Thursday, 8 December 2016
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Research and Development Funding
12. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will provide a detailed breakdown of the recipients of the science and technology development programme in tabular form; the amount they received; the details of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38945/16]
16. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will provide a detailed breakdown of the recipients of the programme for research in third level institutions; the amount they received; the details of the specific project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38946/16]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 16 together.
My Department recently secured Cabinet approval for the provision of a capital investment package of €60 million for expenditure in 2016. This will include €49 million for innovation, including the areas of research and development, science and technology. It includes funding of €27 million to Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, as part of the science and technology development programme, and €20 million to the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, PRTLI, and €2 million to the European Space Agency.
The additional capital of €27 million will allow SFI to fund the acquisition of critically needed research equipment across each of the seven universities in Ireland as well as in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the Waterford Institute of Technology, Teagasc and the Tyndall National Institute.
The €20 million being provided to the PRTLI cycle 5 will be used to pay off a further instalment of an outstanding bill for PRTLI cycle 5 awards to the higher education sector for equipment and buildings. It will be distributed across all seven national universities, as well the Cork and Dublin Institutes of Technology.
The €2 million being provided to the European Space Agency is being allocated to two separate programmes - €1 million each to the ESA's advanced research in telecommunications systems, ARTES, satellite communications programme and the general support technology programme, GSTP. This additional investment in these two European Space Agency programmes will result in contracts for Irish companies and create jobs and exports.
The increased funding under these programmes shows the Government’s commitment to meeting the targets set in Innovation 2020, our strategy for research, development, science and technology.
My officials will provide a full breakdown of the details of the allocations of these Supplementary Estimates in tabular form and I can provide some details to the Deputy's supplementary questions.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. I am concerned about the uneven distribution of funding at a regional and institutional level. Innovation 2020, which outlines the Minister of State's Department's strategy for research, development, science, technology identifies innovation as being critical. For example, page 15 of that document notes:
The primary rationale for Government investment in innovation is to develop a competitive knowledge-based economy and society and to drive innovation in enterprise...and maximise the return on our investment for economic and social progress. Investment in research and development increases economic productivity and competitiveness, and improves quality of life, health, and social and environmental outcomes. An essential component of supporting an innovative and enterprising economy, innovation investment is crucial to creating and maintaining high-value jobs and attracting, developing and nurturing business.
I absolutely agree with the sentiments in Innovation 2020 that research is of vital importance to underpin a strong, developed, progressive and sustainable society.
I acknowledge the Deputy's great interest in research and development. He has put questions to the Department on a number of occasions and I am always interested to meet with the Deputy. I want to go through a few things of interest and I promise to send on details to the Deputy within a couple of days. In the short time I have I will provide a list of the research performing institutes. These include: University College Dublin; Trinity College, Dublin; University College Cork; Dublin City University; the National University of Ireland Maynooth; University of Limerick; the National University of Ireland Galway; Waterford Institute of Technology; the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.
The Deputy was wondering how the €20 million on PRTLI will be spent. It will be distributed across a number of research performing institutes, including all seven national universities. I have the breakdown in regard to the €27 million to Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, and I can forward this to the Deputy at any time. It may answer his question. I have the information here but it would take too long to read out. I will make sure it is sent on to the Deputy.
Will the Minister of State circulate the breakdown of the programme to the rest of the House also? We speak about the science and technology development programme and how it is going to be apportioned. I have a similar concern about the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, PRTLI. We are awaiting detail on the PRTLI successor programme and how it will be manifested. What the strategic focus in that programme will be is of particular interest. The PRTLI programme always provided support for multiple disciplines and I query whether that has now been narrowed to provide a strategic focus in certain areas, along the SFI model or if it remains a broad-based programme, as PRTLI was intended to be. Perhaps the Minister would clarify that.
I thank the Minister for agreeing to send that detail on to me. With regard to the OECD and its support for strong public investment in science and innovation, the OECD knows that the Government must continue to invest in future sources of growth such as education, infrastructure and research. The OECD has said that cutting back on public investment in support for innovation only provides short-term fiscal relief but would damage the foundation of long-term growth. I am concerned that the uneven distribution of funds will result in a regional and institutional deficit when it comes to scientific and technological innovation.
The Deputy is asking if cycle 5 of the programme is fully paid, or what is remaining to be paid. In monetary terms, cycle 5 was the largest of the five cycles which awarded a total of €359 million in funding across 36 distinct projects. My Department continues to make payments to the colleges via the Higher Education Authority in respect of the PRTLI cycle 5. Total expenditure by my Department on PRTLI in 2016 was €30.7 million, including the additional €20 million Supplementary Estimate payment for 2016. The remaining total liabilities under cycle 5 will now be reduced to €36 million. We have been paying down cycle 5 liabilities at a rate of approximately €30 million per annum, with some variation around the precise timing of the payments. At this stage, we expect to clear PRTLI cycle 5 liabilities by the end of 2018.