Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Research and Development James Lawless says the Government needs to do more to prioritise research and innovation funding for third level institutions.

Deputy Lawless made the comments after Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor confirmed that just €14.4m has been assigned to Irish universities and Institutes of Technology under the Programme for Research in Third Level Initiative (PRTLI).

“In 2016 the funding allocated under this scheme amounted to €30.4m, with many in the industry pointing out that greater funding would be needed to maintain high standards at Irish 3rd level institutions. However this year the Government has assigned just €14.4m to the scheme, which represents a 52% cutback year on year,” explained Deputy Lawless.

“This is deeply worrying and shows that the Government simply does not understand the importance of research and innovation funding for maintaining standards at our third level institutions. The PRTLI was first launched in 1998 and was hugely successful in promoting research and innovation at 3rd level. It has supported job creation in community’s right across the country.

“Funding cuts cannot be justified to PRTLI’s broad based funding which supports academic disciplines and diverse institutions. PRTLI needs to be strongly funded to provide research support if we are to demonstrate our research capabilities, not only in STEM but in the humanities as well. Despite raising this with the Minister in the House it seems that the Minister does not get this. PRTLI allows research collaboration with the European Research Council and matched funding initiatives. While Science Foundation Ireland does fantastic work in its centres of excellence robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer.

“Minister Mitchell O’Connor has said that they are prioritising investment under different schemes to make up for the funding shortfall, but she is not comparing like with like. PRTLI is a specific scheme which targets research and innovating funding for third level. The Government simply has not provided similar funding elsewhere to make up for this shortfall.

“The cutbacks to the PRTLI are alarming. The Government needs to urgently rethink its approach to funding research and innovating programmes. The sector is of fundamental importance to our economy,” concluded Deputy Lawless.