Research clusters key to Ireland’s higher education performance – HERG report

3 Sep 2021

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A report by an advisory group to the Department of Higher Education recommends more of a focus on collaborative research clusters between enterprise and academia.

A report on the impact of public investment in research and innovation in higher education has been published by the Higher Education Research Group (HERG).

The report, released today (3 September), also contains recommendations on measures the Government should implement to foster new and existing research clusters and collaborations.

The HERG, which advises the Department of Further and Higher Education on research policy, drew attention to six key areas in the report.

These were: the impact of higher education research activity; public investment in higher education research activity; external collaborations (enterprise, citizen, international); innovation districts and regional clusters; the researcher, and a mission-oriented approach to research and innovation.

The review was initially set up in 2019, but was paused twice in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris, TD, welcomed the insights offered by the HERG.

“The research performance of the higher education institutions forms a central plank of Ireland’s research and innovation system. How this can be best developed in the years to come will be pivotal to the wider success of Ireland’s next national research and innovation strategy,” he said.

The report acknowledges that research has been one of the main reasons behind Ireland’s higher education success and innovation thus far.

Ireland’s international performance in this area has traditionally been strong. However, with events like Brexit causing major geopolitical changes, the report recommended that international research relations be reformulated to reflect the changing research landscape.

Domestically, increasing researchers’ collaboration with enterprise has the potential to both boost productivity and citizen engagement. The report said that collaboration between researchers and enterprise was already quite strong, but growing the links between the public and research was an area in need of focus.

The report highlighted the importance of the technological university clusters, such as TU of the Shannon and TU Dublin. These research clusters were classed as important developments in the context of increasing higher education’s links with enterprise.

Considerations for creating a sustinable pipeline of researchers were also recommended. The report highlighted the importance of investing in early-career researchers in order to set them on the most productive career path. It recommended a deeper analysis of employer demand for researchers with a particular focus to be placed on doctoral graduates and master’s by research graduates.

Overall, a “mission-orientated” approach to research and innovation in higher education was recommended. The HERG said that far greater attention needed to be paid to the higher education system to protect its future and sustainability.

Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic