Modest cut in STI investments in 2010 Budget

9 Dec 2009

The Government has decided on a modest cut in science, technology and investment (STI) investment for 2010 rather than the €100m recommended by Bord Snip and will move to create a single stream of funding for all future STI investments.

“To advance the smart economy, it is essential that the State secures the maximum commercial return from its substantial investment in research, science and innovation,” Lenihan said.

In a Budget in which Lenihan said €4bn will be saved and that will return the country to economic growth in the next six-to-nine months wide-ranging measures from widespread pay cuts in the public sector and social welfare entitlements, major changes in public service pensions arrangements to cutting the Taoiseach’s salary by 20pc. For those on social welfare €760m worth of cuts are on the way.

In terms of Ireland’s science, technology and innovation (STI) investment it has emerged that there will be a modest reduction in spending and the onset of a single stream of funding for future projects.

The report of economist Colm McCarthy during the summer proposed an initial reduction of just over €100m in science, technology and innovation (STI), or 15pc of the 2009 allocation.

However, the Minister in charge of Science and Technology Conor Lenihan said the cut will be more modest than McCarthy’s recommendation and that the core spend of €600m to date will be protected.

Lenihan said there will be a renewed focus on stronger commercial outputs and the efficiency of STI spending. “As in other areas of public spending the State is seeking more from less.”

Lenihan said the modest reduction was “significantly less than the overall reduction in capital spending in the Budget. “It is also significantly less than the cut contemplated in the McCarthy report.

“The oversight and coordination structures for the STI spending programme will also be streamlined and strengthened so that key research areas can be identified where Ireland enjoys or can gain a competitive advantage.

An allocation of €297.3m has been secured for science, technology and innovation under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment vote, down 4pc compared to the overall 12pc reduction in the Budget.

Enterprise Ireland has been allocated €129m for STI activities, 3.6pc less than 2009. The funding provision will be used to put Irish companies at the cutting edge of development
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has been allocated €162m which is just 4.9% below the core 2009 allocation and significantly better than the 14% reduction recommended in the McCarthy report. Lenihan said that in protecting this budget, the Government.

He said the research strength built by SFI is proving to be a vital driver of major investment decisions by both overseas and indigenous companies. In recent years over 40pc of IDA investment wins are RD&I, worth over €400m annually.

The Discover Science and Engineering (DSE) Programme will continue to promote an awareness and understanding of the importance of science, engineering, technology and maths in a modern knowledge-based economy, particularly among second level students.

Preparation for Dublin to host the European City of Science Event in July 2012 will commence in 2010.

Almost €26m has been provided in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources vote for STI Funding in 2010. The provision includes funding for the National Digital Research Centre, ocean energy, geoscience initiatives and the national seabed survey.

In the area of the environment, the level of our research commitment, including climate change research, will be sustained.

“We are establishing a single funding stream for the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation to maximise the efficiency and focus of our investment and ensure that Ireland’s effort is strategically targeted on those areas where we can achieve greatest impact, including through close alignment with industry needs and a strong commercialisation effort,” Lenihan explained.

“This responds to feedback from several stakeholders, including members of the Enterprise Feedback Group and Innovation Taskforce.

“The details of this approach will be confirmed in due course, but as a first step it will involve combining the funds currently administered by Science Foundation Ireland, research funds administered by the HEA through the PRTLI, IRCSET and IRCHSS, the research funding of the HRB and, as appropriate, funds related to research calls of sectoral Departments.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured – Director general of Science Foundation Ireland Frank Gannon with Science and Technology Minister Conor Lenihan TD

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years