Ireland pours record amount of cash into research

July 22, 2010

Ireland's prime minister, Brian Cowen, has announced the largest single investment of funding for research ever made in the country.

It will amount to EUR360 million (£300 million) over five years, comprising EUR297 million from the state and a further EUR63 million from private sources.

The Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions was established in 1998, when the Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney offered to put up IR£75 million (£66 million) for research if the government would match it.

The scheme, which is managed by the Higher Education Authority, has now invested more than EUR865 million of public and private money in higher education institutions, funding infrastructure development as well as research in humanities, social sciences, science and technology.

When the fifth cycle of the programme was announced in 2009, universities and other institutions in partnership with industry were invited to submit proposals for infrastructure to support research and innovation. Northern Irish universities were included as collaborators for the first time. The proposals were assessed by an international panel on the basis of Ireland's strengths and opportunities.

Despite the current tough financial climate, the government has gone beyond earlier levels of investment and accepted the panel's recommendations in full.

It is estimated that this will result in the creation or refurbishment of more than 64,000 sq ft of research space and perhaps 1,900 jobs in construction in Ireland.

Major projects are being funded in fields ranging from electricity, environmental health and earth systems to innovation, economic forecasting and the creative industries.

"This is a clear commitment that the Irish government is serious about research and innovation," said Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority.

"Ireland is fortunate that we have developed a number of niche research areas across the humanities as well as in science and technology. This investment is about consolidating that work and commercialising the ideas that have emerged."

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