IRELAND'S EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn has spoken about her Brussels battle to protect spending on science in Europe at a time when all budgets are under pressure.
She appealed for support for research and innovation, pointing out that countries that maintained investment in these areas were coping better with today's economic challenges.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, was speaking at a ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), Dublin, honouring two of the country's leading thinkers.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn used the presentation of the RIA annual Gold Medals for academics to speak about tough negotiations in Brussels on the next EU budget, and the need to convince everyone that her new €80bn research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 was justified.
"Negotiations on the next EU budget are extremely tough. Not everyone is convinced that the €80bn for Horizon 2020 is justified, far from it," she said.
The commissioner said national budgets for science were also at risk.
"It really is a battle to maintain the central place of science in European society and at the heart of Europe's economy," she said.
"I am working hard to defend the need for investment and we need scientists and the businesses they work with to be vocal about the need for more money at European and national level."
She said that science had a greater value than simply as a motor for economic growth.
"Beyond its many obvious practical benefits, intellectual inquiry is a valuable and worthwhile pursuit itself," she said.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn added that curiosity could often be a source of unpredictable breakthroughs.
The commissioner said there would be a stronger focus on "innovation" and also reducing "red tape across the board", after repeated requests from scientists to simplify the process for applying for research support.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said she hoped the new approach would encourage more Irish researchers and institutions to take part in European-level projects.