Minister Cowen – Extract from Budget Speech 2006

Building the Nation’s Capital Stock

In seeking value for money, we must also build up our capital stock to improve our competitiveness and help the economy to develop and expand. This is vital if we want to lay the platform for future growth and good quality employment. I am today providing some €43.5 billion for capital investment over the period 2006 – 2010 of which €38 billion is Exchequer funded and €5.5 billion is PPP funded.

This will also support strategic improvement in our education sector to deepen and widen our store of human capital; major improvements in health facilities; a very significant programme of social and affordable housing; and important new initiatives in the arts, culture and leisure aspects reflecting our development as a mature economy and society.

Third Level Investment

I mentioned earlier that any budget represents a moment in time on where we stand economically and where our priorities should be in light of the prevailing fiscal conditions. I referenced too the particular focus I want to give to education.

Many of those – both in Ireland and more particularly externally – who have commented on our economic success tend to attribute a disproportionate amount of the cause to our taxation policy. Clearly this has been beneficial to attracting inward investment. However, it is my belief that the single biggest contributor to our economic success has been the exceptional wealth of intellectual capital available to both our indigenous and overseas investors. Ireland has become synonymous with the quality of our graduates.

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The investment in and reform of primary and secondary education through the sixties and seventies with the support of 3rd level in its wake has been pivotal to what has been achieved in Ireland over the past 15 years. That job is continuing and we will continue to deal with very real needs across both the primary and secondary levels.

The basis for future growth and prosperity is investment in the knowledge, skills and innovation capacity that will drive economic and social development in an increasingly competitive global environment. The higher education system must deliver people who will expand knowledge-based business located in Ireland. This will require substantial change and quality improvement in universities and centres of higher learning and the promotion of system-wide collaboration that can draw on the collective strengths of these institutions.

A major initiative within this Budget is a commitment to the establishment of a new Ph.D. level of education, a fourth level. Earlier this year my colleague the Minister for Education and Science signalled the Government’s intention to create a multi-annual Strategic Innovation Fund for higher education. To achieve what we have to achieve will require a commitment to substantial change in all our 3rd level institutions. We must strip out unnecessary duplication. There must be an appetite from within the sector itself for greater collaboration. This is a small country. It is not sensible to have our 3rd level institutions pitched against each other across all key disciplines. Instead what we need is the promotion of a system-wide collaboration that can draw on the collective strengths of all of our 3rd level institutions.

I am confident that such a commitment will be forthcoming. It must be if we are to deliver the required complement of people with Ph.D. level qualifications or 4th level Ireland. We are competing in a global world and to compete and to retain the strength of our ‘offer’ demands an investment in the knowledge, skills and innovation capacity of this nation. Our edge in education is being challenged not just by the established sources of excellence but also by emerging nations across the globe. This Government believes such a programme is fundamental to our economic and social development.

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This then is a major plank of this Government’s policy. I am therefore announcing the allocation of €300 million to the Strategic Innovation Fund for higher education over the next five years. Competition for the new funds will stimulate excellence through collaboration and change. Details of the administration of the Fund will be announced by the Minister for Education and Science over the coming days.

In addition, it is essential that investment in modern facilities is maintained in university and institute of technology campuses around the country. As a result, we are committing €900 million to the 3rd level sector over the next five years as part of the Department of Education and Science capital envelope. Of this €630 million will be exchequer capital funding and €270 million PPP funding. The physical development will have to reflect the changed approach where there must be greater co-operation between the institutions involved.

This brings planned investment in capital spend and the Strategic Innovation Fund for 3rd level to €1.2 billion over the period 2006 to 2010. These strands of planned investment in higher education form a core element of the Government’s strategy for developing skills and competencies. This will be an important element of the investment strategy for the new National Development Plan.

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National Development Plan 2000-2006

Under the current National Development Plan there have been unprecedented levels of investment in our economic and social infrastructure. This investment is delivering real outputs which are improving the quality of life for our citizens. 

  • Investment in roads will see the completion of over 70 major schemes by the end of the Plan with a major focus on new Motorway and Dual Carriageway Roads linking key population centres.
  • We have significantly enhanced public transport in the Greater Dublin Area through investment in suburban Rail, Dart, Quality Bus Corridors and the LUAS, a totally new fixed line system with a capacity of 20 million passengers per year.
  • We have reversed years of neglect of our National Rail System by investing €655 million in making our national network safe.
  • Investment in social and affordable housing by the end of the Plan will have delivered some 56,000 new units.
  • Our NDP investment in Childcare will have created about 30,000 new places by end 2006.

There have been other major enhancements in the quality of infrastructure in areas such as water services, broadband, education and health.

