Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) (Amendment) 2012

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this Bill.

 

The extension of the remit of Science Foundation Ireland as provided for in the Bill is most welcome. To date, the Foundation has promoted and supported awareness and understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and enabled collaborative funding of research. Now the focus has switched to turning good research into good jobs.

 

A core part of the current work of the Science Foundation is the provision of research funding to individual and group researchers in third level institutions across Ireland. Now, the Foundation will be able to fund applied research, which will bring these good ideas closer to market stage, thereby increasing the potential for job creation.

 

Best practice is at the core of what the Science Foundation does and with this in mind I welcome the fact that the Foundation is aiming to be the best science funding agency in the world.  World-class standards are exactly what are needed at this time.

 

 

 

The remit of the Bill currently before the House mirrors the remit given to the Government on a broader level, to ensure that every cent of the nation’s resources that is spent is spent wisely, where it is most needed and where money is invested, that it is invested where it will bear most fruit for the Irish people, and will provide the much-needed jobs that this economy needs.

 

The Government cannot create jobs in the retail sector, but what it can do is support the retail sector and more importantly develop and bring forward the research which could lead to the development of new products and services with global potential that could create high quality jobs in Ireland and in turn put money in the pockets of retail customers.

 

For the past ten years the focus of Science Foundation Ireland has been on information and communications technology, biotechnology, sustainable energy and energy-efficient technologies and these areas have unlimited potential, potential which can be unlocked by world-class research followed by targeted funding to bring those ideas to market.  The creation of an international centre of aviation excellence at Shannon Airport is also to be welcomed.

 

This Bill provides that the Minister can prescribe strategic areas of opportunity for economic and social benefit, long term industrial competitiveness and environmental sustainability.

 

 

 

 

I note that the areas which come under the remit of the bill do not include the food industry and I believe that, given the significant role that science plays in the development of new foods, such as pro-biotics, that this is an area that should come under the remit of Science Foundation Ireland, especially given the potential for these scientifically advanced foods to expand on a global scale and the availability of the necessary skill set in Ireland to lead the way in the development of new health-enhancing foods.

 

Mathematics is at the core of much of the work of Science Foundation Ireland.  I believe that Ireland’s future will be well served by Minister Quinn’s decision to give extra points for higher level maths in the Leaving Cert by ensuring that Ireland’s brightest and best do not forego maths as they seek to finalise their second level education.  In years to come the proportion of the Irish population who have completed second level maths to higher level will increase rapidly and will in turn mean that the country is better placed to harness the value of scientific advancements.

 

However, while we must do all in our power to equip current second level students with the mathematic knowledge necessary for the future, we must not overlook those already through the system, who chose not to study mathematics to higher level even though they had the ability to do so, and preferred to put their focus elsewhere for the Leaving Certificate exam.

 

 

 

Science Foundation Ireland could, as a promotion for mathematics, fund courses on a pilot level, where former students can study maths at night to higher Leaving Certificate level.  Such courses would, I believe, prove popular and would also give mathematically-minded parents the opportunity to study maths so that they can help their children through the higher level course. I believe that it is something that Science Foundation Ireland could discuss with the Department of Education and which would pay dividends in terms of the future.

 

Our focus must constantly be on the future and I believe that this Bill is indicative of this Government’s forward-thinking approach and really can and I believe, will, make a difference in putting Ireland to the fore in terms of scientific advancement and helping ensure that good science translates into good jobs.