Physics industry worth €38bn per year to Irish economy, claims body

13 Jan 2017

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The Institute of Physics claims that €38bn is generated every year by industries surrounding the scientific field in Ireland, employing 287,000.

Stating that physics-related industries represent 14pc of the entire business economy in Ireland, the Institute of Physics’ (IoP) latest report – released on the back of the success of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition – makes for interesting reading.

Employing more than 287,000 people, the total turnover of this field was actually more than €48bn in 2014 – the most recent year in the report – but the institute estimates that this figure translates to €38bn in gross added value to the Irish economy (€23bn was cited as ‘direct’).

One year earlier, the physics field represented 83pc of all R&D spend in the country, with its subsequent significance trumpeted in the report.

Noting that the report identified investment in R&D as vital to the success of physics-based industries, the Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan, TD, said: “Physics-based industries make crucial contributions to GDP and employment, as well as playing an important role enhancing productivity [and] boosting economic growth, through their R&D activities and through their contributions to exporting.”

Around 15pc of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)’s current investment relates to physics while, outside large-scale research centres, SFI supports 50 active awards broadly categorised under physics.

“Ireland has a strong tradition in world-class physics research and this report shows the value of that to Ireland’s economy, business and jobs,” said Prof Paul Hardaker, chief executive of IOP.

“One of the reasons we wanted to launch this report at the Royal Dublin Society and also during the BT Young Scientist and Technologist (sic) event is to remind people how important it is to encourage our young people, who will be scientists and experts of the future.”

Those employed in these industries contribute an average estimate of €138,000 a year in gross value added, with the science field in general seeing salaries rise.

However, in general, the total turnover in this sector is actually in pretty steep decline, dropping around 10pc a year.

Mark Lang, chairperson of IoP, said the future of the field relies on the continued support of the education, research and skills systems.

“The strength of physics-based business in Ireland is built on past investment in cutting-edge physics,” he said.

“Physics in Ireland has suffered cuts over the past 10 years and this can be seen in the recent changes in economic returns from physics-based business.

“We know that it is often the basic, curiosity-driven research that inspires and underpins the applications and technologies of tomorrow.

“If Ireland wants to have a high-technology, high-productivity, high-prosperity economy for the future then it must continue to invest in physics today – in schools, research, higher and further education, and in the businesses that take the fruits of physics.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic