Brussels, 13 Jul 2006
The Irish government has announced a €4.8 million investment into two programmes to encourage women back into science and engineering posts.
The majority of the investment, a total of €4.3 million, will be awarded to 10 women researchers over a period of three years under the Principal Investigator Career Advancement Award (PICA) of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). This programme supports women coming back to their research careers following maternity, adoptive, carer or parental leave.
The remaining €503,000 will go towards the development of long-term initiatives in universities targeting women and encouraging their participation in science and engineering. The funding will be awarded under the separate SFI Institute Development Award to three of the country's universities: University College Cork (UCC), Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University of Limerick (UL).
Announcing the investment, Irish Minister for Trade and Commerce Michael Ahern said: 'We want to increase the number of women conducting internationally competitive research. The returns on this investment will include world-class research, positive role models and increased female participation in Irish science and engineering research.'
In addition to the announced investment, Mr Ahern pointed to the government's new strategy for science, technology and innovation, which, he said, would help to create considerable career opportunities in the science and technology sector. 'Women represent a significant and relatively untapped resource from which many of these additional researchers can be recruited.'
Ireland, like many other EU Member States, has a deficit of women in science, engineering and technology. According to the statistics from the country's higher level applications office, only 16.4 per cent of students who accepted places on four-year engineering degree courses in 2002-2004 were female. And while 'She Figures 2006' for Europe suggests that the number of female university graduates is increasing, female participation in research is generally low across the EU, representing just 18 per cent in the private sector and 35 per cent in the public sector.
National and European programmes that encourage women to take part in research is of particular importance as Europe needs an extra half a million researchers to meet the EU's Lisbon goals of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy.