Innovation: The Irish Government today announced a €50m joint industry research project in Cork. The Government will fund €36m directly and a further investment of €14m from industry, for research at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC), Cork designating it as "a national centre for food and medicine research excellence." In Ireland lots of things get the tag "world class" or "excellence" before meriting it and in this case the taxpayer contribution is likely greater than 79% (including the 25% R&D tax credit), as it's unlikely that the industry contribution was calculated on a commercial basis. Besides, they may also be beneficiaries of grants.
The APC spans across the University College Cork, Teagasc (Ireland’s Agriculture & Food Development Authority) and Cork Institute of Technology. 109 researchers will be employed at the centre over the next 6 years and that talent pool will enable Ireland to leverage significant other investments, such as from EU funding streams and additional industry partners in the years ahead.
The Exchequer funding is through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres programme and supports "world class research into how bacteria in the human gut impacts on population health, leading to the development of future foods and medicines."
Who decides that the research is "world class"?
Announcing the funding, Seán Sherlock, minister for innovation, said: “The importance of continued investment in research cannot be underestimated both in terms of job creation and its overall impact on society. A central part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to ensure that research is better targeted at turning the good ideas of our top-class researchers into good products and high quality jobs. Through the SFI Research Centres Programme this year we are establishing seven research centres of international scale and excellence. These cutting-edge research centres, which includes the APC here in Cork, will further enhance Ireland’s economic recovery process and be a magnet of attraction for industry.”
Again note the jargon: "cutting-edge research centres" but one metric was that patents filed at the Irish patents office in 2011 were at a 30-year low -- that of course is an inconvenient truth Sherlock and Richard Bruton, the senior minister, together with others living well on this fantasy eco system.
Speaking at the announcement, Prof. Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI said: “The SFI Research Centres Programme is the largest ever state and industry co-funded research investment of its kind in Ireland. The potential to deliver tangible economic benefits through research excellence was critical in the selection of the initial seven centres. The APC is a world leader in the area of probiotics research and we are confident of its continued success. We expect that APC will expand and further leverage this initial investment through successful applications to the EU and by developing additional academic and industry partners in Ireland and internationally.”
The Irish Government said that highlighting the importance of the research carried out by the APC Centre to the future food industry, Stan McCarthy, CEO of Kerry Group, one of the participating companies, said: “The Kerry Group is pleased to be partnering with APC. This research collaboration is consistent with our mission statement, and our emphasis on technology, which is critical for our global business in the long term. This partnership is hugely important as we build our Technology Centre in Naas, Co Kildare both in developing and nurturing high quality researchers to staff that facility and in further enhancing Kerry’s ability to provide technical solutions for our customers around the world.”
So with the taxpayer funding most of these projects, the participation of industry may well be a smokescreen to mask failure. If there is a discovery that has the potential of a commercial breakthrough, who owns the intellectual capital?
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