Written Answers - Science and Technology Sectors.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 681 No. 4

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  127.  Deputy Deirdre Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the latest estimate of the value of science and technology focused companies to the economy here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17447/09]

  128.  Deputy Deirdre Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   her views on the potential of future growth in the science and technology sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17448/09]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 128 together.

The drive to encourage Irish companies to use science and technology to increase competitiveness and value added is a significant pillar of Government Policy, as recognised in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Smart Economy Framework. This applies equally not only to technology driven sectors such as the information and communications technology and bio-pharma sectors, but as much to the traditional sectors such as food production and to the services sector. Competitiveness in these latter sectors is increasingly being influenced by science and technology driven innovation. Therefore the impact of science and technology innovation is now broadly spread across a wide sector of Irish enterprises.

The recently published CSO data on Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD) shows total expenditure by companies on Research and Development has increased from €900 million in 2001, to €1,105 million in 2003, to €1,329 million in 2005, to €1,598 million in 2007 and to an estimated €1,684 million in 2008. This amounts to an increase of 87% in expenditure by business enterprises on research and development over the seven year period. In 2007 there were almost 13,900 persons engaged in research and development activities in Ireland of whom 8,300 were researchers. All of this research and development effort is supporting significant economic activity across Irish enterprises.

Over 40% of IDA investments in 2008 were in Research and Development and amounted to approx. €420 millions in investment. Significant new R&D announcements in 2008 included investments by many world class companies including Boston Scientific, Oriflame, Business Objects, Synopsis, EMC, IBM (three separate announcements) ON Semiconductor, AON Corp., and CITI.

The impact of research, development and innovation on indigenous industry is also significant. Enterprise Ireland provides a broad spectrum of support, including a number of significant [856]research and development programmes, to indigenous enterprise. Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland programmes contributed over €4bn in new exports sales over 2005-2007 with total exports in 2007 of more than €13 billion. Enterprise Ireland client companies are estimated to have secured over €1 billion in new export sales in the challenging conditions of 2008.

Direct expenditure in the Irish economy by agency assisted Irish owned companies in 2007 was 11% of GNP. Enterprise Ireland (EI) clients directly spent an estimated €19.6bn in the Irish economy, with over €9bn being spent on materials, €4bn being spent on services and €6bn spent on payroll in 2007. Additionally, these companies sourced the majority of their materials and services in Ireland. The value added by Enterprise Ireland client companies reached over €14bn in 2007, up from under €9bn in 2000. Over the same period value added per person employed increased to €99,700, from €57,400 in 2000. EI client companies had employment of 145,758 in 2008 of which 70% was spread throughout regions outside Dublin, delivering strong economic impact to communities all over Ireland. It is estimated that well over 100,000 jobs are indirectly supported in the economy due to these businesses.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is also connecting its funded research teams with industry through its investment in research activities linked to Ireland’s economic development in the fields of ICT, Biotechnology and Sustainable energy/Energy efficient technologies. Through its Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSETs) and the Strategic Research Clusters (SRCs) programmes, SFI currently supports Irish enterprise by providing funding for 9 CSETs and 17 Strategic Research Clusters. These 26 centres are currently partnering with 123 distinct multinational corporations and small medium enterprise indigenous companies, who collectively employ approximately 53,000 people in Ireland. This R&D investment is aimed at anchoring and embedding these companies further in Ireland. In addition, another 34 multinational companies are collaborating with SFI funded researchers under other SFI programmes, notably the Principal Investigator Programme.

The Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation sets an ambitious target of growing BERD to €2.5 billion by 2013. While the trend over the period 2001 to 2009 is positive, the current global economic environment will provide a serious challenge to the effort to deliver the growth targets. However, the comprehensive program of supports in place from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, coupled with the investments by Science Foundation Ireland, create a sound platform for the future growth of the innovation driven economy, and will place Irish based companies in a strong position to capitalise on an upswing in the economy when it comes.

  129.  Deputy Deirdre Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the strategies she has in place to promote science and technology in both education and business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17449/09]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  The Government has made a major commitment, through the substantial investment set out in the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation (SSTI) 2006-2013 and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013, to making the transition to a knowledge-economy. The ambition is that “Ireland by 2013 will be internationally renowned for the excellence of its research, and will be to the forefront in generating and using new knowledge for economic and social progress, within an innovation driven culture.”

The Government is committed to making this vision a reality and making Ireland a key location for leading edge research and development, and a location for high quality jobs that [857]are underpinned by knowledge and high skill levels. The targets within the Strategy, which relate to business and education sectors, include:

Increased participation in the sciences by young people;

Significant increase in the numbers of people with advanced qualifications in science and engineering;

Transformational change in the quality and quantity of research undertaken by enterprise — both directly and in cooperation with third level institutions;

Enhanced contribution of research to economic and social development across all relevant areas of public policy including agriculture, health, environment and the marine and natural resources;

Increased output of economically relevant knowledge, know how and patents from those institutions;

Increased participation in international S&T cooperation and transnational research activity;

An established international profile for Ireland as a premier location for carrying out world class R&D;

Greater coherence/exploitation of synergies in the development of S&T policy on the island of Ireland.

The First report on the implementation of the SSTI was published in December last and is available at www.entemp.ie/publications/science/2008/firstreportonSSTI. This report, together with the initial findings from the latest Business Expenditure on R&D (BERD) survey for 2007 and 2008, which was published in March of this year and is the most recent high level indicator of R&D investment, confirms that substantial progress has been made in achieving these objectives. Both reports provide evidence that the Government’s integrated strategy is working, as seen in the following internationally comparable key indicators:

Total R&D spending has almost trebled over 10 years and Ireland’s total expenditure on R&D had risen to 1.56% of GNP at end 2006. Total R&D spending across all sectors of the economy is expected to climb to €2.6bn in 2008 (1.66% of GNP). This is an OECD derived indicator called Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD), common to all OECD members.

Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD) rose to an estimated €1.56 billion in 2006 — a 17% increase on the previous year — almost double the level recorded in 2000. This trend continued in 2007 with BERD climbing to €1.60bn. It is estimated that BERD will reach €1.68bn in 2008.

The ratio of BERD to economic activity as measured by Gross National Product increased from 0.96% in 2005 to 1% in 2007. It is likely that this ratio will rise further in 2008 to an estimated 1.08% of GNP.

Higher Education R&D spending has almost quadrupled in current terms over 10 years and is now at the EU and OECD average levels. This increased investment in the higher education sector is having a significant impact in terms of human capital development, feeding through to attraction of FDI and commercialisation.

[858]The number of research personnel employed in R&D activities across the business sector in Ireland rose to 13,861 in headcount terms in 2007.

Early estimates of R&D activity levels point to sharp increases in the number of firms performing significant R&D (>€2mn), with 164 significant R&D performers in 2007 compared to 118 in 2005.

There also appears to be evidence of firms who were smaller performers of R&D in 2005 stepping up activity to become larger performers in 2007.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) has developed a range of schemes to ensure we have the capacity to capture and transform the ideas and advances coming from higher education research into commercial reality. EI and IDA are working closely with companies to strengthen the research and technological base of the enterprise sector in order to drive productivity, competitiveness, exports and jobs. In 2008 EI assisted 698 companies to perform R&D. Over the period 2000 to 2007, EI supported 430 High Performance Start-Ups, 40% of which were specifically R&D projects. This investment yielded sales of €638 million, exports of €344 million and generated employment for 5,500 people.

