Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Seanad Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union

Engagement with Science Foundation Ireland and Trinity College Dublin

10:00 am

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Fine Gael)
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I welcome Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the Government, and Mr. Tom Molloy, director of public affairs and communication at Trinity College Dublin. I will invite Professor Ferguson to address us first.

Before he does so, I wish to remind Members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I call on Professor Ferguson to make his opening remarks.

Professor Mark Ferguson:

I thank the Chair and members for inviting Science Foundation Ireland to address the committee. Science Foundation Ireland is the Government’s largest competitive funder of scientific and engineering research in Ireland. The agency supports outstanding research in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which promote and assist the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. Science Foundation Ireland makes competitive grants or awards based upon merit review for excellence and impact by international distinguished scientists. This results in the agency administering research projects of global scale and international excellence, with a high potential to deliver impact for the Irish economy and society. Research projects supported by Science Foundation Ireland often take place in partnership with industry, charities and other research funders, both national and international, several of which are located in the UK.

We are at a moment of opportunity for research and innovation in Ireland. There are challenges associated with Brexit, particularly for our research colleagues in the UK, but there are also significant opportunities for Ireland. There are actions we can take to mitigate the risks, enhance our relationships and support the Irish research community to exploit the opportunities from an otherwise uncertain period. We need to act quickly and intelligently as other countries are exploiting these opportunities too. Since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, I have been taking proactive steps to enhance relationships between research stakeholders in Ireland and in the UK, both research performing and funding organisations, and we have developed a strategy to help Ireland capitalise on these opportunities. Senior members of Science Foundation Ireland staff participate in relevant Government-led Brexit committees and the agency has an internal Brexit working group, led by a director, to ensure agency wide co-ordination.

I will outline some of relevant facts about research in the UK and in Ireland and how the system across both jurisdictions could be impacted upon by Brexit. I will then move on to inform the committee in more detail about the opportunities, strategies and actions that Science Foundation Ireland is putting in place.

I submitted to the committee a detailed appendix of the data relating to Brexit. That flows from two principal sources: the Royal Institution and the four UK learned academies, namely, the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy and the Royal Academy of Engineering. Those bodies have identified four areas in research that are important for Brexit: funding, mobility, collaboration and regulation. The first three of those are about mitigating the risks. The fourth is an opportunity for the UK. Based on these detailed analyses, I will highlight the relevant facts that are important for the Irish consideration.

The UK is a scientific powerhouse with many excellent universities which contribute to its high international standing. For example, the University of Oxford is rated number one in the world. The European Union provides funding for research and innovation through three principal streams. The first is the EU framework programme for research and innovation, which is usually called Horizon 2020. The second is the European Structural and Investment Funds - often the European regional development fund in Ireland - and the third is loans from the European Investment Bank. These three sources are the main sources of EU funding for research. Although the UK is a net contributor to the European Union, within the narrow focus of research and innovation the UK contributes approximately 12.5%, which is €5.4 billion, and wins 15.9%, which is €8.8 billion, back from the programmes. Therefore, the UK wins back more in research than it contributes, although, as I said, it is a net contributor to the overall EU budget. Some 80% of the UK-won EU research and innovation funding flows to UK universities, with a low uptake of less than 20% by UK industry, which is mostly SMEs. Five UK universities - University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh - are ranked among the top ten universities in Europe in terms of winning EU research and innovation funding, that is, half of the European top 10 is dominated by the UK. The top 10 UK universities win 50% of the UK funding.

It is unclear whether the UK will negotiate access to any of the EU scientific programmes post-Brexit and, if it does, what restrictions might be placed on those programmes. For example, it may not be allowed to lead major programmes. If the UK negotiated access on the same terms as Norway and Switzerland, as third countries, it would end up as a net contributor to the programme at 21.9%. At the moment, it is a net beneficiary. It is unclear whether the UK would choose to pay for these non-monetary benefits as opposed to developing their own schemes, for example, with the Commonwealth, the United States, China or Japan.

The vast majority - more than 90% - of UK researchers collaborate overseas. Approximately 17% of the staff in UK universities, or 33,735 individuals, are EU 27, non-British, nationals. That percentage increases significantly in the research-intensive universities such as University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London. Some 23% of all UK university staff in biological, mathematical and physical sciences are EU 27, non-British, citizens. It has been estimated that many of these would not quality for a UK visa under the current UK regulations.

Internationalisation of higher education is a common and increasing global phenomenon and the UK is absolutely at the forefront in this regard. More than 42,000 UK tertiary-level students are studying abroad, among which more than 35% are in an EU country, including 9.9%, or 2,106 individuals, in Ireland. Some 14% of PhD students, or 12,000 individuals, currently registered in the UK universities are EU 27 nationals. The UK is also a very popular destination for both overseas students and visiting overseas students and researchers, for example, through the EU ERASMUS and Marie Skodowska-Curie programmes. On ERASMUS programmes, the UK receives 30,183 students from other EU countries and sends out 14,801 students to other EU countries. The UK dominates the EU Marie Skodowska-Curie programme with 2,233 participations. This is many more than any other EU country - for example, Ireland has 216 participations - and is largely due to the UK’s scientific excellence and native English language. Those are a few figures - there are many more - that kind of paint the picture of the UK research establishment with Brexit.

We will now examine the scientific challenges for Ireland. In the European scientific research framework programme Horizon 2020, Ireland has set an ambitious national target to win €1.25 billion of funding over the lifetime of the programme. This is more than double our performance in the previous framework programme 7. If achieved, it would result in Ireland drawing down more than €300 million more than it contributes. This is an ambitious target and I am pleased to report that we are on track to achieve it. In simple terms, the target means that we have to double our performance. We have to lead and win - those two words are important - more big projects as well as small projects.

We have to lead and win more big projects.

What impact would the loss of the UK as a potential collaborator in EU programmes have on Ireland? We have done a formal analysis of the EU eCORDA database which indicates that of all the successful Irish projects in Horizon 2020, only 11.5% involve the UK as a collaborator. As a percentage, this figure is similar to Irish collaborations with other major European countries, for example Germany at 11.3%, and to peer countries in Europe such as Denmark and Finland. In all cases, these collaborations occur in multi-partner projects so they are not exclusive UK-Ireland relationships. Ireland is not overly dependent on the UK for scientific collaboration in successful EU programmes as 88% of them do not involve UK collaboration. Furthermore, analysis of the successful EU Horizon 2020 projects with Ireland as a contributor show that only 10% of them were led by the UK, which is 9.1% of the funding. If this is analysed across disciplines, it is fairly evenly spread between energy, ICT and medical. The analysis shows Ireland is not critically dependent on the UK in a specific domain of science and is not critically dependent on the UK to lead scientific projects or as a main collaborator. Nonetheless, the UK is important. It is a manageable situation. If the UK exits the Horizon 2020 programmes, even if it does not participate in the European programmes, we can manage. We will have to manage by diversifying the funding base within Ireland but with good planning it is a manageable situation.

Other potential challenges to Ireland from the loss of the UK within the EU include the loss of a like-minded ally, for example in negotiations on framework programme 9 where emphasis on research excellence and protecting the civilian nature of the programme are important. Not all EU countries would necessarily see that. It is really important because there will be a smaller budget because the EU will not have the contribution from the UK. There could be a severe impact on Northern Ireland because 54% of Northern Ireland EU projects come via a North-South collaboration. We are not overly dependent on the UK but Northern Ireland is very dependent on Southern Ireland for its collaborations.

What are the opportunities? I have outlined some of the challenges, which are manageable. There are a number of opportunities for Ireland from Brexit. First, we could increase our success in the European programmes. We could lead large, ambitious projects which would previously have been led by the UK. It is clearly an opportunity. Second, we could attract outstanding researchers to Ireland. There are a large number of EU 27 nationals in the UK, some of whom might feel uncomfortable; they might think about leaving and we could attract them. Third, we could attract outstanding international students to Ireland. The UK is a favoured destination for those students. We also speak English and have excellent research facilities.

We could attract excellent international visiting researchers to Ireland. For example, we could capture some of the Marie Curie applicants. We must have significantly enhanced bilateral research links with the UK. I will come on to that. We could act as a bridge between the UK and the EU. There are opportunities within Ireland.

