It pays to have PhD researchers on your staff

15 Dec 2009

Irish R&D firms employing PhD researchers have rates of patenting 2.5 times greater than similarly active firms which do not employ PhD researchers, a new report from the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (ACSTI) has revealed today.

According to the report entitled Role of PhDs in the Smart Economy, R&D companies that employ PhD researchers also have vastly higher collaboration rates with both higher education institutes and other firms. 

The report highlights Ireland’s need to maintain a competitive output of PhDs in relevant disciplines in line with other developed countries and sets out a list of recommendations to maximise the development of fourth-level education in Ireland. 

Role PhDs can play in knowledge economy

Launching the report, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Conor Lenihan TD said: “This report on the role of PhDs in the smart economy is timely in that it highlights the benefits that PhD graduates bring to firms and sheds much light on the role they can play as we strive to build Ireland’s knowledge economy. 

“The confirmation of ongoing STI investment announced in last week’s Budget reaffirms Government’s continued commitment to the flourishing of the knowledge-based economy on this island. A supply of PhD qualified researchers with skills closely aligned to broader economic and social needs will best position Ireland to take advantage of the global upturn,” he added.

Advanced research skills will be key in future

“The ready supply of graduates in Ireland enabled us to exploit opportunities for growth that came with the expansion of the world economy after 1991. In the coming decade, a capacity to produce graduates with advanced researcher skills will be critical in expanding the mandate of foreign multinationals already located here and attracting globally mobile R&D investment,” said Chairman of the ACSTI, Tom McCarthy.

“Restoring competitiveness to indigenous enterprise requires the stimulation of R&D intensity and the adoption of appropriate technologies. The alignment of PhD training with the needs of SMEs will therefore be essential if we are to sustain export growth.

“Despite the economic downturn, the ACSTI strongly advocates the need to maintain investment in PhD education as an underpinning driver of innovation in the enterprise sector,” McCarthy added.

Enterprise and higher education institutions must talk to each other

Among the recommendations contained in the report are that funding for PhD programmes should be broadly aligned with the sectors of the economy where there is a strong demand for PhD qualified researchers, and that higher education institutions should consult formally with enterprise on the development of PhD programmes.

It also suggests that a user-friendly, centralised system should be developed to allow employers or potential employers to access information on the number of PhD students in the pipeline and the broad theme of the research.

Ireland should also adopt an Enterprise PhD programme modelled on the Danish Industrial PhD programme whereby an employee earns a PhD based on research relevant to their company, the ACSTI recommends.

The full report can be downloaded from the Advisory Science Council website,

Article courtesy of