Brussels, 16 July 2002
Ireland will do better in the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) than in the Fifth Framework programme (FP5) because the country is more organised and focused on research and development (R&D), particularly at government level.
This was the opinion of Mary Harney, Ireland's Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for enterprise, trade and employment, when speaking to CORDIS News at an FP6 information day in Dublin on 12 July.
This new focused approach is necessary because 'it is important we get the best value from this huge amount of money,' said Ms Harney. It can be demonstrated by the establishment of a new national information and support service to potential FP6 participants, as announced by Ms Harney on 12 July.
Initiatives such as the national development plan and the establishment of Science foundation Ireland have also heightened awareness of the EU programmes and led to more interest, coordination and assistance, Ms Harney believes.
'I think the reason Irish researchers left Ireland in the past was because there weren't enough opportunities here for them. There was no serious programmes to keep serious researchers in the country and the whole Science foundation project is with a view to building up our research base, to create a critical mass of serious researchers to hold people in Ireland and bring back people who have left Ireland,' she said.
In addition to these initiatives, Ireland's success in FP6 is likely to be driven by the ability to identify suitable partners in other European countries, Ms Harney told CORDIS News. The Tánaiste envisages a high percentage of Ireland's partners coming from the current EU applicant countries. 'We have a lot in common. Ireland is an example of what can happen after accession to the EU. [...] Ireland should be a role model for other countries to look to, especially the applicant countries, especially the small countries,' said Ms Harney.
Ms Harney recognises the importance of R&D (research and development) for Ireland's economic growth over the last couple of decades, and is equally aware of its importance for Ireland's continued success. It was this recognition that led to the addition of science and technology to Ms Harney's portfolio. 'It is important that responsibility rests with someone at the cabinet table,' she said.
Ms Harney believes Ireland's success is due to its capacity to be innovative in many ways, and in particular its investment in technology based education. She is however eager to encourage more R&D in Ireland.
'If we want to continue, we must do a lot more. We can't stand still, or we will go backwards,' said the Tánaiste. Two areas on which Ireland is putting particular emphasis for the future are ICTs (information and communication technologies) and biotechnology, she said.
A strong education base is also fundamental. 'The first thing you need is the capacity to produce highly qualified and motivated individuals to participate in research,' Ms Harney told CORDIS News.
All of these initiatives should see far more successful Irish proposals in FP6 than in FP5. Martin Shanagher from the Irish Department of enterprise, trade and employment told CORDIS News that an increase in national funding and a lack of support for researchers could explain low Irish participation in FP5.
'We had less support for researchers than we should have had. Innovation relay centres [IRCs] used to support and give information on FP6 were not available for FP5. But we are now putting in place new information structures and support structures,' said Mr Shanagher. 'Because of the bureaucracy involved in the Framework programmes and the difficulties in making contacts across Europe, we do need significant support to ensure they participate fully.'
Under the Science foundation Ireland programme, the country is currently developing 33 centres across the university systems which will be able to become part of European networks and participate in FP6.
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