Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has criticised the Government for failing to prioritise research and innovation funding for third level institutions.

Deputy Byrne made the comments after it was revealed that the Government has so far failed to provide funding for the Programme for Research in Third Level Initiative (PRTLI). This is despite the fact that the previous programme ended in 2015.

“It’s clear that neither Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor nor Minister for skills John Halligan actually understand the importance of PRTLI cycles in supporting Irish research.

“The PRTLI was first launched in 1998 and continued with five multi-annual cycles of expenditure to date. It has funded a number of successful research and innovation projects which has enhanced our third level institutions. This has ultimately led to job creation right across the country. The PRTLI is the cornerstone of Irish Research and Innovation.

“The previous programme cycle ended in 2015 and the Government has failed to allocate funding for a new one to date. The parliamentary reply that I have received from Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor indicates that she is not prepared to allocate funding in 2017. This is deeply disappointing and will do immense damage to our research and innovation sector.

“Ministers Halligan and Mitchell O’Connor appear to be completely out of their depth. Research and innovation across the State is suffering as a result this. Traditionally, the PRTLI has been so successful precisely because it was announced as a multi-annual investment package for research projects as well as research facilities. Now we have a situation where there is no certainty for the sector which is resulting in research contracts being lost to foreign competition.

“The PRTLI was also great value for the exchequer as, due to its multi-annual nature, it attracted matching investment from the private sector. However because the Ministers now appear to want to fund the programme on an annual basis, private matching sources cannot be secured from interested private investors, due to a lack of certainty.

“The Government needs to urgently rethink its approach to funding research and innovation programmes. The sector is of fundamental importance to our economy,” concluded Deputy Byrne.