Having said all of that, what is the strategy for research, scientific research and innovation post-Brexit? Science Foundation Ireland’s strategy is first to diversify and strengthen our scientific research collaborations with EU 27 countries so as to maintain excellence and performance irrespective of UK participation. That strategy has commenced. For example, we are jointly funding a project with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, which is one of the leading research organisations in Germany. We will be strengthening relationships with other EU countries. It is an obvious thing to do.

The second strategy is to strengthen and enhance all our bilateral research links with the United Kingdom. Irrespective of the outcome of its final negotiations with the EU, the UK will remain a scientific powerhouse. By strengthening our relationships with the UK, it does not matter what the final outcome is. If they are within the EU programmes, we will both jointly win. If they are out then we will need those bilateral collaborations because we will not be able to avail of the current EU mechanisms. It is very important. To that end, Science Foundation Ireland has strengthened its collaborations with all of the major UK science funding agencies, namely, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust. We jointly fund with all of those agencies. It is a single application. They fund a research team in the UK and we fund a research team in Ireland and both teams can collaborate. That is how it works. The appendix provided to the committee outlines in detail those collaborative arrangements. It is very important. It is something we have already done and we need to strengthen those links.

We are going to go further. We will launch an initiative aimed at stimulating the exchange of PhD students between the 16 Science Foundation Ireland research centres that are hosted by all seven Irish universities, some of the institutes of technology and four or more leading UK universities, namely, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London. We will fund 30 PhD students a year in Ireland to spend half their time in the UK at those institutions under joint supervision. The UK will fund 30 students a year who will spend half their time in Ireland under joint supervision. It is about stimulating young people moving between excellent institutions within the UK and Ireland.

The third thing we will do is to recruit excellent researchers to Ireland. Given the potential challenges posed by Brexit for scientific research in the UK, there are some people who are thinking of leaving. We would like them to think of Ireland. If there are excellent people thinking of leaving for whatever reason, we should try to attract them to Ireland. Star researchers matter. They attract the best students and companies and maintain our international reputation. Ireland has significantly gone up the scientific rankings and is now ranked tenth in the world. Before Science Foundation Ireland, we were 48th in the world. We have gone up at least one place every year in the past five years. The status of Irish research is good. Our capacity to attract very good people is there. Science Foundation Ireland, together with the higher education institutes in Ireland, has put together the SFI research professorship programme to attract star researchers. Brexit provides an opportunity there. We will also recruit future research leaders and more junior researchers who may be thinking of leaving the EU. We will also put in place joint appointments with the four UK leading universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London so people can be appointed jointly between those institutions and one of the UK institutions I have named and spend at least 40% of their time in Ireland. It is important and may allow us to attract a calibre of person we would not otherwise attract. All of those are new things we plan to put in place as part of our Brexit strategy and in terms of enhancing our links with the UK.

Other measures will be attracting international students and researchers to Ireland. It is very important. The Government strategy, Innovation 2020, calls out for an increase in the number of PhD students of 500 per year. We believe that as a result of Brexit we will be able to recruit very high calibre people who would otherwise have gone to the UK.

Innovation 2020, the Government's strategy for science, engineering, mathematics research is a very good strategy. It is being rolled out, budget permitting, to really build up from the strong and growing research base. There are significant opportunities we should seize. Every other country is putting in place similar mechanisms. There are some risks we need to mitigate but they are manageable. With proper planning and the appropriate budget from Science Foundation Ireland and with the help of the universities and higher education institutes in Ireland, we will be able to manage the Brexit situation. We may be able to get some positive opportunity. I am cognisant of the fact there are many challenges to Ireland from Brexit and there are perhaps few places where there are opportunities. This is one of them.

We should seize the opportunities presented by Brexit.

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Fine Gael)
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I thank Professor Ferguson for his opening statement and he is very welcome. He is one of few people who pointed out opportunities. We have had quite a number of sessions and the committee has now sat for 38 hours. Professor Ferguson is a rare beacon of hope in this whole process. I now invite Mr. Tom Molloy from Trinity College Dublin to make his opening remarks.

Mr. Tom Molloy:

I thank the committee for the opportunity to address it. I am not sure that I can be quite as optimistic as Professor Ferguson.

I am talking on behalf of Trinity College. It is important to note that Trinity College has always prided itself on being an all-island university. Through good times and bad, during the Troubles and during present times we have always made strenuous efforts to attract students from the North to Trinity College. Around half of all students from the North study at Trinity College. Our policy has succeeded and we worry about it now with Brexit.

