Capital funding under Cycle 3 of the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI) is to be resumed, Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Education and Science, announced today. The surprise development follows a period of intense lobbying by the science sector to lift the funding freeze, which was imposed following last year’s budget.
While not guaranteeing the Government would deliver the full €140m specified under Cycle 3 funding, the minister said the amount would be “substantial” and would continue up to 2008, two years longer than the 2006 end date of the National Development Plan.
The actual sum involved will be known with the publication of the Government’s Book of Estimates, which is expected by the middle of next week. The surprise announcement was made at the opening of the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre at Trinity College Dublin earlier today.
The news has been warmly welcomed by the Higher Education Authority, which manages the Programme. “The decision of the minister and the Government is very much welcomed by the Higher Education Authority,” Dr Don Thornhill, Higher Education Authority chairman said. “The HEA regards the decision as a very concrete manifestation of the Government’s commitment to the knowledge society which is so critical for Ireland’s future social and economic progress.
“The commitment to sustained funding up to 2008 is excellent news for our higher education institutions, the research community and for Ireland’s future. I have no doubt that the planned investment will add considerably to the progress already being made under the PRTLI and other funding programmes in developing world class research facilities in this country.”
Since the capital funding element of the PRTLI was frozen in the budget last year, Ireland’s science community and wider ICT sector has put its weight behind a campaign to get the freeze lifted, citing the importance of the fund to Ireland’s future economic prosperity.
By Brian Skelly