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Speech by An Taoiseach, Mr Brian Cowen T.D., at the Celebration of Science Foundation Ireland’s 10th Anniversary Thursday, October 21st 2010, Aviva Stadium, 11.45 am





Dia dhíbh a chairde. Tá an-áthas orm bheith i bhur measc anseo ar an ócáid speisialta seo. 

I am delighted to be here with you today to mark the 10th anniversary of Science Foundation Ireland - even if I am a bit later than originally scheduled.

We are here today to celebrate not only a decade of discovery but also:

-           a decade of pioneering research; and

-           a decade of teamwork involving brilliant minds from both here and abroad collaborating on a wide range of research.

Many of the discoveries made through this research have had broader societal benefits in fields like healthcare, energy and the environment.

I believe you have already heard about some of these projects during the morning. 

I would like to congratulate everyone involved in planning this event – because at a time of economic difficulty, its important that we continue to recognise and celebrate success and achievement.

Economic Strategy

The establishment of Science Foundation Ireland was a recognition by the Government that research and development would be at the heart of our economic development in the 21st Century.  Although economic circumstances have changed significantly for better and for worse during that period, our belief in the value of investment in science, technology and innovation has not changed.

I would like, at the outset, to say a few words about our current economic difficulties and to emphasis the contribution that research and development can make to economic recovery.

The Government intends to emerge from the international economic crisis with a strong and sustainable economy.  We are dealing with a uniquely complex set of circumstances in a serious and determined way.

We have provided certainty on the final costs of repairing our banking system. Those costs are large, but they are manageable. Getting banking back on track is an indispensable step in Ireland's journey to economic recovery, and is vital to Irish business.

Restoring sustainability to our public finances is equally important.

We have already made significant adjustments in public spending.

We are now preparing a four year plan which will be published in November, setting out the measures necessary to ensure that we meet our target of bringing our deficit below 3% of GDP by 2014.

But restoring stability to the public finances and fixing our banks, while vital, are not sufficient to ensure a clear path to recovery.

On the contrary, our future must be based on developing our full potential for sustainable growth. Research and development and Innovation has an important role in this effort.

Innovation, R & D and economic growth

The link between innovation and economic growth is undisputed. Research and development results in new knowledge, new products/services and new processes.

There is also a growing recognition of the role of research in meeting longer term global challenges such as climate change, food security, energy security and demographic ageing.

The Government set out our ambitions in 2008 in our Framework for Economic Renewal, Building Ireland’s Smart Economy.’  

At that time we set out our vision of wanting to make Ireland a smart, high-value, export-led economy and a Global, Innovation Hub. To achieve this we must make Ireland:

- the best place in Europe to turn research and knowledge into products and services;

- the best place in Europe to start and grow an innovative company;

- the best place to relocate or expand and scale an SME; and,

- the best place in Europe for research-intensive multinationals to collaborate with each other and with clusters of small companies.

An essential part of this is that Ireland must become a driver of research and innovation – we have to become a dynamic location for the generation of ideas.

The work of Science Foundation Ireland over the past decade has transformed Ireland’s research landscape.

Innovation Taskforce

The Innovation Taskforce recognised the progress that has been made.  It concluded in its Report that our investment to date has given us a credible basis for competing globally.

The Taskforce also provided us with recommendations designed to transform Ireland into a Global Innovation Hub. There has been very significant progress to date in implementing these recommendations under the leadership of Minister O’Keeffe including:

- in July, we launched the fifth cycle of the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions to support third level research

- an expert group is working to reform our Intellectual Property system, including development of a national protocol for ownership and access to State-supported IP

- all our universities have now agreed to introduce bonus points for maths starting with the Leaving Certificate in 2012

Most significantly, we have launched the €500 million Innovation Fund, which aims to attract leading international venture companies to locate in Ireland.

I was delighted recently to welcome the first investments under the Fund which will see DFJ Esprit establish an international office in Dublin.

I hope to see further announcements over the coming months as we build a strong base of venture capital expertise in Ireland, as well as gaining access to international networks.

People / Collaboration

Of course, innovation requires a talent pool of people and ideas.

Today gives us the opportunity to recognise the contribution of so many individuals who have worked for some or all of the last ten years with Science Foundation Ireland.

In particular, I would like to acknowledge the leadership provided by Director-General, Professor Frank Gannon, and Chairperson Professor Pat Fottrell.

I know that SFI works closely with Government and agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, the Health Research Board, the Higher Education Authority and others.  This collaborative approach is a vital element of SFI’s success.

The involvement of major industry partners with SFI is also of course central to its success.  In particular, SFI plays a major role in attracting foreign direct investments to Ireland, and is essential to our future plans in this area.

International Links

The Irish Government is not alone in seeking ways to increase levels of innovation in the economy.  I know that Professor Daniel Zajfman of the Weizmann Institute spoke to you earlier this morning about the Israeli experience.  And only last week I jointly hosted a Seminar in Dublin with the Finnish Prime Minister highlighting the crucial role of Innovation, Research and Development in overcoming recession.

I know that a significant majority of academic collaborations engaged in by SFI researchers last year were outside of Ireland - spanning 56 different countries.  This greatly enhances our international standing and can only assist in achieving our goal of transforming Ireland into a Global Innovation Hub.


For ten years Science Foundation Ireland has played a key role in laying the foundations upon which our future economy is being built. 

Ireland now faces some very difficult economic choices – and we will have to find ways of doing more with less in every part of the economy.

Our enterprise agencies, including SFI, will have to play a leading role in bringing Ireland through this period by helping to generate the business and jobs we need.

So while today is a time to celebrate ten years of achievement, it is also an opportunity to re-focus on the challenge ahead, and the important contribution which SFI has to make in the next ten years.

So I would like to wish Science Foundation Ireland and all associated with it well today on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

Your work inspires us all to move forward - with imagination, with confidence and with determination - to build a better future for Ireland.

Rath Dé ar bhur gcuid oibre.

Thank you.