Irish Innovation: Taxpayer to fund more than 70% of €300m joint public-industry project centres
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Oct 24, 2013 - 3:16 PM

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Irish Innovation: Richard Bruton, minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, claimed today that a new Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre joint public-industry research project involving an investment of €58m "positions Ireland as a global leader in the areas of materials and medical device development for industry." This is part of a €300m Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre programme with an initial budget of €300m that will see €200m of Irish exchequer funding "matched by €100m in support from industry invested in seven world class research centres of scale, one of which is AMBER."

Ministerial announcements with superlatives like 'world class' are not new and in Ireland, to achieve bog-standard is often the best outcome.

Professor Stefano Sanvito of AMBER said, “AMBER will strengthen Ireland’s reputation for research, create new intellectual property; and support industrial collaborations and the commercialisation of research."

“The AMBER Centre will deliver world-leading research into engineered materials and interfaces for applications in a number of priority sectors in Ireland, most notably in ICT, medical devices, and industrial technology. By delivering research of global quality, AMBER will support the development of advanced manufacturing in Ireland, and they will work with industry to attract additional foreign direct investment, thus supporting a research mandate for Irish-based companies.“

The AMBER Research Centre is led by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. AMBER will directly support 99 jobs and there is potential for further job creation.

Industry partners include Intel, DePuy, Medtronic, Merck Millipore and SAB Miller from a total of 18.

'Research of global quality' and delivering  'world-leading research' seems a far cry from the real world when patent applications in Ireland in 2012 were at a 30-year low and European patenting by Irish residents was also low.

There is a striking truth about the AMBER project: the industry partners haven't much confidence in it. Each wishes to have a stake but not much and it is not very impressive that 18 are needed to fund €23m.

Richard Bruton said:  "Nanoscience and materials science are areas where we rank well inside the top ten internationally for research. The scale and ambition of this centre means that we can attract 18 industry partners and leading international researchers who can turn these good ideas into good jobs. I commend all involved and wish them every success with this crucial project.”

The funding of  €23m is a headline figure as is the total of €100m. However, the 25% R&D (research and development) tax credit reduces that; grants would also and it's unlikely that the full overhead costs of the entire budgets are included in the allocation -- we will check that with the Department.

Bruton claimed: "More than 45% of multinational jobs wins are connected to SFI research" - -  this claim has no credibility.

What does 'connected' mean? IDA Ireland told us last year that there is no criteria for what it terms an 'R&D component' in a project.

In its Annual Report 2012 the inward investment agency said that the number of client companies spending at least €100,000 on R&D was 293 -- 28% of the total.

Wonder when Richard Bruton as a government minister, will give attention to rescuing the shambolic apprenticeship system?

Finfacts: Irish Innovation: Evidence of science policy failure mounts -  - see section on nanotechnology at lower-end of page

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