Trinity College is a research intensive university that receives about half of all Excellence in Cities, EIC, grants that are given to Ireland. Trinity College is a research powerhouse and we are concerned about Horizon 2020.

I will talk about three things that are both an opportunity and a threat. The first one is academics. There is clearly a great opportunity to hire really good people from the UK who might be leaving because they are unhappy with their situation. The problems that we face in Trinity College are as follows. First, our corridors and offices are full. Second, we do not have the money to pay salaries. Third, we do not have the money to house people. If one wants to attract a Nobel prizewinner to Ireland he or she needs laboratories and assistants. He or she needs a lot of people and a support system. Such people do not come by themselves. Maybe in the arts they do but in the sciences they do not. Researchers need a big infrastructure and we, frankly, do not have the money to do it at the moment. Nor do we have the flexibility. Star academics attract many good students and bring a lot of good research with them. They are free to negotiate whatever salary they want if they go to a place like Germany. It is very tempting to go to Germany because researchers are well looked after there, tax is lower and the cost of housing is lower, which are all of the usual things that prevent people from coming to Ireland.

One of the features of higher education is that one must compete for talent in an international but we are constrained by public sector norms. If the committee is thinking of ways to help third level education then funding research is one way. The pay restraints should be loosened in order to attract star academics to work in areas that are important for the national interest. Also, the same should be done with the restraints around hiring spouses, etc., that are problematic. Normally if one has a Nobel prizewinner her husband also works in the academic sector and maybe he must travel as well. I have outlined one opportunity but it is one that we are in danger of squandering. The problem with academia is that everything moves quite slowly. If we want to attract people for 2019 then we must plan now. Unfortunately, we have no oversight for how to do so.

Horizon 2020 is the main funding stream for Trinity College and Professor Ferguson has alluded to it earlier. Horizon 2020 costs a huge amount of money. When I was a boy I remember Albert Reynolds coming back to this country and telling us that he had obtained £6 million punts for Ireland. Horizon 2020 and its successor programme, which is coming down the tracks, will probably cost around €120 billion. That is a really big pot of money that our universities must be able to divvy up and get as much of it as they can. Most of our research is done in collaboration with UK universities. Perhaps it should not be but for reasons of history, language and everything else the valuable and meaningful contracts are done in collaboration with UK universities. It is by no means clear that such a practice will be possible in the future. Already we have seen signs that it is problematic with a UK university because nobody knows what will happen in five years' time. For Trinity College, and I know the same applies for all Irish universities, it would be useful if we could as soon as possible have an idea of what will happen with Horizon 2020.

Everybody in this House should be upset that there are no Irish people on the negotiating committee that is negotiating Framework Programme 9, FP9, which is the successor to Horizon 2020. In the past we have often relied on the UK because of shared norms and beliefs to push certain agendas. However, we are on our own now. If we want to push an agenda then we must ensure that Irish people are on the committee that matters in Brussels. We need diplomatic and all kinds of help to make that happen. Trinity College has joined an association of the 20 best research intensive universities in Europe. We are using the initiative as much as we can to unlock those connections but we are at the beginning. Everybody knows that Brussels is a difficult place but we must network. Too often in the Brexit debate we talk about Britain but we are not talking about where we have to go but where we were. Our big challenge is not to double down on the bet that we made by having partnerships with British universities. Our big challenge is to open up challenges with universities on the Continent.

I wish to highlight the issue of students from Northern Ireland. Trinity College prides itself and is in practice an all-island university. No student in the North knows whether he or she will have to pay between €18,000 to €20,000 a year, which could well happen, once Brexit negotiations finish. Such fees would herald the end of students from the North studying in this country. This country must decide whether it wants that to happen. If it does not want that to happen then it must offer guarantees. As far as I can see, that can be done unilaterally. Of course that is up to the committee to think about and it is not for me to say. If we want students to come from the North and, conversely, if we want our students to go to the North then we must give clarity on fees. One cannot expect any family to sign a blank cheque.

There is another problem. As many as 12,000 Irish people study in the UK every year. Most of them will probably decide that they cannot pay the foreign student fees and so will return. In the next 18 months or so we could see an extra 10,000 students entering the already overcrowded Irish system. As the committee will know, it would mean a 5% increase overnight on top of the democratic barge.

This country and our negotiators can think about Ireland's involvement in Horizon 2020, the fate of Northern Irish students who want to study in the South and how best to attract high flying academics who would bring great teaching, research and knowledge to this country. I thank the committee for listening to me.

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Fine Gael)
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I thank Professor Ferguson and Mr. Molloy for their contributions. My colleagues will ask questions in a block and then I will come back to the witnesses. I call Senator Mulherin to commence as she indicated first.

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Fine Gael)
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I welcome Professor Ferguson and Mr. Molloy and thank them for their presentations.

I compliment Professor Ferguson's organisation, Science Foundation Ireland, on doing the right sort of work because Ireland has leaped up the science scoreboard and is ranked number 10 in the world. There is an obvious correlation between economic growth, greater investment in research and development and the types of jobs that we want to create, which are valuable jobs in the sector, and all that it leads too. Such activity is attractive to FDI.

Professor Ferguson mentioned his ambition to have 500 additional PhD students per year. Obviously he wants to wrap up the activities and seize the opportunity presented by Brexit. I want to focus on the delivery of the programme and SFI's relationship with institutes of technology. Have institutes accessed SFI funding and how much?

I know from the Higher Education Authority that universities are more generously funded and the way they are funded than the institutes of technology. I come from the west of Ireland. NUIG is a very esteemed establishment in the region and there an institute of technology in Mayo. The Government envisions that institutes of technology will play a critical role and that they will be brought up to a university standard. What role does the SFI play in ensuring that happens? How can institutes of technology access research money? What impediments exist? We need to fire on all cylinders and bring the institutes on board.

Photo of Paul DalyPaul Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome both witnesses. As the Chairman has rightly said, some 38 hours into our discussions, it is a breath of fresh air to hear about potential gains because there has been a lot of negativity around this subject. The witnesses were at pains to say that Ireland is not critically dependent on the UK when it comes to science and research. Down the line, however, if there is a hard Brexit or if negotiations get dirty, could they see an "us" and "them" scenario emerging? Britain might want to become a world leader in its own right, outside of the EU. It might batten down the hatches somewhat and go on a solo run. Could the witnesses see that happening and if it did, how would we fare in that situation, particularly from a North-South perspective? In terms of further education, it certainly is frightening that families may have to write open cheques. Tourism Ireland was before this committee and said that people plan holidays one to two years in advance and that the people who are now beginning to plan their holidays for two years hence do not know what the situation will be then. None of us knows and that is what is frightening. A holiday can be put on the shelf but people cannot put their education on hold because they do not know what is going to happen. The not-knowing scenario is difficult and I do not know how we can overcome it. We must give some assurances to people who are facing such decisions but I do not know how we can do that.

I do not want to take from the optimism of the witnesses but if the negotiations go sour, will the UK go on a solo run? While the witnesses have said that we are not critically dependent on the UK, in terms of the North-South relationship in particular, could barriers be put up that would affect us? As the witnesses pointed out, the UK is a strong contributor to the pool and I cannot see that continuing if it goes on a solo run itself.

Mr. Tom Molloy:

It sounds immodest to say this but Trinity College is Ireland's largest research institution. We are 19th in Europe in terms of drawing down funding from the European Research Council. We see it slightly differently to Professor Ferguson. We believe that there is a real danger here. Our biggest collaborator is Cambridge University while our second biggest is Queen's University, Belfast. It is not always appreciated that less than 40% of our income now comes from the State. The remaining 60% comes from fees, research and from one or two other sources, including philanthropy. Even philanthropy is in danger from Brexit but more importantly, research is endangered by it. We are struggling to see a huge amount of upside from this. We worry that Britain might be ejected, in some kind of hard Brexit, from all of the research collaborations that go on. We also worry about the future of funding from organisations like the Wellcome Trust, which has been a great friend of Ireland for the last century. It is not clear, in a post-Brexit world, whether organisations like the Wellcome Trust will be as generous as they have been in the past.

I can only say that we have had a good bounce recently. Today it was announced that we have risen in the university rankings. At the same time, we have seen two thirds of British universities fall in the rankings that were announced this morning precisely because it would seem that people are getting worried. The only logical explanation is that people are worried that there will be a squeeze on research. If there is a squeeze on research in the UK, we will feel it too, at least temporarily, as is always the case if there is a squeeze on one's biggest partner in anything. In that sense, I am inclined to agree with Senator Daly.

Professor Mark Ferguson:

I will address the question on the institutes of technology first. Excellence in Ireland is distributed. If one looks at the main areas of science, nanotechnology, food science and agriculture, one will find excellent people in all of the Irish institutions, both the universities and the institutes of technology. They may not all be distributed equally but one will find excellent people across the educational institutions. Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, research centres mandate that all of the excellent people, no matter where they are located, be it Trinity College, UCD, UCC, the institutes of technology in Tralee, Mayo or wherever, must collaborate with one other and with industry. It is absolutely true that the institutes of technology can participate in all of those programmes but they do not participate to the same degree as the universities. That is partly because they have a stronger teaching mission but that said, they do participate. We are seeing institutes of technology working with the SFI research centres, with really excellent researchers working at those institutes. That provides an opportunity because the SFI research centres are well funded in terms of infrastructure and that has to be shared across the institutions. It would be nonsense to replicate all of the infrastructure in every university and every institute of technology; we need to have some sharing. We are very positive about having all of the excellent people, no matter where they are located, collaborating within the SFI research centres. It is absolutely true that there are fewer people from the institutes of technology than the universities but it is equally true that in the last four research centres that we announced two weeks ago, two of which are in manufacturing, there are very significant contributions from institutes of technology. It is also noteworthy that for the first time we have had an application for an SFI research professorship, one of the star researchers, from an institute of technology. I see that as progress and something good. We are open and do not mind where the excellence is based. However, we do want a coherent structure in which that can be put forward.

In terms of the Brexit negotiations and the UK going it alone, let me be very clear - the British are going it alone at the moment and people are planning on that basis. The UK has activated the scientific Commonwealth. I worked in the UK for many years and there was never any discussion about the Commonwealth in science but that has now been activated. The second Commonwealth science symposium has taken place and there are also very significant bilateral discussions going on with the United States, Australia, China, Japan and so on but they are also going on with Ireland. Our strategy there is to strengthen all of our bilateral relations so we now jointly fund with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society and all of those will endure, no matter what kind of Brexit transpires. Brexit is irrelevant to those relationships. We need those bilateral relationships but what is different now is that we have to provide the funding. What is different about those relationships is that under a European programme, the European Union provides the funding for the various projects but under these bilateral programmes, the UK Government will fund the piece in the UK and we will fund the piece in Ireland. To that end, the UK Government has put in £2 billion more into scientific research post Brexit but we have put in nothing, so there is the problem. The problem is not with the relationships, which are there and which will endure. The problem is we are going to have to pay for the Irish piece of the bilateral collaborations and the UK will pay for the British piece. The UK is signalling this clearly and is putting extra money into the budget for these bilateral and multilateral collaborations and we need to be able to play in those games. There are very good researchers in the UK and we want to collaborate with them. We also want the Irish institutions to collaborate with them.

The North-South piece is really interesting and really important. We had a joint funding scheme, North and South, between Science Foundation Ireland and the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland. Bluntly, we ran the scheme, the Administration funded the piece in Northern Ireland and we funded the piece in the South. As there is no longer a devolved Administration, that scheme does not operate but hopefully it will be resurrected when there is a new Administration in place or resurrected by Westminster. I am discussing that actively because we need to promote those North-South collaborations. Members must be very clear, however, that in all of these things I have talked about, the bill lands with us and where the likely limitation will be is in our budget, to be blunt. Science Foundation Ireland does not have a sufficient budget to fund all of the excellent and impactful projects that come its way, including those with very significant industrial collaboration.

That is likely to be enhanced post Brexit if the UK is not part of the EU programmes. That is because we will have all of these bilateral programmes but the bit in Ireland will have to be funded by us, not the EU. The bit in the UK will have to be funded by the UK and it has stepped up to the plate. Mrs. May has released £2 billion more for research and innovation in the UK since Brexit was announced.

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Fine Gael)
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I thank both witnesses for their detailed contributions and thoughtful responses to the questions. We will now suspend for a minute to change around the witnesses.

Sitting suspended at 12.03 p.m. and resumed at 12.07 p.m.