Dr. Patrick Fottrell, Chairman, C.H.I.U.
Tuesday, 27th July, 1999 @ 11.00am
Dr. Patrick Fottrell, Chairman, C.H.I.U., speaking on behalf of University Heads, today welcomed the announcement of the allocations for research projects amounting to a total investment in excess of £100m. It was, he said, a momentous development for basic research in Ireland, which in terms of State funding which has historically lagged light years behind our competitor countries. He pointed out that Ireland’s expenditure on university R&D as a percentage of GDP was the lowest joint of all OECD countries – 0.25% compared to the OECD average of 0.37%.
He was confident that the initiative marked a major shift in the Government’s appreciation of the importance of investment in basic research infrastructure as a key factor in underpinning Ireland’s future prosperity and well-being as a knowledge-based society. Dr. Fottrell also stressed that highly educated and trained researchers would be the drivers of economic and social development well into the next millennium.
The universities themselves regarded investment in research infrastructure as such an absolute national priority that they each had undertaken to raise 50% of the cost of approved projects on a public/private partnership basis. They have done this in the expectation that the initiative would serve as a launch pad for a long term strategic Government programme of greatly increased investment in third-level research.
Dr. Fottrell said that C.H.I.U.’s submission on the National Plan – “Guaranteeing Future Growth”- made proposals for a programme of strategic investment in university research and he called on the Government to ensure that a quantum leap in state investment in research and development undertaken by third level institutions would be a priority strategy for economic and social development in the National Plan for the period 2000-2006.
The announcement today represented a clear endorsement by Government of the expertise and international reputation of Irish university research and would provide support for Irish researchers in their efforts to be at the leading edge in discovering new knowledge.
Dr. Fottrell said that in spite of inadequate facilities, university researchers had competed aggressively and successfully for contract research from the EU and other sources, and earned substantial sums from research projects. Investment in state-of-the-art facilities under this initiative would enhance the universities’ capacity to compete for research contracts and to collaborate with industry.
Dr. Fottrell paid tribute to the HEA and the International Assessment Panel on delivering the decisions on time. The universities were painfully aware, from the extent of the work that was required of them as part of the application process, of the enormity of the task that had been expertly and professionally completed by the HEA and the Panel. He said that C.H.I.U. would continue to co-operate with the HEA and the Department of Education and Science to ensure speedy provision of the building projects now approved.
In conclusion, Dr. Fottrell paid tribute to the Government, and Ministers Martin and Treacy in particular, for their record to-date in providing increased investment in university education and research and urged them to attach even greater importance to such investment as a key strategy for ensuring our future economic and social development.