Science Council urges Govt to seize €80bn innovation opportunity

29 Mar 2012

The Advisory Council for Science Technology and Innovation (ACSTI) has today called on the Irish Government to come up with a strategic and focused approach to secure a significant share of future €80bn European research and innovation funding under Horizon 2020, in a statement released today.

Negotiations are under way at European level to create a Community Support Framework that will see €80bn invested in research and innovation from 2014 to 2020.

Known as Horizon 2020, this will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the framework programmes for research and technical development, the innovation-related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology

“This is a new opportunity for Ireland in European fund spending where we can secure a more than proportionate share of the funding,” said ACSTI chair Dr Tom McCarthy today.

He pointed out how Irish researchers have performed well in framework programmes to date, winning more than the national target and engaging in wide-ranging partnerships and projects.

Aligning with the EU’s R&I strategies

Prof Anita Maguire, ACSTI member and chair of the national consultation on Horizon 2020, said the EU’s research and innovation strategy “mirrors” many of the Irish nation’s priorities.

“Where national priorities and European priorities match we will find the areas of greatest opportunity,” she said.  

The recently published report from the Research Prioritisation Steering Group, which has been adopted by Government, has identified 14 priority areas that are the focus of future State investment in research and innovation.

Maguire said today that the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, which provides a focus on policies to increase the translation of investments in research, development and innovation into job creation, is very much in line with the Horizon 2020 objectives.  

“We need, however, to be mindful to ensure that we put in place the supports to enable Irish researchers to fully participate in European research, to secure the best collaborations and maximise grants through Horizon 2020,” she added.

Here’s some of the recommendations that the Advisory Science Council has made in its statement Playing Our Part in Europe:

  • Work should begin soon on developing the right national support structure for Horizon 2020, drawing on the experiences of the research community and the current support structure, to assist and encourage Irish participation.
  • There should be a substantial strengthening of support for participation by industry and SMEs, building on the already successful national support for Research for the Benefit of SMEs and drawing on the industrial development bodies and the academic and industrial communities.
  • Commitment should be given, at the highest levels, to sustained multi-annual funding for research infrastructure in areas of national importance to enable Ireland to benefit from being a full partner in European Research Infrastructure.
  • Measures in Ireland should complement those at European levels in ensuring optimal mobility for researchers in Ireland, both from academia and industry. Any national barriers to mobility should be addressed now.
  • The selection process of the European Research Council identifies researchers of the highest excellence but cannot fund all of them. Excellent researchers in Ireland should continue to be supported nationally to keep specific expertise here, to work on areas of national priority and to maintain and reinforce the attractiveness of Ireland for research and technology-based industry alike. A further flexible and rapidly reacting research fund could support Irish researchers to compete for European funding for basic research excellence, including the large grants awarded by the European Research Council.

Among the proposed support for research and innovation under Horizon 2020 will be to:

  • Elevate the EU’s position in science with a dedicated budget of €25bn.
  • Strengthen industrial leadership in innovation of €18bn. This will include investment in key technologies, greater access to capital and support for SMEs.
  • Provide €32bn to help address major concerns such as climate change, developing sustainable transport and mobility, making renewable energy more affordable, ensuring food safety and security, or coping with the challenge of an aging population.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic