Monday 16 September 2019

INTO says €1bn investment in science favours 'tiny elite'

John Walshe Education Editor

A teaching union has accused the government of investing millions in a tiny elite of students involved in science and research while under-investing in primary education.

Almost €1.5bn of taxpayers' money has been spent on science research and innovation since the start of the last year compared to what the INTO said was "under-investment" in primary education.

Union general secretary John Carr said the Government was cutting back educational spending that benefited everyone while investing in a small number of elite students.

"It is akin to high-profile investment in elite athletes in advance of the Olympics which contributes nothing to the health, fitness and well-being of the general population."

But the first report on the implementation of the 'Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) 2006-2013' defends the spending and outlines how it is helping the economy.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen says in the report that the aim is to build a world-class research system and "commercialise" ideas and know-how.

The Tanaiste Mary Coughlan says that Enterprise Ireland has developed a range of schemes to ensure we have the capacity to capture and transform the ideas and advances coming from higher education into commercial reality.

The report discloses that the number of patents had risen from 107 in 2006 to 137 last year. Meanwhile, 40pc of new IDA projects were in research and development activities.

These included:

l Business objects which will invest €29m to create 100 IT research posts.

l Boston Scientific which will invest €50m in strategic medical devices R&D in Galway.

l CITI which will base its €35m RDI investment in next generation e-banking in Dublin.

Mrs Coughlan said it was necessary that we capture the interest of young people so that they go on to study science engineering and technology subjects at third and fourth level and take up and create well-paid jobs.

Identified

As well as higher education, the report covers science and research changes in areas such as agriculture, health, the environment, marine and energy.

It says that Galway Bay has been identified as the location for SmartBay, a revolutionary new test-bed for the development of environmental technologies and services being developed in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Enterprise Ireland, the third-level sector and other agencies.

The system is being developed through a growing series of partnerships with Irish and overseas industries.

The seven-year science strategy stated its aim for 2013 as international recognition for Ireland as a centre for research excellence and innovation-driven culture.

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