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Written answers

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Research Funding Data

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

131. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of SMEs that have undertaken applied research in conjunction with a funded agency or institution under the aegis of her Department in each of the past ten years, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39178/17]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The agencies under the aegis of my Department with responsibility for research funding and who have a specific SME nexus are Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. 

Science Foundation Ireland is the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research and is the principal agency through which my Department funds both basic and applied research in third level institutions. 

Science Foundation Ireland provides funding to researchers in Higher Education Institutes to cover both basic and applied research.  Decisions in respect of such funding are the result of competitive international peer review in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.  Collaboration between industry and academia is one of the key mechanisms for transferring the benefits of public investment in research into competitive advantage for Ireland.  Science Foundation Ireland therefore actively encourages the researchers it supports to engage in collaborations with industry.  It has a number of programmes to support this type of activity including its Spokes Programme to promote new industry-academia collaborations, Investigators Programme underpinning enterprise competitiveness and Research Professorship Programme recruiting world leading scientists with a strong industry background. 

In 2008, SFI formally began recording and reporting data on the number of collaborations by Science Foundation Ireland Researchers with SMEs.  Any single SME may be involved in a number of collaborations, therefore SFI collected data on the number of collaborations and the number of SMEs.  The data as presented below reflects a steady increase in SME engagement since 2008 and early reporting indications for 2017 reflect an ongoing trend in this direction.  Since 2008, there have been almost 3,000 SME engagements with SFI research programmes and in 2016, SFI recorded its highest number of collaborations, 674, with 491 SMEs.

SFI SME collaborations since 2008:

YearNo. CollaborationsNo. SMEs
2008126108
2009206165
2010335245
2011424337
2012527428
2013439332
2014561442
2015509437
2016674491

Enterprise Ireland, also an agency of my Department is the agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. Enterprise Ireland also provides funding for research to third-level institutions, principally through its Commercialisation Fund; Innovation Partnerships and the Technology Centres.

Enterprise Ireland drives innovation in Irish industry by developing in-company capabilities and by leveraging all external assets, such as the higher education system, the investor community, the Foreign Direct Investment Multinational base and international funding/expertise to support company innovations.

The funding for Enterprise Ireland’s innovation programmes provides direct and indirect research development and innovation supports for indigenous companies, equity funding for new start-ups and support for the commercialisation of State-funded research.

RD&I Fund

The Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) Fund supports the development of new or substantially improved products, services or processes which will have a competitive advantage in their target market. This will enable companies to increase employment through sustainable and substantially increased sales.

R&D projects involve the resolution of technical challenges in order to develop new products, processes or services.

Business Innovation projects involve the implementation of a new service delivery or production method or a substantive change to the business model of the company.

Innovation Partnerships

Innovation Partnerships offer financial support to companies who engage in collaborative research projects with Irish universities and Institutes of Technology with Enterprise Ireland providing grants of up to 80% towards eligible costs of the research project.  The participating company benefits in terms of its growth, the evolution of its strategic research and development and the creation of new knowledge that it can use to generate commercial advantage. The research institute benefits in terms of developing skill sets, intellectual property and publications.

Innovation Vouchers

Vouchers encourage small to medium sized companies and public knowledge providers to work together on specific innovation questions and projects related to the company’s needs.  The nature of such projects will be such that they transfer knowledge that is new to the company.  The company may use the new knowledge to innovate a product, production process or service.

Technology Centres

The Enterprise Ireland/IDA Ireland Technology Centre initiative allows industry groups to set a commercially valuable research agenda which academics in the higher education sector will deliver on. This programme is Ireland’s largest initiative to support industry-led research, development and innovation. These Centres focus on identifying new sources of industrial growth and job creation and achieving competitive advantage for industry in Ireland by accessing and leveraging the innovative capacity of the Irish research community.  Approximately 200 companies engage with Technology Centres per annum.

Technology Gateways

Enterprise Ireland funds small industry facing “gateways” in Institutes of Technology, aimed at providing technology solutions for companies in a particular sector and, where possible, within a region.  The Technology Gateway Programme is an evolution of the Applied Research Enhancement Scheme and was established by Enterprise Ireland to provide Business Development resources to the Institutes of Technology to help them interact with industry on a local, regional and national basis.  

The following table shows the reported/recorded figures for the following programmes: significant RD&I Fund approvals, Innovation Partnership approvals to EI clients, Innovation vouchers redeemed, companies engaged with Technology Centres and direct funded Technology Gateway projects.

Programme2007200820092010201120122013201420152016
Significant RD&I Fund Approvalsn/a15123868081107978678
Innovation Partnerships Approvals33343030333558424139
Innovation Vouchers Redeemed n/a203437489518518527525530594
Technology Gateways direct funded projectsn/a331221113443100157

In the case of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership programme, Technology Centres and Technology Gateways, the number of projects reported does not include clients of IDA Ireland, LEO and the other agencies who also receive support from these schemes.

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

132. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if her Department has conducted an analysis concerning the objectives of the Science Foundation Ireland strategic partnership programme; the level of funding provided on both basic and applied research by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39188/17]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The Science Foundation Ireland Strategic Partnerships Programme was launched in 2013, with a total of 11 awards funded under the programme to date supporting excellent research with strong potential for delivering economic and/or societal impact. 

The objectives of the programme are to:

- Support development of areas of economic importance

- Build stronger, more direct relationships with research-based industry

- Transfer technology from academia to industry

- Support enhanced training of researchers in areas of importance to the industrial sector

- Maximise the state investment in research through leveraging of non-exchequer funding, including funding available through Horizon 2020

- Encourage convergence across disciplines

- Develop and utilise national testbed facilities

- Support the attraction and retention of talented researchers

- Build stronger links with other key stakeholders and end-users of research

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has not initiated a formal analysis of the programme to date.  However, as with all Science Foundation Ireland programmes, the agency monitors and adjusts the programme on an ongoing basis in response to academic, industry, economic and strategic requirements. 

All SFI awards, including the SFI Strategic Partnership awards are subject to stringent post award reporting and evaluation processes. 

The annual grants budget to Science Foundation Ireland for 2017 is €162.5 million. The agency does not predetermine or “ring fence” specific funding allocation for basic or applied research.  Funding decisions are made through international peer review on the basis of research excellence and impact.

In 2013, SFI’s remit extended to funding applied research in addition to its existing remit to fund oriented basic research.  This broad remit enables Science Foundation Ireland to support a hugely important range of work from early stage investigations, novel discoveries through to pre-commercial activities.

While Science Foundation Ireland funding does fund applied and industry focused research as per its mandate, it should be noted that over 80% of Science Foundation Ireland’s funding is currently committed to basic (Technology Readiness Levels 1 and 2 as measured on a scale of 1-9) research projects.  This indicates that a substantial amount of SFI funding continues to be in support of ‘oriented basic’ research.

Approximately 50% of Science Foundation Ireland funding is given to large SFI Research Centres which partner with industry. These centres conduct "applied and basic combined" research. Approximately 30% of Science Foundation Ireland award holders have at least one industry collaborator. Industry partners work on both basic and applied projects. 

While the Strategic Partnership Programme has yet to undergo formal evaluation, the monitoring undertaken by SFI and the stringent post award reporting requirements and evaluation processes are robust processes that validate the economic and social impact of the funding awarded to date.

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