Seanad debates

Wednesday, 20 March 2024

Research and Innovation Bill 2024: Second Stage


12:00 pm

Photo of Fintan WarfieldFintan Warfield (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly to the Bill. In the coming weeks I look forward to reviewing it in more detail with colleagues and, possibly, to tabling amendments as well. I hope this Bill is not merely the coming together of two existing research funding bodies but is a new departure for promoting research and development in Ireland.

Ireland has underinvested in research and development. The White Paper on enterprise states that research, development and innovation are the best ways to generate sustainable, long-term productivity and growth. Analysis of European and global indicators show us going in the wrong direction on innovation scorecards and on international competitiveness in areas of research and development. In fairness, we have moved in the right direction on the European innovation scorecard where we are classed as a strong innovator. However, we are not yet an innovation leader similar to Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. We do not perform that well when it comes to the creation of new patents, which is often used as an indicator of successful STEM research, so Ireland needs to become an innovation leader. Our tax-based policy means that intellectual property is relocated here rather than the research itself having been conducted here. It is paramount for us to examine State investment and policy support in addition to tax-based policy.

A green future will depend on a combination of policy choices that are sufficiently urgent and ambitious and central to that is research and innovation. Ireland needs a workforce that is adequately prepared and resourced to deliver energy security and independence and to achieve our targets. The Government must prioritise the building of that workforce. To secure Ireland's just transition it is absolutely crucial that we have the right people and enough of them doing the right jobs. People's talent, skills, education and expertise will power a renewable energy transformation to the next level. Without them, Ireland's energy revolution will remain out of reach. These are areas where there are huge opportunities for Ireland. Two examples are hydrogen and floating offshore wind. We hear repeatedly that the State is taking a cautious wait-and-see approach rather being an early adopter. Other countries like Norway, Japan, Portugal and Scotland are taking a different approach and will realise the benefits of that. There are risks and challenges in doing so, but there are also immense opportunities to secure a pipeline to develop the technologies that can push pioneering research, innovation and science. That does not happen by chance. The Government and State agencies must lead by example.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill. I wholly support my colleague, Senator Hoey's, contribution on postgraduate researchers and PhD students. I look forward to the next Stages of this Bill. It will be important that the coming together of these two agencies is matched by efforts by all of us – both the Government and the Parliament - to address our performance in funding, research and development when compared to EU standards.


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