Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research and Development, James Lawless, has said the short-sighted approach taken by Fine Gael in only funding research with expedient commercial outputs has greatly hampered the research and development ecosystem in Ireland.

Deputy Lawless made the comments as it emerged that just one of more than 400 recently announced European Research Council grants has been awarded to Ireland. The grants, worth a total of €621 million, are to help individual scientists and academics build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines.

Deputy Lawless explained, “This situation was actually brought about by the Fine Gael – Labour Government in 2012. They introduced the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Amendment Act which meant funding would be prioritised away from discovery research and into ‘job creation’ initiatives.

“This was a short-sighted and philistine move and that is why I have introduced the Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) (Amendment) Bill 2018 to negate it. The Bill seeks to alter the requirement of Science Foundation Ireland to ensure balance between the promoting, developing and assisting the carrying out of oriented basic research as well as applied research.

“It also provides for an independent review into the performance of SFI, to ensure that they are meeting these requirements. It is also my intention that the board of SFI would include at least three members from the field of academics and at least three members from the field of industrialists.

“A better balance needs to be struck between commercial research and the key discovery research which happens in labs and libraries when the eye is trained solely on the next breakthrough rather than on a successful accounting quarter”, he concluded.