IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello said; “this is a critical portfolio with huge significance for the future growth of Ireland and Europe. The Commissioner will be responsible for the multiannual Framework Programme and the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT).”
Through the Smart Economy and the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation national policy is closely aligned with the EU’s drive for growth through research and innovation. The EU programmes’ support cooperation between universities and firms throughout Europe. They provide opportunities for Irish researchers in both higher education and industry to work with partners throughout Europe, putting down roots that extend well beyond the confines of the programmes themselves.
Ireland secured more than €200 million Euro under the last research Framework Programme, and is on its way to achieving its target of €600 million Euro in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
“From the Higher Education perspective, participation in FP7 is a lot more than just meeting financial targets”, said Costello. “It is an integral part of our R&D activities. It enables research to collaborate with counterparts across the European Union on projects of strategic importance. It is part of creating a single labour market for research and provides access to the best research infrastructure in all of the member States.”
“We welcome the signal this decision sends about the importance of innovation for economic and social progress in Europe, Costello said and we look forward to continued Irish success in the very important initiatives under the new Commissioner’s direction.
For further information contact: Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association. Telephone: 01 6764948, 085 7141414. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
European Research Area (ERA)
A key element of the Lisbon Treaty states that the EU Union shall have the objective of strengthening its scientific and technological bases by achieving a European Research Area in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely, and encouraging it to become more competitive, including in its industry, while promoting all the research activities deemed necessary by virtue of other Chapters of the Treaties. Our new Commissioner is now responsible for this objective which prior to Lisbon was an aspiration. This is looking forward to a Europe competing globally with the R&D leaders of US and Japan and the emerging Asian countries, especially China.
Importance for Universities
The EU Framework Programme is very important for the Irish universities and has been since its inception over 20 years ago. It has enabled collaboration with leading researchers across Europe, stimulated the mobility of researchers and provided access to major research facilities. It has raised the quality of research in Ireland through the European wide competitive process for awarding funds; Irish researchers had to raise their game to bid against their competitors across Europe.
Before significant national R&D funding was made available under the National Development Plans, the Framework Programme was the only real source of major research funding for the Irish universities. This can be seen in Table 1 where it peaked in the period 1995-98 [FP4], European R&D funding was 24% of the total. This contrasts to the European average of 5% for countries who have mature national R&D programmes highlighting the low levels of national R&D investment prior to 2000. Under the NDP 2000-2006 and the SSTI there have been major national investments in R&D that reduced the percentage importance of FP. These national investments have enabled the HE sector to develop state of the art research infrastructure, attract and retain outstanding researchers.
Table 1 Details of Irish participation in successive Framework Programmes
|GERD (€m)||GBAORD (€m)||FP Funding to Ireland Source: Forfas (€m)||FP Funding as % of Total Public Funding of R&D (%)|
|All data presented in nominal prices (i.e. not brought to constant prices)GERD = Gross Expenditure on R&D Source: Eurostat)
GBAORD = Total Public Funding of R&D Source: Eurostat (€m)
In the last Framework Programme [Framework Programme 6] which ended in 2006, Ireland succeeded in winning some €200 million. Ireland’s overall proposal success rate in FP6 was 23%, significantly above the European average success rate of 18%. The Higher Education organisations accounted for 53% of participation in FP6, also well above the European average of 36%. To date, under FP7 a total of €107m has been secured by Irish organisations. Of that total €59m representing 55% has been won by the Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology.
Ireland’s success in FP7
Only this week research groups in universities, institutes of technology and enterprise will lead eleven projects in the flagship Marie Curie programme. Ireland has come second in Europe (UK have 17) in front of major competitors including France, Germany, Italy and Finland. These programmes will enable collaboration between HE institutions in Ireland and enterprise abroad to transfer knowledge between academia and industry. Those funded include NUIG, NUIM, TCD, UCC, UCD, RCSI, DIT, WIT, DKIT, NCAD, DePuy (Ireland), Vornia Ltd, Oncomark Ltd, EirGen Pharma Ltd and Alimentary Health.
The universities and IoTs were heavily dependent on the Framework Programmes prior to the last and current National Development Plans. The major investments in PRTLI and SFI have transformed the research landscape in Ireland. These have enabled the universities to build world-class research institutes, support our best researchers and attract top people from abroad. Now in Ireland there are researchers of many nationalities working at the cutting edge, across a wide range of disciplines from the Humanities, Social Sciences to Biosciences, ICT, Engineering and Medicine.
The quality of research in Ireland has significantly improved and the EC funding programmes have been part of this change. For example, in 2008 Ireland appeared for the first time in the list of top countries in all fields [in terms of peer reviewed publication citations]. Ireland is currently at position 19th place in the world having moved up from 36th place in the world in 2003 (in terms of citations per publication) . The Higher Education sector is fully committed to delivering on the targets set in the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation [SSTI]. We will continue to work with government on the new focus laid out in the Smart Economy of creating the Innovation Island.