Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Bill 2012

There can be no doubt but that a clear link exists between high-quality, well-funded research and development and job maintenance, job creation and inward investment, as well as quality of life. Consequently, the case for research and development and investment therein is now well understood and well made. While many people thankfully understand this point, in so far as they do not Members as legislators have a moral responsibility and a leadership role in ensuring Ireland is investing in this regard and they must market such investment to the taxpayers as being worthy. I believe it is broadly understood to be worthwhile in any event.
This Bill will facilitate the broadening of the remit of Science Foundation Ireland to enable it to fund applied research and this is to be welcomed. It will allow diversification and research focused on jobs and on thematic areas that will create jobs, which is extremely important. My constituency of Cavan-Monaghan is a stunning example of job creation and employment that has arisen through good research and development in the agrifood area. In this context, I have in mind the successes and diversity of product of companies such as Lakeland Dairies, Glanbia, Carton Brothers, Abbot Ireland, Baileys, Terra Limited, Monaghan Mushrooms and so on. While the list is endless, this is a region in which there has been good product diversity, a value-added element, good research and development and funding therein. I appeal to the Minister to give continued priority to funding in the agrifood sector and in this area, in which our domestic produce has been turned into indigenous jobs that were created here. I believe this is critical as there is a rich return from investment in this area. Further research is necessary in this regard and Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland should continue to invest there. For example, in the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan that I represent, County Cavan has the largest pig farming sector in Europe, that is, the largest pig farms in Europe. I believe there is merit in investing and working with that sector directly and in investing with that sector in research into diversity of food product arising therefrom. Moreover, the work of Teagasc in the area of agriculture is to be applauded and merits continuous support.
The Bill will allow Science Foundation Ireland to create additional awareness of science, technology and engineering in education. It will enable it to support them on the educational programme, to support people seeking access to them and to support them in the third level sector. I welcome this dimension of the Bill and consider it to be highly important. I commend the Government and the Minister on this and make the point alluded to by Deputy Barry earlier that it is so important at second level to get the potentially excellent science, engineering and maths students and, while not prejudicing the welfare of the weaker students, to ensure those students get the kind of support to enable them to go to the vanguard of research in the future.
In addition to Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland also has undertaken important funding of research and development. Public funding is of course necessary because the private sector cannot see an immediate return. The private sector could not convince its shareholders that there would be an immediate return and there also is an element of risk in research and consequently, there must be State support. Significantly, in 2012 more than 40% of IDA job announcements – thankfully there were significant job announcements that year – related to companies with links to Science Foundation Ireland research teams. There was such a link and this amounted to 4,575 jobs last year. Ireland holds 20th position in the world in research capacity, which is not bad for a country of this size. We are third in the world in respect of immunology research, sixth in nanotechnology and eighth in materials science. While these are proud statistics and proud placings, it is important to maintain the priority in this area. I also am glad the Bill will facilitate research and development in Northern Ireland with supportive funding from this State and that we can work on an all-Ireland basis at ministerial level on research projects. It is very important to invest heavily in science, in research and in product development. Moreover, it is important to invest in the area of renewable energies, as has been cited. It is worth noting that 14 specific areas of expenditure were identified in the report. There are also five underlying areas. We should support those areas.
We should support the renewable energy sector. There is great potential in that sector for this country, and the potential to export energy is important. Research is achieving better outputs in renewables from existing technologies, which is more environmentally friendly and less vexatious for neighbours and so forth. That is important. The export potential in that area is enormous.
I welcome the fact the Bill facilitates a renewed focus on education and outputs in our schools, investment in Northern Ireland, investment in applied research and investment across a range of areas that will attract international business and inward investment to Ireland. The investment to date has done that successfully and that should be continued. The Bill is worthwhile and significant. It deserves the support of the House and the work of the Minister in this area is to be commended. I come from a constituency where research and development have been a huge focus for job creation and where the potential for further job creation is enormous, if there is the necessary investment.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website