Leaders from business and universities met today to plan for a huge increase in the number of research scientists and engineers coming on stream in Ireland over the next seven years arising from the Government's Science Technology and Innovation strategic plan. In order to cater for this influx of PhD research graduates, industry and universities must work together to create an unprecedented number of sustainable research jobs.
The Government aims to double the number of science and engineering PhDs working in Ireland and to raise PhD numbers from 450 to 900 per annum. This increase is vital if companies are to seriously consider Ireland as a base for major R&D projects. Without the necessary expertise, companies will look elsewhere and our economic success will falter.
At the joint conference held today, IBEC and the Irish Universities Association (IUA) addressed the key issues of creating the required number and calibre of PhD graduates and strengthening industry academic partnership to ensure appropriate jobs for PhDs in Ireland.
Speaking at the conference, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, President of IUA said "the availability of skilled researchers is a key component of the knowledge economy. The onus is equally on government, industry and academia to ensure that Ireland can employ these skilled personnel on graduation. We must not have a situation where PhDs fail to find a suitable job, or where students choose not to embark on a PhD due to the lack of a robust career opportunities."
Industry investment in R&D crossed the €1bn threshold in 2003, the last year for which figures are available. This trend seems set to continue, with major R&D investment announcements from a number of high profiled companies: IBM (€22m), HP (€21.4m), Bell Labs (employ 120 researchers), Pfizer (€20m), Bristol Myers Squibb (€9.6m).
Commenting on private R&D investment, Turlough O'Sullivan, Director General IBEC, said "Recent investment bodes well for the future. Increased private sector investment in R&D will play a significant part in securing sustainable careers for PhDs."
Commenting on the €8million secured by companies from the EU's Marie Curie Programme with IUA support, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski said "Universities have been very active collaborators with industry in accessing research investment and we are keen to see this success continue."
The two key priorities at the conference were:
1. To ensure researchers have the necessary skills and calibre to be attractive to industry. 2. To develop strong partnerships between academia and industry so that PhDs can transfer from employment in academia to industry and visa versa.
Speaking at the conference, Brendan Cremen, Xilinx Ireland said, "Skilled people are the differentiating factor between competing economies. Business decisions on the location of global R&D activities are determined by the calibre of researchers and the quality of their output."