Transport 21 was launched a month ago with a ten year roll out horizon and a €34.4 billion investment cost. This is an unprecedented commitment on the part of the Government and recognises the importance of a world class public infrastructure in securing the competitiveness of the economy and enhancing the economic and social gains made in this country since 1997.

Today’s Budget underpins that commitment and sets out the capital funds allocated to transport over each of the next five years. Next years allocation will get Transport 21 off to an excellent start. 2006 will see the continued roll out of the motorway programme and construction of more bypasses across the country. Work will begin on the building of a new Docklands railway station and the Kildare rail route upgrade. New rolling stock will be delivered and there will be further investment in regional airports. Work will also commence on the Cherrywood Luas extension. Planning and design work on the Western Rail Corridor will get underway as the start of the process leading to its reopening. Planning of other major transport infrastructure projects will also be advanced. In addition, the new transport authority will be established to implement Transport 21 in the Greater Dublin Area and critically to ensure joined up thinking and the delivery of projects on time and on budget.

National Development Plan 2007 – 2013

The next National Development Plan, which will cover the period 2007 to 2013, will set out a coherent and integrated strategy for investment in economic and social infrastructure. This will be done within a framework of budget sustainability and will be informed by key objectives of enhancing national competitiveness and promoting better balance in regional development. My Department will shortly commence a major consultation process on the next NDP.

Statement by the Irish Universities Association on the Budget

Ground-Breaking Investment Package for Fourth Level Ireland Welcomed

The Irish Universities Association warmly welcomes today’s ground-breaking Budget statement by the Minister for Finance on investment in “Fourth-level Ireland”

IUA President Ferdinand von Prondzynski said “Minister Cowen in his ringing endorsement of the pivotal contribution of higher education to the country’s economic success and its fundamental strategic importance to future economic and social development had set a unique setting for a highly significant investment package for higher education”

He added “the Budget statement heralds a vitally important development phase for higher education and research and is a strong signal of the Government’s commitment to creating a highly competitive Irish university system of top international ranking”

The University Heads are encouraged that the Minister recognises that the benchmarks for performance and investment at third and fourth levels are international.

They see the strategic innovation fund as a bridge to further investment in the national research plan and the national development plan.

The announcement of a strategic innovation fund, the commitment to a multi-annual rolling capital programme, the forthcoming national research plan and the priority to be given to higher education and research as a key strategy in the next national development plan, together provide a considerable boost for a comprehensive transformation of the university sector.

The University Heads are particularly encouraged that the Government views these developments as a coherent package of strategic initiatives with a synergistic potential that must be exploited in order to maximise the contribution of universities to economic and social progress.

They wish to assure the Government that they are fully committed to meeting the reform challenges identified by the Minister for Finance, to collaborating to develop critical mass in excellence, to maximising effectiveness across the higher education system and to working in partnership with Government to achieve national objectives.

The IUA looks forward to a statement to be made by the Minister for Education and Science giving further details on the Government’s initiatives

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Contact:

Michael Mc Grath, Director, IUA, 087 2837687
48 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Lack of Jobs could jeopardise Government’s Phd targets

Strong partnerships between industry and academia needed

Issued on behalf of IBEC and the Irish Universities Association (IUA)

Leaders from business and universities met today to plan for a huge increase in the number of research scientists and engineers coming on stream in Ireland over the next seven years arising from the Government’s Science Technology and Innovation strategic plan. In order to cater for this influx of PhD research graduates, industry and universities must work together to create an unprecedented number of sustainable research jobs.

The Government aims to double the number of science and engineering PhDs working in Ireland and to raise PhD numbers from 450 to 900 per annum. This increase is vital if companies are to seriously consider Ireland as a base for major R&D projects. Without the necessary expertise, companies will look elsewhere and our economic success will falter.

At the joint conference held today, IBEC and the Irish Universities Association (IUA) addressed the key issues of creating the required number and calibre of PhD graduates and strengthening industry academic partnership to ensure appropriate jobs for PhDs in Ireland.

Speaking at the conference, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, President of IUA said “the availability of skilled researchers is a key component of the knowledge economy. The onus is equally on government, industry and academia to ensure that Ireland can employ these skilled personnel on graduation. We must not have a situation where PhDs fail to find a suitable job, or where students choose not to embark on a PhD due to the lack of a robust career opportunities.”

Industry investment in R&D crossed the €1bn threshold in 2003, the last year for which figures are available. This trend seems set to continue, with major R&D investment announcements from a number of high profiled companies: IBM (€22m), HP (€21.4m), Bell Labs (employ 120 researchers), Pfizer (€20m), Bristol Myers Squibb (€9.6m).

Commenting on private R&D investment, Turlough O’Sullivan, Director General IBEC, said “Recent investment bodes well for the future. Increased private sector investment in R&D will play a significant part in securing sustainable careers for PhDs.”

