UCD president warns of ‘inconvenient truth’ of R&D funding

23 Jul 2010

Speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, the president of UCD, Dr Hugh Brady, argued that while Irish universities are currently among the best in the world, this competitive advantage could be lost if adequate support and funding was not provided for R&D at third-level institutions.

Referring to Al Gore film of 2006, Dr Brady said Ireland also was ignoring a different inconvenient truth. “We have been blind for far too long blind to the progressive erosion of the funding base and autonomy of our higher education institutions that is now threatening to undo the impressive achievements of the past decade,” he said.

“Another indisputable truth is that developed countries are today competing as never before to create, attract and retain high value jobs that for the most part are knowledge- and/or technology-intensive. The knowledge economy and knowledge society are not aspirational. They already exist and are represented on a daily basis by your mobile phone, iPod and iPad, sensor-laden hybrid car, newly installed solar panels, new biologic arthritis medication and the changing shape of foreign direct investment – 50pc of which was R&D-based last year.

“Ireland’s future economic success will depend on its ability to develop the talent to compete in a fast moving global game. The strength of our higher education system (or perhaps more accurately our ‘higher education, research and innovation’ system) will be critical to this effort,” Dr Brady continued.

“The imperative that Ireland increases its investment in R&D to 3pc of GDP should be re-affirmed, consistent with the EU’s innovation strategy. Research laboratories are not just a source of new knowledge, inventions and technologies. They are the classrooms for fourth-level training programmes which will produce the next generation of creative, knowledgeable and technologically literate graduates. R&D is not cheap but few, if any, other investments have been shown to yield higher returns on a consistent basis and across diverse sectors of the economy.”

The full text of Dr Brady’s speech can be read here.