it was ranked 20th. Mr Bruton also pointed out that in 2000, Ireland’s total spend on publicly funded research and development was €290m; in 2010, it was €872m.
Chief scientific adviser to the Government, Patrick Cunningham, said that with ESOF 2012 they were, in effect, bringing the Olympics of science to Dublin. “With a focus on careers and business opportunities, this event will be a significant boost for Ireland’s growing international reputation for science and research.”
More than 4,000 delegates will attend the biennial meeting at the National Conference Centre.
The Science in the City Festival is also under way across Dublin with many of the events free of charge.
* Today former president and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson will talk about equity and climate science.
Tomorrow Bob Geldof, musician, political activist and businessman, will talk about making a difference in the developing world.
On Saturday, Prof Rolf-Dieter Heuer, from the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) will talk about the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, which explains how every particle in the universe gets its mass.