Call to invest in science and technology

Ireland's Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Patrick Cunningham has said the Government and business should "hold their nerve" and continue to invest in science and technology despite the economic pressure to cut budgets.

Speaking at the Presidents' Research Awards in DCU, the Chief Scientific Adviser Prof Patrick Cunningham said such investment in the past decade had served us well.

"A strong science base protects economies during a downturn, and allows them recover quickly when global conditions change", he said. "Our vision is to lift Ireland into a position among the leading countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Finland. These countries have broad-based, resilient modern economies. Their steadiness in these difficult times reflects the level of education - including advanced science education - that they have as well as the wide range of sophisticated services and products on which their prosperity is based.

"In Ireland we have made good progress in recent years and we have doubled the science base of the country. Government investment in science and technology has risen from €518m in 2003 to €1030m in 2008. The number of researchers in the country has gone from 2,300 in 2000 to 4,690 in 2006. The IDA reported 56 inward R&D investments worth €420m in 2008, up from €50m in 2003. This progress has brought Ireland up to an average position in the EU 15, but well behind the leaders. We still have some way to go."

Such investment must continue but must of course be well targeted, well spent and well accounted for, he said.

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