Dáil Questions: Jobs

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Dáil Issues, Jobs, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he plans to take in response to the unprecedented move by over 900 scientists expressing concern regarding the Government’s research policy, and over-concentration on commercial research.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 26th March, 2015.


Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton TD)

Policy is focused on building excellence in scientific research and maximising its impact on jobs, and in economic and social progress. Neither I, nor the Government, make any apology for putting an extra emphasis on research that can help create more jobs.

This Government introduced a number of policy initiatives targeted at accelerating the economic and societal return on our investment in this area. Amongst these was the implementation of the proposals of the Research Prioritisation Group. Following rigorous analysis and intensive engagement with all key stakeholders, this broad based group comprising membership from industry and academia identified 14 priority areas around which the majority of competitive funding should be targeted. The areas were identified on the basis of existing strengths of the public research system, existing strengths of the enterprise base, opportunities that exist in terms of the global marketplace and those which are most likely to deliver economic and societal impact and employment.

Excellence in scientific research has been and will continue to be a cornerstone in the development of our science base in Ireland and this has been complemented in recent years by a sharper focus on the relevance and impact of research. While Research Prioritisation saw a greater emphasis on the economic and societal impact of research it did not represent a move away from funding basic research. Policy has been and will continue to be to support research across the full continuum from basic to applied, through to commercialisation of research.

Equally important is the translation of research and commercialisation of ideas. Ireland is ranked third in the EU, according to the European Commission’s “Indicator of Innovation Output”, which measures the extent to which ideas from innovative sectors are able to reach the market, providing better jobs and making Europe more competitive. All of the national indicators show that our focus on commercialisation of research is having an impact. The number of technologies licensed to industry, which is one of the most relevant indicators of commercialisation performance in the research system, rose significantly from 12 in 2005 to 87 in 2012 and invention disclosures and spin outs also increased substantially during that period. We established Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) in 2013 to make it even easier for companies to access and use ideas developed through publicly-funded research to develop new products and services and ultimately create jobs and exports.

I welcome the open letter from “Irish Scientists for Basic Research” as part of the consultation process designed to inform the development of a broad based Strategy which will be a successor to the Strategy for Science Technology & Innovation. This letter along with all other submissions received from the various stakeholders will be considered in detail by my Department and the Interdepartmental Committee which has been established tasked with developing proposals for the new Strategy. This Committee includes representatives from key Government Departments and the Higher Education Authority as well as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government is expected to complete its work by the Summer.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied with the manner in which the IASS Expert Group dealt with the initiative proposed by the Secretary General of his Department and the Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism on 2 December 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 26th March, 2015.


Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash TD)

At the request of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Expert Panel was asked to re-engage with SIPTU and ICTU in relation to matters dealt with in its June 2014 report on its review the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS), including the actuarial assumptions, and to provide clarity on those matters. There were also discussions immediately before Christmas between the two Departments, members of the Expert Panel and ICTU in relation to this engagement which helped to refine the areas of focus for the Panel.

On 9 March last, the Expert Panel presented its Final Determination on the resolution of the industrial relations issues. The Report states that the unions have confirmed that the June 2014 Report, together with the Panel’s Final Determination, will be put to an immediate ballot/reballot of all members to be conducted as quickly as possible. The Report also states that the unions confirmed that it will be made clear to members that this outcome is the absolute best that can be achieved in negotiations.

I wish to express my thanks to the Expert Panel for completing its work in such an effective and efficient manner and to all parties that engaged so constructively in the process.