Many of the education aspects of the SSTI are primarily the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science. However, my Department does have responsibility for Science Foundation Ireland and the Discover Science and Engineering programme. Science Foundation Ireland, through its supports for world-class researchers and the creation of world class research centres in higher education institutions, is creating a stream of highly skilled research talent and building Ireland’s reputation as a location for R&D activity. Growth in researcher capacity, led by Science Foundation Ireland, coupled with the enhanced R&D tax credit, continues to be a major attraction for overseas investors, and is resulting in a series of significant industrial R&D investments in Ireland by IDA supported companies. Over 40% of IDA investments in 2008 were in R&D with approx. €420 millions of investment. Currently there are about 170 IDA supported companies with a significant R&D mandate with a spend of approx. €1.7 billion. Significant new R&D announcements in 2008 included investments by many world-class companies including Boston Scientific, Oriflame, Business Objects, Synopsis, EMC, IBM (three separate announcements) ON Semiconductor, AON Corp., and CITI.

The Discover Science and Engineering (DSE) Programme aims to raise the general level of awareness of the physical sciences and to raise the level of student uptake of the physical sciences at second and third level. The DSE Programme will continue to play an important role in encouraging young people to study science and technology and in enhancing general science awareness. Despite the current global upheaval, the Government is committed to investing in Ireland’s science base as one of the key cornerstones underpinning future jobs in Ireland and the linchpin of our transformation to the Smart Economy. The challenge, for the immediate future, will be to effectively manage the implementation of the Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in a much tighter resource environment.

  130.  Deputy Deirdre Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the amount her Department has contributed to the Discover Science and Engineering programme for each year since its establishment; the way budgetary cutbacks have been implemented in 2009; the effects of these cutbacks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17450/09]

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  131.  Deputy Deirdre Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   the action she is taking to encourage greater awareness of science and technology among the public and students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17452/09]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

The Discover Science and Engineering Programme was established in late 2003 to promote an awareness and understanding of the importance of science and engineering in a modern knowledge-based economy. The Programme is administered by Forfás on behalf of my Department. Discover Science and Engineering (DSE) aims (i) to raise the general level of awareness of the physical sciences; (ii) to raise the level of student uptake of the physical sciences at second and third level; (iii) to promote a positive attitude towards careers in Science, Engineering and Technology; and (iv) to promote a greater understanding of science amongst the public/society. The amounts provided by my Department for the Programme since its establishment are in the table.

To ensure that the DSE Programme remains strategically relevant and operationally efficient, an evaluation was sought by my Department in 2007. The evaluation was carried out by an independent panel of experts, who presented their final report in late 2008. The overall finding by the panel was that the DSE Programme represents very good value for money and is playing an important role in encouraging young people to study science and technology and in enhancing general science awareness. The panel outlined a number of recommendations to improve the strength and efficacy of the Programme in delivering its objectives. A key finding was that the remit of the Programme should continue to focus on the physical sciences and engineering and also extended to comprehend the promotion of maths literacy, to promote the increased take up of higher-level maths at second level, and to promote career opportunities which require a high level of maths competency.

The current financial exigencies have dictated the level at which the DSE Programme can be resourced in 2009. All of the recommendations made in the evaluation are currently being studied by the DSE Programme team in conjunction with my Department and having regard to the resources available. These discussions have confirmed that the DSE Programme team will focus, for the remainder of this year, on delivering its key strategic objectives of promoting study in the priority areas of science, engineering and technology. Within resource constraints, the Programme team is now gearing up to replicate at second level the success it had with programmes like Discover Primary Science at primary level and is extending its remit to promote maths as a key underpinning discipline.

The reduced funding for the Programme will inevitably lead to changes and a reduction in some activities. At the same time, the DSE team is attempting to counter the effect of this reduction by looking at other options of delivering on its objectives such as greater use of the internet and by strengthening its coordination role with its key education, industrial and outreach partners. In this regard, DSE will continue to support engineering through its own initiatives and through funding partnerships.

Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Funding Provided €1.5 m €2.0 m €4.0 m €5.0 m €5.25 m €2.685 m


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