Thursday, 8 October 2015
Horizon 2020: Statements
I ask the Minister of State to make his opening statement. Contributions from group spokespersons are limited to eight minutes and those of all other Senators five minutes. The Minister will be called on to reply not later that 2.55 p.m. and statements will conclude at 3 p.m.
I welcome this opportunity to address Seanad Éireann on Ireland's results so far in Horizon 2020, the biggest ever European research and innovation programme.
With approximately €78 billion of funding available over seven years, Horizon 2020 is the EU funding programme for research and development for the period 2014 to 2020. Its objectives are to enable a world-class research system for Europe, to support European leadership in industrial development and to address the grand societal challenges of our day.
The Government has set an ambitious target for Irish researchers and companies to win funding of €1.25 billion over the lifetime of Horizon 2020. The structure and objectives of Horizon 2020 are very much in line with our national objectives: raising the level of excellence in our science base; making Ireland a more attractive location to invest in research and innovation; translating research into opportunities to grow our enterprise base; and addressing major societal challenges by bringing together resources and knowledge across different fields, technologies and disciplines, including social sciences and the humanities, and across borders as well.
International co-operation will continue to play an important role in our new strategy for science, technology and innovation in the development and sustainability of a world-class research system. Ireland's research community, including industry, is actively encouraged to engage with international partners at the level of individual investigators, research teams, research centres and higher education institutions.
It has long been recognised and reported that international engagement enables tackling of global scientific and societal challenges, builds critical mass and shares risk, stimulates excellence through international competition, allows sharing of expensive and specialist research infrastructure, enables international mobility of researchers, provides reputational and other strategic benefits and allows access to new technology pathways and standards. International co-operation also enables the leverage of international financial resources, contributes to the development of Ireland as a research and enterprise partner and facilitates engagement with the Irish diaspora. Excellence is the key to enabling participation, collaboration and international co-operation.
For Ireland to maintain and improve our position in the global economy, we must continue to engage with the international research community, at both EU level and beyond, through our participation in and co-ordination of international initiatives. A key way for our researchers and companies to engage is through Horizon 2020. Ireland's research system is intrinsically linked to the European Union. Financial support from EU Structural Funds has assisted us to rapidly develop our national RDI system. Access to and success in the previous EU framework programmes has, on the one hand, supplemented national investment in RDI and, on the other, allowed researchers and enterprises in Ireland to collaborate with the best in Europe and to further enhance the excellence of our national research eco-system. However, let me be clear, EU funding cannot replace national investment. A significant level of national funding is necessary to ensure we continue to build a science base in academia and industry which can then be better positioned to engage in collaboration with our European partners.
Investment in research and innovation is now increasingly advocated by European policy makers, and governments are being urged to increase investment at national level. As Europe exits the crisis, it is increasingly clear that supporting growth-enhancing policies, such as investment in research and innovation, has paid off. The evidence shows that much of the recent productivity gains come from innovation and that, on average, countries that invested more in research and innovation before and during the crisis have been the most resilient during the economic downturn.
The Government fully supports this approach and that is why we have followed in the footsteps of previous Administrations in maintaining strong State investment in research and innovation since taking office in 2011. We are committed to continuing the process of economic reform and recovery, to achieving sustainable growth and strong public finances, and to enduring job creation. Research and innovation is about future-proofing this economy.
As a means to drive economic growth and create jobs, Horizon 2020 has the political backing of Europe's leaders and the Members of the European Parliament. As Senators know, Ireland played a very significant role in the development of the programme by securing political agreement on Horizon 2020 during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013. Some of the officials behind me were involved in a lot of late nights during those negotiations. I compliment them on the work that was done to get those negotiations over the line.
By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve this with its emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation. Horizon 2020 is open to everyone, with a simple structure that reduces red tape and appraisal times so participants can focus on what is really important. This approach makes sure that new projects get off the ground quickly and achieve results faster.
The European research framework programmes have always been an important element in providing international linkages and enhancing the excellence of the Irish research and development system.They have enabled academic and industry research groups to work with peers across Europe and beyond and to derive the benefits associated with collaborative research, including access to knowledge networks, sharing of costs and risks and, in particular for industry, the possibility of opening up commercial opportunities.
Ireland's participation in the seventh framework programme, which ended in 2013, was very successful, with over €620 million secured by Irish researchers. While we have a very solid track record on which to build further success, we cannot afford to be complacent. Horizon 2020 is a new departure. It is not business as usual and we must adapt our approach to it. The competition from across the EU and beyond is intense with major oversubscription in many areas. The global economic situation has resulted in reduced national funding resources and researchers are increasingly looking to Europe to fill that funding gap. However, Ireland is participating in the current framework programme from a far stronger position than ever before. A critical mass of research activity has developed in both the public and private sectors and we are well positioned to perform very strongly under Horizon 2020. We see Horizon 2020 as an opportunity to further deepen our engagement in collaborative European and international research.
As every country participating in Horizon 2020 will be targeting increased participation only quality projects that are excellent will win funding. This requires that our national research and innovation system performs at the highest competitive level. As I mentioned, ongoing national funding of research and innovation will be required. As Horizon 2020 is a competitive funding process, it will not be possible to use Horizon 2020 funding to reduce national funding, and rightly so. However, all available opportunities will be used to leverage national investment to maximise funding from Horizon 2020. National funders are focusing on funding nationally in areas likely to win further funding from Horizon 2020 and other sources. A national strategy for Horizon 2020 is in place to direct our engagement in Horizon 2020. A Horizon 2020 high level group, chaired by my Department and comprising those Departments and agencies whose remit includes research and innovation, is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the strategy and securing the maximum benefits for Ireland.
As I mentioned, the Government has set an ambitious target for Irish researchers and companies to win funding of €1.25 billion over the lifetime of Horizon 2020. A national support network, co-ordinated by a national director, Dr. Imelda Lambkin, and based in Enterprise Ireland has been put in place. This national support network, comprising national contact points who are experts in the various research domains of Horizon 2020, will provide advice and assistance to researchers who want to participate in the programme. The network also includes a team of national delegates for Horizon 2020 who represent Ireland's interests in Europe on the various programme committees that design the Horizon 2020 work programmes and priorities. This national support network works in tandem with the high level group in co-ordinating the national effort to maximise our participation. The achievement of our target will require special efforts designed to identify and create additional value over and above the strong results we traditionally achieve. A more strategic approach, aimed at participation in larger scale projects, as well as playing a larger role in projects generally, is required.
A strategic research proposals group has been established, chaired by the chief scientific advisor, Professor Mark Ferguson, to focus exclusively on large-scale strategic projects. The purpose of this special advisory group is to catalyse, develop and advise on the submission of Horizon 2020 proposals of a major scale. This will include proposals where Ireland can take a leading or major role, taking into account timing, likelihood of success and extent of the fit with national priority areas and strengths. By harnessing the expertise across all relevant Departments and Agencies we hope to identify and catalyse such winning bids.
We have also established a Horizon 2020 industry group, which seeks to devise actions that will encourage and assist more industry engagement with the programme. The industrial leadership pillar of the programme aims to speed up development of the technologies and innovations that will underpin tomorrow's businesses and help innovative European companies, including SMEs to grow into world-leading companies that can have an impact on a global stage. Over €17 billion in funding is divided across three main areas, including key enabling technologies, innovation to SMEs and access to risk finance.
Horizon 2020 has a much closer to market focus than previous framework programmes. There is, therefore, much greater scope than before for industry to get involved. Success in Horizon 2020 yields significant returns to enterprises. The financial reward is of course very important. Another key reason to get involved is the opportunity to connect, collaborate and innovate with the best and brightest in Europe.
I congratulate Ireland's researchers and companies on achieving over €127 million in successful applications in the first year of Horizon 2020. In particular, with the very competitive environment for EU research and innovation funding, surpassing our Action Plan for Jobs 2014 national target by 27% is a great achievement. If we include the first few call results of 2015, approximately €12 million a month is being won in Ireland. This is approximately €2.8 million a week, in comparison with our performance in the same period in FP7, the predecessor programme, which was approximately €1 million a week. We are on target to achieve our results. In fact, we are very much ahead target but we must remain focused. Overall, 1,905 applications were submitted from Ireland in 2014, 293 of which were successful - a success rate of 15%.In terms of the total Horizon 2020 budget for member states, 1.8% was allocated to Ireland. When the results are population-adjusted, Ireland has performed quite favourably with Finland and Denmark, which are countries with small advanced economies against which we benchmark ourselves.
We have had a great first year, with 85% of funding coming from ICT, research grants from the European Research Council, ERC, training grants for researchers and also in the areas of health, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing and processing, biotechnology and agri-food. Higher education institutes account for approximately 65% of the total funding. NUIG in particular had a very successful year. In terms of industry participation, Ireland's companies have achieved over €35 million of the total won in 2014, of which almost three quarters went to SMEs. I want to encourage more companies in particular to build on the success to date and engage further and to learn from those companies that have been successful.
Horizon 2020, with its focus on competitiveness and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs, offers more opportunity for industry participation than ever before. For example, it includes a specific SME initiative called the SME Instrument that offers funding for all stages of the innovation process. It also includes a fast track to innovation pilot which is targeted at all types of companies. Stiff competition has always existed for funding under EU framework programmes. In Horizon 2020, it is particularly intense. Our success to date is, therefore, a real testament to the quality of the proposals coming from Ireland.
Successful participation in Horizon 2020 is valuable at any level but where the leading role is taken on, greater rewards are achieved on all dimensions. There is, of course, an overhead in doing this but the investment in time can yield significant rewards for those who succeed. Our message is, whenever possible, "take the lead". The experts available in the national support network can provide valuable information to people who want to engage in the programme.
Welcome as the first year results are, Horizon 2020 is very different to what has gone before and our level of ambition is far greater. Given the scale of Horizon 2020, the fact that our national research priorities are aligned so closely to it, and the calibre of our national research system, I believe we can meet our ambitious target under Horizon 2020. We have a particular focus now on creating the right environment to allow for projects of a large scale which will require a greater strategic approach. The Government is determined to make this happen. I have been engaging with the research community on this topic over the past 18 months and it is very much up for this challenge. Everybody wants to make this happen. It is a realistic target that we can achieve. The Government and its agencies are determined to make this happen. It is right for Ireland. Any funding we win will help to develop the talent in our system.
Last year, a €245 million investment by my Department was announced for five new large-scale world-class research centres, aimed at achieving a step-change in the performance of Ireland's research system. These, together with the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland Technology Centres, leave Ireland well placed to take the lead in developing cutting-edge research and new technologies. These centres will also strongly position Irish-based scientists to win funding from Horizon 2020.
Horizon 2020 also represents a significant opportunity for North-South co-operation, which is an issue that has been raised in the Seanad during many discussions on this issue down through the years. Increasing the value of successful applications and funding awards from Horizon 2020 is an important objective not just of the Irish Government but also of the Northern Ireland Executive. The international collaborative nature of Horizon 2020 makes it ideally suited for Ireland and Northern Ireland to work together to mutual benefit. The importance of North-South collaboration is recognised by both Administrations and the alignment of our Horizon 2020 support structures, North and South, means that there is now a strong basis on which to build co-operation. Ireland's national support network for Horizon 2020 operates on an all-Island basis. The number of North-South collaborations has been rising steadily. These collaborations are generating economic value. For 2014, plus the first few calls in 2015, a total of 16 collaborative North-South projects have been successful with 44 participants and funding worth €19.4 million. InterTradelreland will build on this success to further increase the level of co-operation for the Horizon 2020 programme.InterTradelreland has also developed a suite of supports dedicated to facilitating and supporting North-South co-operation and will continue its integration role with the national support network in Ireland and the Northern Ireland support structure.
Our new strategy for science, technology and innovation is being formulated as we move into a new phase of economic growth and societal development. It is now time for us to advance fresh strategic ideas that will distinguish Ireland globally through its ability to make research work to maximum effect for the country.
In Ireland, we are proud of our achievements to date. In the past decade and a half, we have made significant progress in our national innovation system which started from a very low base by international comparisons. We have successfully built up research capacity and have a significant reputation for research excellence along with an increasing base of research and development active enterprises. None the less, we need to build on this progress made in developing Ireland's research and innovation system. We recognise that this is not the time to stand still. Scientific and technological progress advance at rapid rates and we are competing in an ever-growing competitive global environment. Supporting effective research that produces outputs of maximum impact for Ireland's economy and society is our goal and the Government has committed to reaching our Europe 2020 research and development intensity target of 2.5% of GNP.
This year, we plan to bring a successor strategy for science, technology and innovation to fruition and I can report that work in well under way to this end. The new strategy will seek to articulate a vision for Ireland's research and innovation system and identify its defining characteristics. It will also set out strategic goals and targets, based on a robust evidence base, our own vision and an examination of international trends and good practice and will give us a business case to increase investment both from taxpayers' money and from the private sector into the field of research, innovation and development. Therefore, it is a very important strategy. I thank all those who have got involved in it so far. We have had quite a lot of consultation with all the stakeholders in the past eight or nine months and we are trying to bring it to a close in the weeks ahead.
I reiterate my congratulations to all of those who have been successful in the programme so far and thank the national support network and the various Horizon group members for all their work. We have had a great first year. I assure the House that the Government is conscious of the significant opportunities under Horizon 2020 and of the challenges ahead to maximise our participation in the programme. We have put in place a national strategy supported by a whole of Government approach and it is my priority to see that we deliver results.
Excellence is the standard by which applications for EU funding are judged. We have shown we can meet this standard of excellence through winning awards of more than €620 million under the previous EU research programme, FP7, and with our results for 2014. A sustained effort will be required over the lifetime of the programme. We have the track record that demonstrates our ability to compete successfully and I am confident that we will continue our success under Horizon 2020. This will have a very significant impact on sustaining and growing jobs and our economy for many years to come. I thank the Members for their time.
It is a pleasure to welcome the Minister of State to the House and I wish him every success in the forthcoming general election.
The key message is that improving research and development facilities is central to a sustainable economic recovery for Europe. Over the past 20 years, Europe has lagged behind the rest of the world in terms of economic growth. An important means of reversing this trend is for Europe to significantly sharpen the quality of its research and development so that it is focused on key unmet societal needs. Health and transport are two areas that could benefit hugely from improved research and development focus.
Horizon 2020 will see upwards of €80 billion in grants awarded for research and development projects. This is 30% more than the previous round of funding. In 2011, just 2% of Europe's GDP was invested in research and development. We need to up this by 50% if we are not to risk Europe falling behind the US and developing countries. No region is guaranteed any particular amount of funding but Ireland should aim to achieve at least €1.5 billion in funding under the scheme which has three main pillars - excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. This will require close co-operation between Enterprise Ireland, academic research institutions and potential beneficiaries to maximise our potential drawdown. We are all well aware of the difficulties small and medium sized enterprises and businesses face in getting bank funding. It is important that they are assisted as much as possible in reaching the 20% target for funding under the latter two pillars. In this regard, simplifying the application process and reducing the time to grant is crucial. Too often we rightly associate European institutions with unnecessarily cumbersome processes which can lose sight of the purpose for which they are established in the first place.
Fianna Fáil has a proud record in supporting cutting edge research in Ireland. From a situation where this area was completely neglected, Fianna Fáil in office introduced a range of supports which transformed the Irish research landscape, underpinning major employment projects. Fianna Fáil established Science Foundation Ireland in 1999. This was a game changer and grew the reputation of Irish scientific research over a ten-year period and the chief executives, in turn, in Science Foundation Ireland led from the front. Leadership is what made it a success. Science Foundation Ireland created a high technology society in an economy that is intertwined with high quality universities, at third and fourth levels, led by research scientists with international reputations.
Fianna Fáil in government set up a €5 million innovation fund to support enterprise development and job creation by drawing top venture capitalists to Ireland. It can be proud of its record in investment in research and development which has enhanced small and medium businesses, most of which are exporting goods. We all know the mantra; we have to get people to export. We have to get Irish companies to grow the businesses and subsequently create employment.
However, the bad news is that home grown scientific research has been downgraded by the Government. An open letter by almost 1,100 scientists in March 2011 sent a direct message to Government that current policy is undermining Ireland's ability to carry out world-class scientific research and educate the scientists of tomorrow. The current science policies of the Government are not only negatively affecting research but also science education. The open letter criticised current policy in rebalancing the existing funding between commercialisation and basic research. We believe that a proportionate funding approach must be taken that ensures sustainable investment in order to maximise the economic dividend and attract foreign direct investment. Where would we be without foreign direct investment?
When my husband, Padraic White, was managing director of the IDA from 1980 to 1990, I made a decision to join Fianna Fáil when it was in opposition because of the lack of interest, from my observations over ten years, by the then Taoiseach, the late Dr. Garret FitzGerald, and the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, John Bruton, to attract foreign direct investment to Ireland. I was not born into Fianna Fáil; I was reared as a republican socialist. Those are the facts. I made the decision to join Fianna Fáil when it was in opposition because I saw the absence of any interest. Where would our little country be without foreign direct investment? Many Members will recall the late Justin Keating who was Minister for Industry and Commerce. He cried as he pleaded with foreign investors to come to Ireland because the country was so far behind. If the Minister of State was in place then, he would not have done that.
During the period 2003-2011, the number of publications from researches in Ireland increased sharply from 3,500 to more than 9,500. However, in 2012 when the Government radically altered policy, this increase stopped abruptly and the publication output flatlined in the following years, representing the change in policy by the Government. Horizon 2020 is a brilliant strategy from which I hope we can capitalise. While the Irish economy is recovering, I worry about the European economy competing. Even though China is in trouble, I think it will recover. There are structural problems in the European economy.I am shocked and disappointed by the recent revelation that Volkswagen manipulated the emissions results for its diesel fuelled vehicles. It the most disturbing example of corruption in my lifetime.
On a personal level, I have the highest regard for the Minister of State and wish him the best of luck. Please excuse me but I must leave.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Seanad inniu. I welcome the Minister of State. Without any preamble, an impartial observer would regard Ireland's participation in the Horizon 2020 programme as very successful so far. Ireland's target, under the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, was to attain €100 million of Horizon 2020 funding in its first year but it was exceeded by a total of €27 million. A sum of €127 million in total is a very significant amount of research funding. We should not rest on our laurels, as the Minister of State has stated, and must redouble our efforts to extract further funding over the coming years.
It is interesting to learn that 85% of funding won in 2014 came from the ICT area, research grants from the European Research Council, and training grants for researchers, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing and processing, biotechnology and agrifood. Irish business received more than €35 million of the total amount won in 2014 and, impressively, almost three quarters of this funding went to SMEs. The figures are very impressive. However, outside of the financial aspect, the connection that these projects promote enable Irish researchers and companies to link, as the Minister of State has stated, with other high achieving comparative industries throughout the EU and the world. This situation can only lead to our expertise influencing others and, in turn, other experts influencing our people, all of which is very welcome.
The success of the programme here and elsewhere has been largely attributed to the absence of red tape that crucified us for many decades. The industry's view, largely, is that the scheme is much more user-friendly than its predecessors and thus is much easier to apply.In regard to the SME instrument under Horizon 2020, Ireland is at the top of the league table for attracting funding. That is a major achievement and I urge the Minister of State not to underestimate the ranking.
Earlier this year it was announced that three more Irish companies, including one based in the west, in Galway, has been selected in the latest round of phase 1 funding. Aperilink Limited in Dublin, DiaNia Technologies Limited in Galway and IRIS Advanced Engineering Limited in Kerry will all receive €50,000 each for innovation. The money will be used to finance feasibility studies and business coaching is also available. Impressively, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics was responsible for nearly 10% of the total amount awarded to Irish industry. In terms of the overall amount drawn down in Ireland, has the Minister of State some indicative figures on how many jobs were created or secured as a result of this funding? I realise that sometimes job creation is not an exact science but an indication would be helpful. I have carried out research and believe 30 Irish SMEs have received funding so far of which 25 received phase 1 funding of up to €50,000 each and two received phase 2 funding of up to €2.1 million each. These figures date from July. Has further progress been made since July?
On a separate note, Professor Mark Ferguson, the director general of the Science Foundation Ireland, wanted the new SFI-funded research centres to play a large part in Horizon 2020. He indicated that SFI wanted to be running the game for other people, or running very major applications. He stated that the research centres SFI has funded are at a scale where they should be able to co-ordinate some of these European projects. Can the Minister of State update us on how SFI has been successful in co-ordinating applications to date?
Potential problems with eligibility were flagged prior to the launch of the programme. The problems were due to the nature of contracts for early stage researchers in higher education. The point was made that younger researchers are in many cases barred from submitting grants under their own names because of contractual issues. We need to come up with a contractual model that will enable young researchers to build their own research careers and at least offers them long-term contracts. I know that was a concern of a DCU academic at the time. Has the Minister of State any information on the matter? Perhaps he will examine it.
I again voice my total support for the programme, which has been very successful to date. I commend the Minister of State and his officials on the supports that have been put in place and on the excellent programme that has been rolled out. Undoubtedly, Ireland is punching above its weight which is wonderful to see and long may it continue. Ireland has taken the lead. The Minister of State took on this programme with great gusto and vision and it seems to be the right portfolio for him. I congratulate him and his officials on their success of which they can be very proud. Well done.
I welcome the Minister of State, as I always do when he visits this House. I shall illustrate one programme where Ireland did lead and does lead. I refer to aviation economics which Professors Ryan and McAleese promoted in TCD. We produced in Mr. Michael O'Leary an outstanding student. His business today carries over 100 million passengers and his model is used worldwide. The previous model was one airline per country which was Government controlled and restricted new entrants. Mr. O'Leary has completely blown the old model apart. The new entrants like him are far more dynamic than the incumbents. They redefined the product by taking out things that people did not really want in the traditional airlines. Aer Lingus is an example of a traditional airline which reformed, unlike Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways which have not grown at all, a fact which has been documented by the OECD. The best place to see how the model was working was to see it in the marketplace. We knew from research that airfares were about three times what they should have been in Europe and could fall by two thirds. They did so virtually from the outset.
During this process one ran up against the propaganda of the incumbents the whole time and fairly conservative civil servants who did not want to see the new research. Happily, the consumer proved it right. No pun intended but it was blue-skies research back in the day. Interestingly, banks were not interested. One of the problems with new products is that banks, particularly in Ireland, only lend on property. I am afraid from what I have learned by working on the banking inquiry I do not see any sign that the situation will change. I would love if banks went to the Minister of State's office asking for good products in science in technology because they wanted to diversify and move away from being property obsessed.
When the Minister for Finance was here he changed the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland memorandum and articles of association to say that they were, as far as possible, to keep it out of property and go for the kind of territory in which the Minister of State is interested, a move I fully support.Of all the students we had, we did not know this particular one, Michael O'Leary, would become a world-class innovator and head of the biggest airline in the world without significant support by way of public subsidy. I use him as an example I know of from being closely involved with the people concerned. He did make Ireland the world leader in aviation leasing and it remains so to this day. The person who bankrolled it initially was the late Dr. Tony Ryan. He bore the losses in the business but it all turned out extremely well. On whether we could have more winners, I fully support the aspiration of the Minister of State that we should.
We have been through the input stage, winning the awards and grants the Minister described. However, the concern in the an bord snip report related to when we would have the list of what has been invented as a result of this programme and of how our lives have been made easier because of these innovations and new technologies. Science Foundation Ireland and the other agencies must relate better to taxpayers. It is all very fine that we have won money from abroad and that we have invested money ourselves but the agencies must be able to explain how we are better off in our daily lives because they have carried out and funded this high level research. That is the next stage.
This is not a plea on behalf of a particular sector. However, the failings of the European Union have been in regard to currency and its design, to overall economic policy, banking and in auditing. Trying to make up for lapses in these areas by taking a few leaves from the book of Silicon Valley and technology is not enough. Let us also do some of the basic things well, for example in the areas of public administration and the labour markets. Europe has many policies which cause the kind of unemployment the programme proposed by the Minister of State is trying to cure, such as in the area of the economics of bureaucracy and weak fiscal policy. We have not matched the record of the United States. It is considered a bad month in the United States when 200,000 extra people are not added to the workforce. Europe has not been next nor near that kind of performance. Consider the mass unemployment in places such as Greece and Spain, for example. Let us take a dynamic approach to economic policy and let us carry out research on that also.
Having listened to the evidence given at the banking inquiry, I am afraid that banking has not changed. However, auditing may change next year when the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority assumes responsibility for it from the accounting bodies. Many mistakes were made in these sheltered professions which have seriously limited the ability of every Member of this House to deal with public expenditure programmes. I refer, for example, to the €64 billion the banks took from the Exchequer.
The governance of the European Union must change. I almost give up hope in regard to traditional banks taking an interest in the science and technology area. Perhaps venture capital or crowd funding may present a better possibility. It would be interesting if the Minister of State, in his discussion with high tech firms, discovered whether they use traditional banks or whether they ever even have a conversation with them. If traditional banks are declining in importance, why do we bother rescuing them at such a huge cost? One of the figures in the run-in to the crisis concerning lending was that in the two pillar banks, less than 9% of the lending was to industry and agriculture combined. The rest was property-based and personal lending. That is not the kind of banking system that leads to the kind of growth we all wish for.
