Researchers getting distracted by IP issues

4 Nov 2005

Irish researchers are in danger of letting the issue of intellectual property (IP) get in the way of their work, Seán Dorgan, CEO of IDA Ireland has claimed.

Speaking yesterday in front of 600 researchers at the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) national research symposium, Dorgan said: “There’s a danger of being obsessed with IP. Let’s just get lots of development done in the universities and the IP will come after that.” He also suggested that IP could be given away for free in order to drive more innovation.

At the symposium, which was formally opened by Education and Science Minister Mary Hanafin TD, delegates heard that IRCSET will have invested up to €60m in supporting individual research career development by 2006.

Dorgan’s comments came during a panel discussion involving leading policy makers in the ICT area. Other panellists included: Anne Heraty, chairwoman of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs; Professor Mark Keane, ICT director of Science Foundation Ireland; Professor Jane Grimson, chairwoman of IRCSET; and Dr Carol Gibbons, deputy to the Chief Science Adviser.

Speaking about the job prospects of young postdoctoral researchers, Dorgan said the future was looking bright and that Ireland was succeeding in its mission to attract investment in the research and development area. He warned, however, that while Ireland was producing a high number of science and technology graduates, it would need to increase the number of PhDs if the demands of the multinationals for senior reseachers were to be met.

Grimson noted that the council was playing a key role in producing this cadre of high-level research talent. “We are funding approximately 900 researchers currently – which is about a third of all the PhD students in Ireland. If we hadn’t funded them, many of them would have gone overseas.”

She said the council was helping to raise the profile of scientific research and giving students guidance on what career options were open to them when they finished their studies. Since there are tenured academic posts for about only one third of senior researchers, more attention should be paid to ensuring that researchers had the right skills and experience to secure jobs in industry, she felt.

The importance of “adaptability” was stressed by Keane, who urged researchers to take control of their own careers, rather than wait for the State to map it out for them. He felt however that there needed to more flexibility within the third-level system to allow research students to move more easily between disciplines and find what they are best at.

According to Heraty, the good news for researchers in that there is a lot of work available both in the multinational sector and academia. There are also PhD students who would look to start their own businesses – a phenomenon that was likely to increase in the coming years, she felt.

By Brian Skelly