Investing in research and innovation in Ireland

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D outlines, how Ireland aims to become a global leader in innovation, research and development, highlighting the government’s Innovation 2020 strategy…

Innovation has been central to securing Ireland’s economic recovery and the Irish government plans to continue building a sustainable economy that can support the jobs of the future. Innovation has supported growth in the numbers at work and Ireland has seen unemployment fall from a peak of 15.1% in 2012 to 7.8% in June 2016. The government is determined to ensure that this trend continues and my key priority is keeping innovation as a core focus of government policy. This is demonstrated in Innovation 2020, Ireland’s whole of government strategy for research and development, science and technology, which was launched last December.

In Innovation 2020, we set out our vision for Ireland to become a global innovation leader driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society. Research, development, science and technology will all contribute to this goal. Key to delivering our vision is a commitment to increase public and private investment in research to reach our target of 2.5% of GNP by 2020.

Our investment to date in research and innovation has been instrumental in strengthening indigenous enterprise, in securing, diversifying and growing foreign direct investment, in licensing new technologies, in establishing new companies, and in providing the highly educated workforce needed to grow the economy and contribute to society. I am committed to building on this significant progress and to deliver on the ambition of Innovation 2020.

The importance of innovation for enterprise cannot be underestimated. Our enterprise base must be resilient and internationally competitive, and innovation is central to ensuring that these aims are achieved. One of my key priorities is to encourage greater engagement in R&D in both indigenous and foreign-owned enterprises and in both SMEs and large-scale enterprises. Optimising the transfer of knowledge between our public research system and enterprise is also a priority.

At EU level, Ireland has been performing well. We have consistently improved our innovation performance over the last 4 years moving from 10th place in 2013, 9th in 2014, 8th place in 2015, and now 6th place in 2016, in the European Innovation Scoreboard. Ireland remains the overall leader in the innovators dimension which demonstrates how innovative Irish SMEs are as European leaders in product, process and marketing innovation. Latest data around the EU programme to support research and innovation, Horizon 2020, demonstrates that researchers and companies in Ireland have won a total of €275m in funding from the programme for research projects, including €54m for SMEs. It is also clear that the research being carried out in Ireland is in the top-tier of EU research and this is a key factor in the companies’ success in Horizon 2020.

We remain committed to maintaining and improving standards in the excellence of our research. Since 2009, Ireland has been listed among the top 20 countries in global rankings for the quality of our scientific research with our ranking in citations moving up to 14th place in 2015.

Ireland’s greatest asset has always been our talented people and Ireland is the European country with the highest proportion of young people. We intend to continue nurturing this talent to best serve the needs of our society and economy, including by increasing enrolments in research Masters and PhDs to meet growing demand for talent from enterprise.

I believe that continuing to enhance our research and innovation capacity will be crucial if we are to continue to develop a strong, sustainable economy and a better society, and this will be a key pillar of our economic policy in the coming years.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation


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