Commenting on the €8million secured by companies from the EU’s Marie Curie Programme with IUA support, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski said “Universities have been very active collaborators with industry in accessing research investment and we are keen to see this success continue.”

The two key priorities at the conference were:

  1. To ensure researchers have the necessary skills and calibre to be attractive to industry.
  2. To develop strong partnerships between academia and industry so that PhDs can transfer from employment in academia to industry and visa versa.

Speaking at the conference, Brendan Cremen, Xilinx Ireland said, “Skilled people are the differentiating factor between competing economies. Business decisions on the location of global R&D activities are determined by the calibre of researchers and the quality of their output.”

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Issued by IBEC Press Office, please contact Olwyn Callaghan, 6051637, 087-2717769

Irish Universities & Companies take 25% of an entire European R&D Fund

The Irish Universities Association today announced the successful funding of research in Irish Universities and Industry to the tune of €10million in the current EU Marie Curie funding round. This brings the total amount of funding, secured by Ireland from the European Commission’s highly competitive Marie Curie Programme, to €42 million. The funding will expand Ireland’s R&D capability by attracting a total of 220 top class researchers from around the world.

The current round represents 16 funded projects across eight Irish organisations: Cellix Ltd., Sigmoid Ltd., Duolog Ltd., Celtic Catalysts Ltd., University College Cork, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway. The projects span a large variety of disciplines, from life sciences to nanotechnology and also include the humanities. The significance of this success for Irish Research cannot be understated, as the contract values represent almost one quarter of the total available fund for all Europe under this scheme.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) provides a national support service for industry and academia in preparing and submitting proposals to this programme. Harnessing academic know-how in accessing European funds is helping Irish Industry in building R&D capability. Dr. Conor O’Carroll, head of the Research Office at the IUA said:

” This is an example of where universities and companies working together can demonstrate the high quality of R&D in Ireland by being more successful than any other European country in securing funding from this highly sought after funding.”

The stated Government policy is to increase research in Irish industry. In this context, the Irish Universities Association undertook to actively promote the Marie Curie Programme to companies. As a direct result, 20% of the total €42million has been won by Industry here. This proves that despite Government concerns about the decreasing involvement of Irish Industry in FP6, the Marie Curie Programme is bucking this trend.

The Marie Curie Programme covers the salary costs of researchers hired for the project and contributes to research, management costs and overheads. Contract values vary between €150,000 for a single researcher up to €1.5million for a research team. The importance of this funding for research is illustrated by an awardee, Dr. Michael Madden of the Laboratory for Biomedical Data Mining in NUI Galway,

It will contribute to NUI Galway’s capacity to perform research, and help to improve the competitiveness within the knowledge economy of the Objective 1 Region in which Galway is located. It will also enhance our interactions with other European research institutes, and help promote research as a profession. We owe a debt of gratitude to the IUA in their assistance on how to structure a proposal and their advice most certainly contributed to its success”.

Significant opportunities still remain for research organisations in the Marie Curie Programme with more than €450million available in early 2006. The Irish Universities Association will strongly support potential applicants in industry, universities and institutes of technology to maximise further success.

For Further Information contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association
Direct Tel:  01 799 6022
Mobile: 085 7141414
Email: lia.osullivan@iua.ie

Background Information

For further information on Marie Curie Activity, including many case studies and quotes from successful applicants:  http://www.iua.ie/marie_curie/index.html

A key conference on Industry and Academia collaboration will take place on 30th November in the Helix. The conference “Careering Towards the Knowledge Society” will be a joint IBEC/IUA initiative, addressing the challenges facing Ireland in embedding future investment for the development of a sustainable R&D landscape.

http://www.iua.ie/news_events/iuaibecconference.htm

Other successful public research organisations & universities funded are Dublin City University, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, University of Limerick, RCSI, DIAS, Teagasc, Tallaght IT and WIT.

Industry in Ireland sees huge benefit in Marie Curie and the programme now funds the top two multinational FP6 contracts and eight out of the top nine indigenous Irish-owned company contracts. The fact that partners are not required for most Marie Curie projects is a key advantage for organisations concerned about IP protection. Other Companies funded to date are Aughinish Alumina, Ericsson, NTERA, Allegro Technologies, EirX Therapeutics, and AquaTT.

Breakdown of Total FP6 Income to Ireland by FP6 Programme

Launch of Irish Universities Association

At a reception today, the Conference of Heads of Irish Universities (C.H.I.U), the representative body of the seven Irish Universities, announced the change of its name to the Irish Universities Association (IUA). Also unveiled was the organisation’s new website www.iua.ie.

The new name better represents the objectives of the organisation and its work on behalf of the seven universities. The IUA provides a forum for the Presidents and senior officers of the universities to identify the strategic challenges facing the university system and to agree on the policies and plans for tackling them and developing the sector.

