Spokesperson on Science and Technology James Lawless TD has said the Government is in denial on the progress being made in developing the research sector.

Deputy Lawless made the comments after raising the issue with Minister Halligan and Minister Humphreys at the Oireachtas Committee on Business and Innovation.

Deputy Lawless demanded answers regarding why Ireland has moved backwards on achieving its targets. Of 5 international metrics, Ireland has gone backwards in 3 and remained static on 1.

Deputy Lawless said, “The figures made available by the Department show that Ireland’s position in the international league tables for research and development is slipping. Ireland has not come anywhere near meeting its own target of 2.5% for research and development spending.

“The Government committed, in Innovation 2020, to spend 2.5% of GDP on R&D activities. That’s the Government’s own target which it set for itself. Disappointingly it was revealed during last night’s estimates review, that the Government has actually only got halfway there and we have actually gone backwards from 1.74% in 2015 to 1.44% in 2017.

“The Government has also failed to adequately increase funding for the Program for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) fund. €14m was allocated in 2017, at a time when the economy is supposedly recovering, but in 2010 €359m was allocated to the fund. How can we expect to remain competitive in the research and development sector if the Government continues to underfund vital research programs?

“Minister Halligan is clearly struggling to convince his cabinet colleagues of the importance of research and development. It clearly shows in these figures. At a time when we should be absolutely prioritising research and development and strengthening our innovation footprint to attract FDI and protect ourselves from Brexit, we are instead going backwards and failing most of the targets.

“The Government needs to immediately stem the flow away from research funding and prioritise this area.”