Tuesday, 27 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
91. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the precise mechanisms of competitive tendering which will be put in place for the technology foresight fund of £550 million which is being put in place by Government; the criteria that will be used in deciding tenders; the person or body who will administer the tendering procedure; the process of ongoing evaluation planned to track the funds given to those who are successfully awarded funds under the programme; and if she will make a statement on the way in which the ambitions of the educational institutions and the needs of society will be balanced. [18389/00]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Treacy): The £560 million technology foresight fund was established in response to the increasingly important link between technological development and the future competitiveness of Irish-based industry. The new fund will be used to establish Ireland as a location for world class research excellence in niche areas within information and communications technologies and biotechnology.
A dedicated foundation, operating under the aegis of Forfás, is being established to manage, allocate, disburse and evaluate expenditure from the fund. A high level implementation group has also been established to advise on the arrangements and decisions required to ensure the smooth launch of the foundation. The implementation group is expected to report to the Tánaiste  and myself when it has completed its deliberations and work in the near future.
The Deputy will wish to be aware that Forfás, with the assistance of the implementation group to which I have referred, is making appropriate arrangements for a first call for proposals from the fund. These arrangements will be in accordance with accepted best international practice. Researchers will compete for funding on the basis of research excellence which will be assessed by an international peer review involving panels of independent experts. The call will provide details of the scale of funding available and the areas to be funded within biotechnology and information and communication technologies. It is envisaged that the first call for proposals will be announced during the summer. There will then be a period of at least two months for submissions of proposals during which, the call will be promoted both nationally and internationally.
The overall objective of the fund is to ensure world class research excellence in the selected niche areas and only proposals which meet the criteria set down by the foundation will be funded. The implementation group is also expected to advise on the evaluation process for foundation funded research. I should point out also, that continuation of support for any project funded by the foundation will be dependent on a continuing high quality research output again assessed by international peer review.
Clearly the way forward for developing Ireland as a knowledge-based society depends on the proactive initiatives by a variety of organisations including the universities. The foundation will add a new dynamism by developing the reputation of Ireland as a location for research and for knowledge-based enterprise.
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