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Research and Innovation in the EU
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Ongoing research and development in science, technology and industry is crucial to all our futures. It helps increase our knowledge of the world around us so we can find new ways to tackle climate change, eliminate life threatening viruses, reduce air disasters and improve food safety.

It also creates jobs and stimulates the economy and through the EU, Irish researchers, institutions and businesses are playing a vital role in helping to make breakthroughs in research projects that will improve the quality of life for millions of people all over the world.

Ireland is able to contribute significantly to global research and development because we’re part of the European Research Area (ERA). The ERA was initially created to promote growth and jobs by helping Europe become the world’s leading ‘knowledge economy’.

And that’s something we here in Ireland recognise as being crucial to our own future because under our own national Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) we’ve set a goal to become leaders in research and development and innovation.

Being able to benefit from and collaborate with projects in other EU states can help us reach that target.

Fifth Freedom

ResearcherEuropean scientists, institutions and businesses regularly join forces to share resources in important research projects. Being part of Europe makes it easier for them cooperate with each under and under the EU’s proposed Fifth Freedom, research, technology and knowledge will be allowed to move even more freely between member states.

Working together and cooperating with each other means there’s less chance of research being duplicated or wasted and projects can be completed faster.

This helps keep Europe ahead of its global competitors in research, which helps create jobs in the EU.

As a small nation Ireland alone couldn’t hope to compete internationally with the resources available to global giants like the US, Japan and China. But working together on research and development with other EU nations helps maintain our own economic and social development.

Closer European cooperation between universities, scientific institutes and research centres under the Fifth Freedom will help more Irish students and experts obtain and use information and knowledge for the benefit of everybody.

The European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme is already helping many do exactly that.

Under Erasmus - the EU's flagship education and training programme - Irish students and staff at third level institutions have opportunities to study and teach abroad.

Around 90 per cent of European universities take part in Erasmus and almost two million students have participated in the programme since it started back in 1987.

The Leonardo da Vinci Programme also helps by enabling Irish organisations involved in vocational education and training to work with European partners so they can exchange best practices and increase the expertise of their staff.

Young people can also use the programme to acquire new skills, knowledge and qualifications.

Applications for the programme can made in Ireland through Léargas and the Higher Education Authority (HEA).


Research funding

Researcher at work in NUI GalwayFunding for research in the ERA comes from the EU through Framework Programmes, the first of which began back in 1984.

The current Seventh Framework Programme, or FP7, began in 2007 and it aims to pump an estimated €50 billion into research across Europe until 2013.

Ireland is currently receiving over €1 million in funding every week from FP7 to help our scientists, academics and students work on research and development projects.

The latest official figures show that up until October 2009, a total of 546 Irish-based academic and private sector FP7 applications obtained funding amounting to more than €152 million – that’s an application success rate of 23.5 per cent, just above the EU average of 21.7 per cent.

FP7 funding is available for projects carried out under designated thematic areas which include: health; agriculture; information technology; energy; environment; security; transport; socio-economic sciences and space.

Under FP7, Irish based healthcare professionals, academic researchers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and multi-national corporations can all work together with the best brains in Europe to develop new technologies aimed at improving our futures and finding answers to problems that impact on our daily lives.

FP7 is the single biggest source of funding available locally to Irish researchers who can apply through our own National Support Network - a collection of experts tasked with enabling researchers make full use of the programme.

To access the funding, projects must involve European partners and several organisations need to be working together.

Researchers can also find out more by attending sponsored events, which are detailed on the FP7 Ireland website, or by browsing CORDIS - the EU’s online research and development information service - to identify partners.

Information about Irish research under the EU 7th Framework Programme in the area of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology is available on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.


Marie Curie programme

ResearcherResearch funding is also made available through the Marie Curie Programme through which has brought in over €60 million to Ireland since 2002. It’s a remarkable achievement for Ireland given that funding is awarded through a fiercely competitive process based on international peer review.

The Marie Curie Programme provides schemes that help with the career development of Ireland’s most promising researchers while also assisting to develop research and development capacity in both large and small companies.


An Irish success story

Dr Stephen LangrellA former Irish winner of the Young Scientists competition, Dr Stephen Langrell, went back to the RDS in January 2010 to give presentations on how taking part in the event helped pave the way for a successful career in European science.

