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€300m boost to third-level research to drive job growth

Resource type: News

Irish Examiner |

A GOVERNMENT plan to invest €300 million in third-level research will provide facilities for more than 1,400 college researchers in a bid to drive future job creation.

The fifth cycle of the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI) announced by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe yesterday will be targeted under four headings. As well as a focus on providing state-of-the-art accommodation, colleges will be asked for proposals to develop shared facilities in areas of national importance and to restructure PhD programmes in a way that enables students to take up careers in academia, or in the private and public sectors.

Research proposals in the areas of biomedical and health, chemistry and pharmaceutical, marine environment, waste management and cultural heritage will be sought by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in the coming weeks. But colleges will also be asked to submit applications to support research in new and emerging areas, such as plant/crop bio-sciences, new ways to generate and manage electricity, and initiatives focused on services industries such as finance, business and IT.

Previous PRTLI funding since 1998 has amounted to €865m, of which more than €500m went on buildings and equipment.

The earlier rounds of investment were partially provided by private investors, primarily the Atlantic Philanthropies organisation of Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney.

Mr O’Keeffe said: “At this time of global economic uncertainty, our commitment to research investment is more essential to our future than ever before.”

HEA chief executive Tom Boland said: “This is a clear indication that Ireland is thinking not just short term, but long term about future development that is crucially dependent on developing a more innovative, high skilled economy.”

However, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said the level of funding should be contrasted with budget cutbacks in primary schools and that the €300m spend would more than reverse measures such as increased class sizes and the loss of English language teachers next autumn.

“The Government wants to cut spending that benefits all children while investing in a small number of elite students. This is like high profile investment in elite athletes before the Olympics which contributes nothing to the health, fitness and well-being of the general population,” said INTO general secretary John Carr.

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