State needs a return on billions invested in science

5 Jun 2009

Just days after the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD, sought a return on the billions the Irish State has invested in science, the Advisory Science Council has said it is urgent we convert these investments into products and services.

On Wednesday, at the opening of the new Intel-backed Innovation Value Institute in National University of Ireland, Maynooth, the Taoiseach said: “We are already investing billions in research and we need to get a return on it. We will now move this to a new level and create an exemplary research, innovation and commercialisation ecosystem. We will become an innovation hub in Europe.”

Today the Advisory Science Council, which advises the Government, said that to effectively convert our investments in science and research into products, services and business, there must be a significant change in mindset and focus.

“Our research landscape has transformed dramatically due to the significant increases in investment,” said Mary Cryan, chair of the Advisory Science Council.

“As a consequence of these investments, Ireland is now on the map as a country where groundbreaking research is being undertaken by research teams of scale and of the highest calibre.

“It is critical that we take stock and put in place the structures and supports to ensure that our achievements to date are translated into economic benefit in the future. We must strive not only for excellence in research but excellence in the commercialisation of this research,” she said.

Cryan went on to say that our highly qualified scientists must develop business as well as scientific skills in order to make their scientific expertise commercially viable. 

Graduate schools can facilitate high-level research students to undergo specific practical training modules in enterprise skills such as management and marketing, as well as undertaking their core research project.

This is an international trend, whereby participants in graduate research programmes learn relevant practical business skills, from intellectual property management to commercialisation skills, and Ireland should follow this trend, Cryan said.

“We must also seek out and support those with business skills, who understand science, who can see market potential and who can bring that potential to fruition in the form of products and services that are in demand globally.

“Science and technology are foundations of a successful economic future for Ireland, but scientists and enterprise must support each other to make sure Ireland’s research is really put to work,” Cryan said.

By John Kennedy