Firms should carry out more research. I welcome the base erosion and profit shifting studies the OECD has produced. I am sure the Minister of State will work with the Minister for Finance on this matter. We are considering setting up a knowledge development box and that this expenditure will attract a 5% corporate tax rate. There is more work to be presented on that in the next week or so. Perhaps firms will say they will let the Government do all the research, but where is the current European equivalent of the Bell Laboratories, where the Bell company did significant research? Guinness used to carry out significant research. We expect companies, in return for the lowest corporation tax rate that can be found anywhere, namely, 12.5%, to engage in research rather than leave it all up to the national boards or taxpayers to do it on their behalf. Companies should fund more research. A major source of income for US universities, with which we must be able to compete, is philanthropy from corporates. When I hear statements from IBEC saying there should be more money spent on research, I suggest it should take the lead on this. We gave out €64 billion for its members that are banks, so it should now fund some of the research, just as its opposite numbers and the parent companies of foreign direct investment companies do at home in the United States.
Another aspect of concern is that, within universities, knowledge development boxes are displacing research. Members may have heard complaints that the University of Coleraine language school is being shut down and that there are 1,250 fewer people studying languages. That is part of economic growth. The vice chancellor shut down the language school. It states on his CV that he chaired a research project elsewhere which had 300 researchers. I would question whether that person has lost touch with what the role of a university is, which is to prepare the next generation of 18 to 22 year olds so that they can become the Michael O'Learys of the future and so they can speak continental and other foreign languages.
There is concern with regard to universities. Blue-sky thinking is neglected. Maybe the solution is that we should choose priority areas. Perhaps 80% of the budget could be provided to specific areas and 20% could be free range. We could then compare how the 20% free of the priorities tag worked. Priorities do not last for ever. They should shift, but the view is that some people get control of the money and declare themselves a national priority. We all tend to do that from time to time, to think what we do is important. However, there are dissident voices, particularly in universities, with regard to how research should be funded.
We need more funding for the social sciences also and the Minister of State mentioned that. We also need more for economics. We need more spent on contrarians. One of the key issues in regard to the banking inquiry was that contrarians were marginalised. Morgan Kelly had done research on 40 previous bank busts. It is a pity his research did not gain more credence and traction and we might have been able to deal with it. Part of the deal in research funding is that we do not want people to opt out of teaching. It has been said "You could use this money to buy out your teaching", but no way should anybody use the research money to do that, because we want the next generation of 18 to 22 year olds to be the next scientists winning prizes.
The Minister of State has come to the House in a great week, because William Campbell from Donegal has won a Nobel prize for medicine, which is a great honour for the country. I wish the Minister of State well and assure him that we will be delighted to provide any observations or assistance we can to help him to fine tune the programme.
I welcome the Minister of State. I would like to comment on a statement made by my friend and colleague, Senator White, who referred to a letter written by 1,200 scientists - dated March 2011 - about two weeks after we formed the Government. Senator White seems to attempt to lay the blame for a failed Fianna Fáil policy on two weeks of the current Government's handling of the issue.
I welcome the Minister of State's dynamism in this area. Horizon 2020 is a dynamic document and we are lucky to have the Minister of State in place in this regard, as he has moved very fast on this. In November or December 2012, he moved to set targets to set up research strategic policy in proposal and industry groups and he has moved rapidly to place Ireland in a perfect position to take advantage of this enormous envelope of money to encourage research and development.
I wish to indicate my support for my colleague, Senator Barrett, on his mild criticism of the university sector with regard to its complaints of investment being displaced by this project. A central role of a university is of course to encourage research, but it is more important for it to encourage education and to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs and researchers for the market. The sector has constantly complained in recent years of a lack of funding to bring its research to market. I know several people working in the area and they complain there is great work being done in research in the universities, but when it comes to the final stage of bringing the research to market, there is a gap. This is put down to funding and other causes, but universities cannot complain now about the lack of funding with the level of investment provided by the Horizon 2020 programme.Horizon 2020 recognises the changing nature of employment in the western world. No longer can we compete with the emerging economies for manufacturing jobs because our unit costs of labour are simply uncompetitive. Encouraging and developing the research and development sectors is where we are at and we are very good at it. We have shown our ability to attract foreign direct investment to the tune of 125,000 direct jobs and probably even more again in spin-off jobs. We have very successfully clustered our industries in this area in certain parts of the country. Clusters have the spread-out effect of attracting additional expertise and investment.
Absolutely. Cork is a perfect example. I was just going to come to it. The centres of employment in County Cork - Ringaskiddy, Little Island, Cork Airport Business Park - are magnets for inward investment. It is often too easy to think of inward investment as just being money. It is also skill, expertise, innovation, enterprise and everything. The energy that foreign direct investment brings is as important as the money. It helps us foster our own national and local industry in these areas.
Considering the dynamism of Cork County Council, for instance, which is soon to be happily merged with Cork City Council - I suppose we will leave that issue for another day - the county manager has proposed plans for the development of a science and technology park adjacent to Cork Institute of Technology. It is a 50 or 60 acre site which is ready for development. Cork is bursting with energy to attract this sort of thing.
It is great to see someone like the Minister of State, Deputy English, who is equally bursting with this energy and dynamism. The amount of money he is pursuing is enormous. He is setting a target of €1.25 billion, which represents maybe 2.5% of the entire fund for the whole of Europe, of which Ireland's population constitutes about 1%. Senator Ó Domhnaill said that we punch above our weight and he is right, although it is not often I would agree with him.
I welcome the document. Its aims are excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. What could be more important? These are the three key concepts of modern living which Ireland wants to put to the fore in its international, investment and labour policies. I wish the Minister of State well in continuing the good work he is doing here. We look forward to achieving even better results in the coming years.
Go raibh maith agat, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. I welcome the Minister of State. This important topic concerns investment in research development and job creation strategies within Ireland and across Europe in the years ahead. Horizon 2020 is a very successful mechanism to drive research across Europe. It is a €80 billion fund and I understand Ireland obtained around €35 million in 2014, of which about two thirds went to the SME sector. That is a positive story. It can drive research.
Yesterday morning I attended the Teagasc briefing, where I met Professor Gerald F. Fitzgerald from UCC, who is at the cutting end of food technology and agri-food research. Teagasc has some of the best agri-food researchers in the world based at Moorepark and in the organisation, which is wonderful. Ireland can develop a template by using the resources of Horizon 2020 to place ourselves at the cutting edge of research, not only in the agri-food sector but across the spectrum.
While America has always been viewed as the major hub of research, funding from the public purse in the US has been stagnant or falling. In Europe with Horizon 2020 and within the member states, funding has been increasing in certain areas. That has to be welcomed. There are other areas in which the Americans would be ahead. They have sectoral research interests where they are very much more advanced than Europe, but Europe is ahead in terms of overall funding.
The research base we generated in Ireland over the previous programme, which is going to be advanced during Horizon 2020, has helped our foreign direct investment policy. It has helped bring new jobs into the country and has enticed US multinationals to locate themselves here. The issue of the tax base was touched on. That issue is not going to go away; the European Commission has an idea and, generally, when it has an idea the Commission follows through, regardless of how much time it takes. It is looking at consolidation of that base. That is a debate for a different day but it is something that will impact on foreign direct investors' decisions to remain here. I would be critical of some of the multinationals that are here, given the level of taxation they are paying. That may also be a debate for a different day.
The level of co-funding from the Irish Exchequer is important here. The Minister of State touched on it in his contribution. There is a need to retain the level of co-funding. What is the Government's strategy on this for the lifetime of Horizon 2020? What is the Department's strategy?
Senator Barrett touched on something important regarding research opportunities for universities. Third and fourth level institutions will see this as an opportunity to attract funding. They would argue that they have been depleted of funding from the public purse. As a result, they see research as a way of filling the gap to meet the deficit in funding. I agree with Senator Barrett there is a danger that attention would move from teaching students and producing graduates to research. Although there is nothing wrong with that, it would mean the focus would move away from providing the world-class education that can be and is being provided in the Republic. It is a double-edged sword and I am not sure what are the Minister of State's views on it.
With the global population due to increase between now and 2050 there are huge opportunities, particularly in the agri-food area, which are being capitalised upon. We need to continue to capitalise on them under Horizon 2020. The pharmaceuticals and other areas are also significant.
Would it be the Minister of State's opinion that there is enough of a joined-up approach within the Department to assist applicants? The success rate is only running at about 16% of all Irish applications. That means 84% of applications have been unsuccessful in attracting funding at European level. Is there anything that can be done to increase the success rate? It is a competitive process. Are applications not being prepared properly or is there something else that can be done by the State to support individual or collective applications?
I welcome what the Minister of State has had to say. This represents something very positive in terms of driving research and creating employment. However, research and development do not necessarily translate directly into jobs. The Horizon 2020 programme ultimately is a European programme. Generally speaking, if the research is created then the jobs will develop close to where it is based.
I wish the Minister of State well in his role. I am sure he is not relishing an early election given the amount of work he has to do before then.
We have an innovative Minister of State here, in view of what he has done on apprenticeships, education and such like.I congratulate the Minister of State on that. Europe is the home of Curie, Einstein, and Newton. It is the birthplace of modern science and innovation. With names like Boyle, Shackleton and Boole, Ireland has had a proud role in building that tradition of innovation and firming up on that reputation. I note that Shackleton's cabin came home to Kildare, although it is in Clifden at the moment being repaired, and it will be there shortly. More than most in Europe, this island has made a clear name for itself as a place of rich culture and innovation. Irish women and men have drawn from that richness to innovate new approaches and creative interpretations right around the world. Another speaker referred to Dr. William Campbell from Donegal, who won the Nobel Prize.
This freedom of thinking is the putty used by scientists and artists to shape ideas that carry the sciences and the arts forward in new and exciting directions. All of this represents the boom of modern European democracies. Where Europe's past economies were powered by conquest, its modern economies are powered by creative ideas and innovation. There are new players on the world stage now. Where once Europe was the only horse at the races, the US overtook us in the 20th century as the major world economy. The past 50 years have seen China race forward, although it may be slowing down a little now. While there was a recent hiccup it was considered the economy to watch. Other countries such as Brazil and India are also pushing forward. That is good news for the developing world. The inequality that was once seen as a given is now a receding reality in a world were once-subject nations take their place on the world stage.
While that is good news on one level, as Europeans we greet the aggressive shift in economic power with caution. One of the roles of the European Union is to make sure that Europe continues to play a major role in order that together we can support what we are best at, namely, innovation. As a brain economy, and the home of many of the world's biggest brain businesses, particularly information technology, Ireland is rightly seen as a key player in Europe's brain economy. I also mention the pharma sector for all the research and innovation going on in this country. We welcome supports from the EU for research and innovation. It is with all of this as background that Horizon 2020 funds research and innovation in EU member states. It is not news to this House that the focus of this Fine Gael-led Government, along with the Labour Party, is regaining stability for our nation. We must look after that and not squander it, given the dignity created for people through jobs that have emerged from creative ideas and innovation. We know that Irish jobs today mean support for innovation.
Spearheaded by Enterprise Ireland, Irish innovators and businesses have received €127 million in the programme's first year. As expected, Ireland is punching above its weight in terms of our success. Congratulations are due to those individuals, businesses and educational research institutes who continue to claim a role in building not just Ireland's economic future, but Europe's economic future. That is something of which we can be very proud.
We must always try to advance the percentage of GDP but it must be acknowledged that it has increased from €1.8 billion to €2.7 billion. Ireland and Slovenia are the highest achieving in the business sector for innovation. I agree with what Senator Barrett said about the fact that we are not in that category in terms of research in the education sector. Creative minds do not just happen, they must be inculcated. I support the early intervention programme being introduced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Reilly. That is when innovation starts. It is like birdsong and the hummingbird. If young people are not channelled towards creativity and innovation early in life, then one loses the ability. I accept third level education is important but we must consider how innovative minds are created. As Maria Montessori said, the inquiring mind is created from nought to three years and three to six years. Edward Sagan made a similar point. I want the message to go out loud and clear when we speak about the Horizon programme. What is important is early intervention, creativity and innovation in education.
This country is now economically stable. Ours is the fastest growing economy in the EU today. That is amazing news after what happened to our economy. Innovation is central to that success and central to our future. We must ensure that we continue to create innovative minds. It is the free thinker who becomes an innovative spirit. We are going down that road in education.
