High hopes for R&D in Ireland

18 Apr 2003

Research conducted in Ireland in the area of biotechnology has performed slightly above the world average and ICT (information and communications technologies) research has performed at or slightly above the world average during the period 1991-2000, according to a Forfás report.

However, while the report shows that there is a good base upon which to build strong research capabilities, it also highlights that there is still work to be done to create robust and sustainable research centres in Ireland capable of competing with the best in the world.

The report, entitled Baseline Assessment of the Public Research System in Ireland in the areas of Biotechnology and Information and Communication Technologies, focuses on three main areas: the level and quality of ICT and biotechnology research and the capabilities of the Irish research base; how Ireland’s current research compares with best international practice; and the parameters against which the progress of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) could be evaluated over the coming years.

The study, conducted by a team of international experts in research evaluation, is intended to assess research capability in Ireland before the introduction of major initiatives funded by the SFI. The findings will form the basis on which the success of the SFI will be evaluated.

The report highlights a number of underlying issues for the future development of research in the ICT and biotechnology areas. It cautions that the recent large injections of funding into the system must be sustained, otherwise Ireland will be unable to exploit the benefits of the research capability it aims to develop over the next four to five years.

The report found that, while there are strong areas of research competence in ICT and biotechnology spread around the different research institutions, a high degree of fragmentation exists within Irish research. Research groups often lack the critical mass to generate economies of scale and to protect themselves against fluctuations in research funding. Lack of funding, until recent years, has meant that Irish research managers have become highly resourceful and entrepreneurial; however, few research departments have much experience of managing significant central resources and of formulating and implementing departmental level research strategies.

By Lisa Deeney