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We're in science top 20

THE SCIENCE Foundation Ireland (SFI) connected 349 firms with college researchers in a move which is expected to create hundreds of jobs in key development projects.

Ireland has now moved from a level below Bangladesh to breaking into the top 20 in the scientific global rankings, according to Thomson Reuters Essential Scientific Indicators.

Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Conor Lenihan, said that in 2009, SFI linked 184 multinational firms and 165 small and medium-sized enterprises with academic teams.

"The agency supported 29 top-class research centres and 3,225 researchers in higher education institutions," said Mr Lenihan.

"Collaborations and partnerships between Ireland's scientific research and enterprise communities are now being formed at an unprecedented level and they are a critical component of our developing 'smart' economy."

Over the next six years, the Government confirmed that it would invest €2.4bn in science, technology and innovation programmes.

Meanwhile it has been revealed that Tanaiste Mary Coughlan has introduced a series of amendments in order to make the Cycle To Work scheme more accessible to teachers and school staff.

The scheme allows a benefit-in-kind tax exemption to apply where an employee agrees to forego or sacrifice part of his or her salary to permit his or her employer to buy a new bicycle.