Our membership of the European Union is key to our continuing success, and Horizon 2020 is a key part of that. It is important to note that something that is not addressed is that innovation needs two things, first, innovating thinking, which is helped by the education process and early intervention and, second, support is needed to turn ideas into something real and marketable. Funding and innovation vouchers, through Enterprise Ireland, are part of the support that is available. We rate highly in terms of funding to business but more funding should be available to small and medium enterprises. If support could be somewhat increased then the small ideas could be turned into something real and marketable. Many companies have real ideas but they require help getting the ideas to the marketplace. There can be stumbling blocks to getting to that stage. With the European Union, through Horizon 2020, Ireland can now offer more support. We must continue to focus on creating learning environments where young people have the freedom, not just to learn but to think. It is important to learn how to learn.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for the opportunity to have this debate. It was good to have the opportunity to talk about Horizon 2020 in the Seanad and to discuss the results of the programme to date and to engage with Members. I will try to answer some of the issues and questions that came up during the debate. If I cannot provide a response I will come back to the House with the information.
It is clear that most Members understand how important the initiative is to us as a country. Horizon 2020 gives us access to a pot of funding to fund research and to drive on the ideas and concepts and get more enterprises engaged in the process. A big hope for Horizon 2020 is that it will draw in a lot more enterprises of all sizes and for them to realise how important innovation is.
The changes to Horizon 2020 have made it easier to access funding as much of the red tape has been cut out. SMEs now say they find it much easier to seek funding currently than under the previous regime. We are constantly trying to push for change and reform. It does not mean the system is perfect, which it is not, and we need to do more work on it.
We provide much support for those who make applications for funding and private companies are also beginning to get involved in the provision of support. We do a great deal and our door is open for people to ask for support. Our success rate is higher than the average in terms of the number of applications. We do quite well. It is normal to have a high failure rate, but we would like to see many more applications as well. I accept that failure is not attractive, which is the reason some companies might feel discouraged from getting involved in the process. While we are above the average in terms of success, we aim to make that even higher again.
It is important that all concerned would take the time to familiarise themselves with the programme and the benefits of Horizon 2020. Members of the Seanad have done that. I have asked the same of those involved with representative bodies in the enterprise area. It is important that everyone would seek assistance from the national support network led by Enterprise Ireland. As Minister of State with responsibility for this area I welcome the interest shown by Senators. When I got the job I said that it is something we must discuss a lot more both in this House and in committee. We must be aware of the importance of advocacy so as to promote research and innovation and to drive the country's recovery, as well as the impact it will have all over Europe. The change is evident in companies that get involved in research, development and innovation.
Senator Keane is correct that innovation starts early in the education system. We are examining how we can increase the drive for innovation and an entrepreneurship culture, which is part of the focus, from a younger age through early education and intervention in primary, secondary and third level. That is part of the work we are doing with both the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Education and Science. We are considering how we can improve innovation and get people thinking along those lines from an earlier stage.
Yesterday, we launched Science Week, which takes place from 6 to 15 November. During that week we hope to have an event for Oireachtas Members. That is part of the process of trying to get the message out on the importance of engagement in science. There will be more than 800 events during Science Week throughout the country under the auspices of the education system, community centres and various other places. They will all drive the awareness of science and try to get people interested. As I said at the launch of Science Week, some people are genuinely interested. Anyone who spends time with young people or who have children are aware that they constantly ask "Why, why, why?" and "How, how, how?" That is what one wants. They are naturally-born scientists. What we must do is keep that interest going. Sometimes we stop young people asking questions and that is where we fail. We must constantly encourage young people to push the boundaries and to ask more questions, and not to be quiet and sit in the corner. We must adapt education methods to encourage the interest and involvement of young people.
I take every opportunity to improve the approach nationally and to encourage potential applicants for EU research funding. Every week, we engage in many events in order to push the message about the importance of getting involved in research. It is building up our expertise. Even in the case of failed applicants, the chances are that they will have learned much from the process and that will help them the next time around. There is sufficient opportunity in a five-year or six-year programme to get involved again or to join another research team and collaborate across the board.
I am encouraged by the interest in this area.Yesterday, we also launched SFI's science barometer. SFI engaged Millward Brown, of which Senators will be aware as a result of its political polling, to gauge people's interest in and knowledge of science. The results are quite interesting and I encourage Senators to read the report, which was published yesterday. It shows a very strong awareness among Irish people of all ages. This research was conducted in their houses on the importance of science, the importance of the science, technology, engineering and maths, STEM, subjects, and the importance of spending on research to the economy and society for the benefits of health and energy, etc. People get it and the report shows that. We need to build on their interest. There is a desire for more knowledge and information. It is up to us, collectively, to get that message out. I acknowledge the cross-party support when it comes to spending on research and development, and investment in innovation. We need to build on that and get that message out to the community.
We are more than half-way through the second year of the programme and it is important to keep the momentum going. Some Senators referred to the success of the first year. Senator Brennan asked about the targets for this year and next year. We have set higher targets. We want to double it again and we need to keep pushing on it. It is not a case of sitting back. Each year is a separate year. We need to tick that box and move on to the next one. We have to push hard and we will do so.
It is important to increase the scale, engage more companies in the programme and aim big. Ireland needs to take the lead in some of these collaborations and not always to sit back. The more leadership we can show, the more funding we can win. We also need to develop our expertise and look at the background of our researchers, including their own education.
As I said in my opening statement, we have shown that we have an excellent science system and it allows us to compete with the best. I intend to ensure this remains the case. That is also about the drive for talent. We are producing our science strategy and a big focus of that will be on excellence, impact, enhancing prioritisation and developing that talent. That applies across all the disciplines. We need to drive more of a multidisciplinary approach where we can when it comes to the science and research agenda.
Some Senators asked about research to market. I think we have improved much of our offering and our drive to get that research to market. That has been a big focus of prioritisation. In the science strategy we will look at more ways, if we can, to increase that. Knowledge Transfer Ireland. KTI, has probably been in operation for 18 months. That is to engage with the system to make it easier for that research to get to market, have it commercialised and encourage more spin-outs. Most of our universities and ITs have their own knowledge transfer offices in house, with people employed directly to push that research out. I want to see more of it pushed out there. I have toured many of the universities and met all the players. I get the impression that there is a considerable amount of research that can be used. We need to encourage it more to be out there. There may often be a sense of fear that if it is pushed out too soon there is a risk of missing something big. As a country, we have to get our research out there and get it utilised as best we can. We need to engage with companies to drive that agenda. KTI is doing a good job under Ms Alison Campbell.
Senator White mentioned a target of €1.5 billion. I am not sure if it was a direct request to increase the target or just a figure. We constantly review our targets. I believe €1.25 billion is quite an ambitious target and it will take a serious drive to achieve that. We will review this midway through but we are constantly reviewing it. If we think we can go for a higher target, we will. We will not leave money behind us if we can get it at all. The Senator can trust me on that as well. Again, it depends on the success rate.