As well as representing the universities, the IUA has undertaken substantive work on behalf of the universities in areas such as the following –

  • Establishing expertiseireland.com with the financial assistance of InterTradeIreland which now has online profiles of over 3,700 experts from the nine universities north and south, and a growing number from the Institutes of Technology.
  • Operating the National Office for the Marie Curie Scheme –the most successful programme for Irish Research under the EU6th Framework Programme with funding of €42m already secured.
  • Setting up the Irish Researcher’’ Mobility Office & Portal with financial support from the European Commission and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Speaking at the launch, Prof. Ferdinand von Prondzynski, President of DCU said: “The change of name is timely and will allow us to focus our efforts more effectively. We know that Ireland’s growth and competitiveness depends on the universities being effective and coherent in acting together. We know that universities are critical in securing a succesful economy, a vibrant cultural life and a stable society. The universities must improve the international ranking of the system, but also exercise leadership within Ireland during these challenging times.”

Professor von Prondzynski used this opportunity to call on action by the government to deal with the critical issue of university funding as recommended by the OECD Report published over a year ago. He stated: “The present financial position of the sector is totally unsustainable. It’s a problem that can be solved, but it needs to be solved right now, not next year, not some time in the future”. He said that the IUA will continue to work in partnership with the government, its departments and agencies, the European Commission and other stakeholders. He said: “The objective is to make Ireland a leading knowledge society. It cannot be done without us. We are here to help.”

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For further information please contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association.
Tel: 799 6022
Email: lia.osullivan@iua.ie

Building Research Careers – the Postdoctoral Experience

C.H.I.U has organised the first national conference to explore the role of the postdoctoral researcher, its place in the development of a research career and its recognition both internally in research institutions and externally. The Irish government has set the target of doubling the number of researchers in academia and industry. Creating a system that will attract the necessary number of researchers is absolutely vital.

The purpose of the conference was to identify the current strengths and weaknesses operating at the postdoctoral level, and to proffer examples and opportunities for improvements in the system of program design, working arrangements, researcher mobility etc.

The audience was dominated by postdoctoral researchers and included senior academics, administrators and representatives from Dept of Enterprise, SFI, HRB, IRCHSS and IRCSET. The urgency of the issues under discussion was reflected in the large number of people that had to be turned away.

Prof. Jane Grimson, Vice Provost TCD and Chair IRCSET, opened the conference welcoming the participants and underlining the importance of the issues to be discussed.

The Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Barry McSweeney gave the keynote address emphasizing the need for a vibrant cadre of career researchers to underpin the Knowledge Based Economy. He made it clear that we cannot go forward and increase the numbers of research within the current system.

  • Introduce a seven year funding stream that will give researchers stability with the opportunity to spend time in industry and abroad.
  • Need more funds for universities to achieve this objective

We cannot increase the numbers from our own system alone and even if we did it would lead to a sterile system. We need to attract back Irish researchers abroad and attract researchers from the global community. This will require a more open system with regard to visas for non EU nationals and full implementation of the EU Third Country Directive.

Dr. Boaz Avron, Weizmann Institute, talked about the highly developed schemes to attract researchers to Israel; there is great emphasis on the detail in providing adequate social security cover, health insurance, in particular. This should be a model for Ireland in creating opportunities for researchers coming from abroad.

Dr. Gus McEvoy, EPFL, Lausanne, talked about the life cycle of the postdoc and how it is the personal family decisions that often decides the location where they establish roots.

Dr. Niall Dillon, MRC, pointed out that the implementation of the Fixed Term Workers Directive when applied to researchers is creating a stagnant non competitive system in the UK. In contrast, Germany has applied this Directive in a way that will allow universities to continue the practice of having researchers on short term contracts. Dr. Conor O’Carroll, C.H.I.U, pointed out the universities are actively working with the funding agencies to arrive at a solution that will increase the attractiveness of a career in research by providing proper social benefits for researchers.

Paradoxically the increase in the number of researchers will increase the competition for academic positions. Dr. Willie Donnelly WIT stressed the need to enable our postdocs with skills that will help them get jobs in industry. The postdoc must be treated as an individual and their success not based on the success of the project alone. These enabling skills should be taught at a national level with the involvement of industry.

Dr. Massimo Serpieri, European Commission, talked about the new European Charter for Researchers that will provide a template to reinforce research as a career across Europe. While the US is a federal state researchers move easily across the continent with no difficulty in taking social security benefits with them. In contrast, researchers moving across Europe, cannot easily take their social security benefits over borders. The Commission is working actively to create the environment for a more open system with portable benefits.

In closing the conference, Prof. Ferdinand von Prondzynski stated that the issue of research careers is one which the Universities takes very seriously and C.H.I.U are working closely with funding bodies and Industry in insuring the long term sustainability of research careers in Ireland.