Dr Stephen Langrell’s project on the endangered plant species of cottonweed won the Best Individual Project Award back in 1986.

He followed that success by winning the Irish Professors of Botany Award and represented Ireland at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas, where he picked up third prize in the Environmental Sciences Division.

The Belfast born 41-year-old went on to pursue a career in plant sciences, specialising in the area of plant pathology and biosecurity. He works today at the EU Joint Research Centre in Seville where he’s an expert in sustainable agriculture, food security and climate change.


Irish Commissioner

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-QuinnThe European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science is experienced Irish politician, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Nominated by the Irish Government in November 2009, her appointment as commissioner was rubber stamped by the European Parliament in February 2010.

Born in Galway on September 5, 1950, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn was a TD in Dáil Eireann from 1977-97. She became Ireland’s first female cabinet minister in 1979 when she was appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht.

A former teacher, Geoghegan-Quinn later went on to become Minister for European Affairs between 1987-91. During that time she had responsibility for co-ordinating Ireland’s EU Presidency in 1990 when she chaired an Irish inter-departmental committee on EU policy.

Geoghegan-Quinn is also a former Minister for Justice and was part of an Irish Government team that negotiated the Joint Declaration on Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland with Britain in 1993.

In her latest role Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn manages the European Union's important Research Framework Programme which has a €50 billion budget and she’s responsible for a portfolio with a wide remit that includes leading a committee of commissioners dedicated to promoting innovation in industry, energy and information technology.

The EU research agenda also expands across a number of crucial policy areas such as climate change, energy efficiency, health and food security.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn’s duties as commissioner also include promoting economic activity and creating jobs through research and development.


Case studies

Case study I

An ambitious project in Dundalk is showing Europe the way forward in sustainable energy.

Coordinated in Ireland by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), Holistic Optimisation Leading to Integration of Sustainable Technologies In Communities (HOLISTIC ) is being mirrored in the towns of Modling in Austria and Neuchatel in Switzerland.

Communities in Newry, Aachen (Germany) and the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea are also involved as observers.

SEI, acting as project coordinator, structured the HOLISTIC proposal with local and European partners and submitted it to the European Commission. The proposal was successfully evaluated and ended up as only one of nine exceptional projects to proceed with funding.

In Dundalk, HOLISTIC focuses on using technologies and behavioural changes to deliver the most efficient use of energy throughout a designated four-square kilometre zone in the town.

Ambitious but realistic targets of 20 per cent renewable heat, 20 per cent renewable electricity and 40 per cent energy efficiency in selected buildings have been set for the zone.

It’s estimated that once these targets have been reached it will save 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Some of the projects in Dundalk included the installation of a biomass district heating scheme and retrofit of existing residential and public sector buildings to make them more energy efficient.

New buildings in the zone have been constructed to high energy efficiency levels and renewable energy street lights are being piloted in the area.

Data from the project is provided to the European Commission so it can used in helping make energy policy decisions.

The positive experiences and models of good practice from the projects are being shared between the towns involved and it’s estimated that approximately 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide has already been saved.

Case study II

In 2008 two Irish scientists at University College Dublin (UCD) helped make a breakthrough in understanding a deadly fungus that’s a major cause of death in people with weakened immune systems.

Céline O’Gorman and Hubert Fuller together with Paul Dyer from the University of Nottingham identified the sexual behaviour of the Aspergillus fumigatus fungus for the first time.

Scientists can now use the discovery to carry out laboratory experiments to work out exactly how the fungus causes disease and triggers allergic reactions. Once the genetic basis of disease is understood researchers can then look to devising methods to control and overcome the fungus.

Irish research is also helping unlock the potential of stem cell therapy to treat devastating medical conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Case study III

Europe is developing a new Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to provide accurate positioning for sat-nav systems, mobile phones as well as specialised applications for the maritime, road, rail and air transport sectors.

Galileo will work with the existing satellite navigation system which relies entirely on GPS, the American global positioning system.

Developed by European Space Agency – which Ireland is a member of – in partnership with the EU, Galileo will provide us with the world’s most accurate and secure satellite positioning network.

Already researchers are looking into ways to utilise Galileo by developing innovative projects ranging from robot lawnmowers to rescuing people lost overboard at sea.

The Galileo system will be built around 30 satellites occupying three circular earth orbits to provide excellent coverage of the planet.



Last update: 22/12/2011  |Top