Reference was made to the letter signed by the 900 scientists. I have tried to engage with many of these people in recent months. We had considerable consultation on a new strategy to address their concerns. Many of their concerns are not based on fact. The percentage of money spent on basic research and frontier research versus applied research has not changed that much. So their concerns are not always factually based, but there is a perception and we need to deal with that perception because it is important that everyone in the science community feels content that they have access to competitive funding. We will certainly make that very clear in the new strategy.
Less money has been available through all Departments in recent years. I will not go into the history of that. It has meant that less money has been spent on research and innovation, which is a shame. It is something we will correct under the new strategy over the next three or four years. There has been a very strong Government commitment to reach 2.5% and we will hit that in 2020. We must go beyond it and not just stop there. However, it is not a case of us having changed the percentages or that there is less money for one sector as opposed to another. There has been less money available. We are trying to push for more competitive resources. We are looking at new systems and a new strategy to focus it more on roots to funding with more opportunity for people to win funding. However, I stress that it will be competitive. It will be to win and individuals will need to make their case to get it. That may address some of Senator Barrett's concerns. We should see a return from that to which I refer.
We are constantly looking towards new metrics to measure it. It is not always easy to measure the entire spend because sometimes there is a societal benefit. We have made great progress when it comes to the treatment of cancer. How can that be measured in terms of jobs or money? There is a major societal benefit. There is that crossover. Where we can measure and track it, however, we need to do so to be able to prove our case. The science strategy is a business case to win more investment. Where we can, we have to follow our money through the system. That should be done in all Departments. It is working well now in some of the health changes where the money follows the patient. That is what we are trying to do there as well.
It is important that we continue to fund research in all disciplines - frontier, basic and so on. We need to do that as best we can and get the right spend. We are proud of the prioritisation agenda, which has worked quite well over the past four or five years. It has helped us retain the resources we need in this area in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. It has delivered results and it will be a major plank of the new strategy as well as recognising that we have to make sure we get the spend across the board.
Senator Brennan asked about the €100 million and we touched on that. Our targets are redoubling every year and we keep pushing them as well. He asked about the jobs. It is not an exact science when it comes to jobs. However, companies that spend on research and development and get involved in innovation are those which are doubling both their size and their exports. They are also increasing the number of people they employ. We know that for a fact. By comparison, companies that do not get involved in research and development are going the other way. We need to push this in order to drive our economy. Our recovery is based on people's interest in research and development and on using this to drive innovation. Innovation comes for other reasons as well. That would be the proof of it there.
The Senator asked if the SFI centres are prioritised under Horizon 2020. They certainly are. For example, Tyndall tried to win one third of its funding from the EU framework programme for research and innovation. So all our universities and research centres are aiming high to try to tap into Horizon 2020. Many of them are employing project managers to drive that effort to increase their applications and increase their chances of winning.
The Senator asked for the most recent results. We have shared those results - the early figures for 2015, as well as those for 2014. They are all quite positive. We will have more results in November and I will make sure the Senator gets them and we can get them discussed. We are happy to pass on those data.
Senator Barrett referred to blue-sky research. That can and does result in commercial opportunities. I have seen some of the projects that came through Trinity College recently. They would have started back seven or eight years at a very early stage with basic research and end up in a spin-out company and create jobs. There have been a few recently in which we have been involved. It is not possible to have one without the other in my view but we need to get the balance right. That is something we are constantly working on. We have a target to have a majority percentage of competitive funding because that forces all of us to do our best and aim high and will have the greatest economic and societal benefit to Ireland and to Europe. We are committed to funding for frontier research and oriented basic research.
The Senator asked if SFI has a range of targets and how we track that. SFI has a range of targets and metrics that it must achieve and show. Much of its work is also internationally judged. It does not just compliment itself and pat itself on the back. Much of the work, along with its targets and metrics, are peer reviewed. It has other targets for spin-outs, new companies, intellectual property and industrial collaboration. We are trying to find new ways to measure that industrial collaboration. Many of our universities and ITs have now developed much stronger relationships with industry. We need to work out how to reflect that and measure it. It is not always just through a spin-out or a product. That relationship can generate a considerable amount of activity down the road. So we need to find more ways to measure that and have that conversation. We need to encourage other areas that do not do enough of it. We need that collaboration of enterprise and industry into our educational system, our educational stakeholders and our research community. I always say that the best way for us to get a result for taxpayers' money in this area is through a combination of private money with public money. That is how we will achieve our targets.
I think I have dealt with most of the concerns raised. I was asked about priorities. We are constantly changing them. In the new strategy we will look at challenge-based funding. Apart from our priority agenda which we are constantly trying to streamline and improve, we also have other challenges such as the greener Ireland. That is something the Seanad could discuss and feed into.We will set out challenges and try to put money behind them as well. That is what we aim to do through our strategy.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill referred to the Government's commitment to the target. Our commitment is strong and we are delivering on it. We all accept that we went through years when less money was available to all Departments. We have recommitted in the programme for Government to get the 2.5% rate referred to and we have to push beyond that because we will not compete in ten years' time if we are still at 2.5%. The Senator is correct. Countries such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden are at the 2.5% rate and we need to be up at that level. Israel is at 4% and it has large number of startups. That is the kind of target we have to reach and drive this on. We cannot take this for granted and I think most members accept that. Supports are available if people need to tap in and ask for them.
I think I have dealt with most of the concerns raised by Members. Senator Cáit Keane is right, science is the pipeline of talent for the future. The important issue is to get the message out to young people, those choosing their careers, that science is an area in which they can do well and in which they can have careers. Science can bring one through technology, engineering, mathematics and into many different areas of employment. Technology has a role everywhere. We need to get parents to understand this. We also have to get the education system to move with the times, to constantly change and adapt. We have the digital strategy, which is another step in the right direction. There is still plenty of room for improvement. The more money we have in the coming years the more we can do but we cannot sit back.
The interaction with enterprise and education - working together, planning ahead, spending the money together - will give us the best results throughout the system. I appreciate education is much bigger than enabling one to get a job but a major issue for parents is to get their children through an education system in order to get them a career, a job. Education and continuous education has to be looked at constantly. One can use it to get oneself a job and then one has time to add to it but it is a combination of both. Certainly there is a need to bring enterprise initiatives through the education system. We are looking at that issue. Finland is one of the best at doing this we need to copy it.
I hope I have dealt with most of the questions raised by Members. If I have missed anything I will follow up on it as I am conscious that Members may want me to conclude.