Ireland has to date received €300m from the EU’s €55bn Framework Programme Seven (FP7) and this is expected to increase to €600m by 2013 – signally an upsurge in science and R&D activities in the country.
FP7 funding is significantly ‘backloaded’ with most of the funding due in the last three of the seven years of the programme.
Ireland, despite being 20th in population size, is 13th in terms of the share of budget awarded and ninth in terms of the success rate of applicants.
Ireland success rate for being granted funding is 22.9pc – above the EU average of 21.5pc.
EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn said that 15pc of the €18bn worth of FP7 calls between now and July 2012 will be earmarked for SMEs.
“Upcoming FP7 calls in July 2011 and July 2012 will be worth approximately €18bn, with some 15pc earmarked for small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” Geoghegan-Quinn said.
“The breadth of sectors covered by FP7 includes agriculture, fishing, food, bio-technology, nanotechnology, climate change, environmental services, transport, health, energy, information communication and technology, new materials, security and space.
“Ireland’s continued strong participation will contribute to transforming the EU into an Innovation Union by 2020. We need to properly use new research that we develop so that we can create novel goods and services that the people will use, improve our quality of life and build a better society both in Ireland and in a European context,” she said.
Examples of Irish FP7 R&D projects
Among the examples of Irish R&D work that has successfully attained funding are scientists at NUI Galway, who are leading a team of experts from 16 research institutions in Europe, China and Japan in an important EU-China research project into early cancer detection.
The international team is working on a simple blood test for cancer which would do without the need for biopsy. The project is partly funded by a €3m grant under the 7th EU Programme for Research (FP7) and also under the EU’s Specific International Cooperation Action Programme.
Another example is the Micro-ECM (electrochemical micro-machining) project, a €1.2m FP7 project co-ordinated by the Institute of Technology Sligo with two Irish SMEs, CDAMC Ltd in Donegal and Vox Power in Dublin, as well as partners from the UK, Germany and Belgium.
As products are becoming smaller, lighter and more compact, and standards and quality requirements are rising, micro-machining is becoming ever more crucial in manufacturing.
The SME partners in this consortium aim to develop a more precise ECM machine – thus among other things improving fuel injection systems and making cars greener – as well as having applications in the medical device and aerospace sectors.
No room for complacency
The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD, said there has been a substantial improvement in Ireland’s R&D performance in recent years and that the FP7 funds played a key role.
“I have consistently said that if we are to get out of this crisis and create the growth and jobs we so badly need, we must focus on three things: reducing business costs, improving access to finance and encouraging R&D and innovation.
“This €55bn EU fund is a fantastic resource for people and organisations involved in R&D across the continent, and I am delighted to see that we in Ireland have taken full advantage by drawing down €300m since 2007.
“We have achieved a substantial improvement in our R&D performance in recent years and the FP7 funds played an important role in that.
“However, there is no room for complacency, we must be ambitious about what we can achieve in this area, and I would strongly encourage people to ensure that we take full advantage of these funds. I am determined to ensure ambitious Government policies are in place to ensure that we can continue to improve our R&D performance and get people back to work,” Bruton said.