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Opening address by An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald at Tyndall Technology Days Pairc Ui Chaoimh Conference Centre

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and I would like to convey my thanks to Eoin O’Driscoll, Chairman and Acting CEO of Tyndell National Institute, for inviting me to the event. 

Tyndall is one of Europe’s leading research centres in ICT research and development. 

I should declare an interest – because my Department provides a core grant of €4.5m to Tyndall each year as part of a partnership agreement we entered into with UCC in 2004 – but it is a truly remarkable achievement that the Institute now employs 500 researchers, engineers and support staff, including 121full-time graduate students and generating over 270 peer-reviewed publications last year alone. 

It has a network of 200 industry partners and customers worldwide and currently has active research projects valued at over €200m. 

Tyndall has played a part in transforming the Irish economy - away from an economy which was until the 1980s primarily focused on low-cost, low-tech activities and towards an open economy that has sought new forms of competitive advantage.  

Through a series of strategies and investment initiatives, Ireland has developed research capacity, a significant reputation for research excellence and with the help of our agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, an increasing base of enterprises engaging in R&D and innovation activity.

Twenty years ago, Ireland spent €765m on R&D - last year as a country we spent more than €3bn. 

Due to the vision and hard work of you, our innovation leaders, over the past 25 years, Ireland has gone from a base of 800 R&D active firms in 1992, spending €300m, to nearly 1,900 R&D active enterprises spending over €2.2bn on research and development.  

In 2003 Ireland was ranked 34th in the world for the quality and impact of our scientific capacity.  We have rapidly climbed the rankings and are now in 10th place globally. 

In some specific fields we are placed higher, such as: 

  • 2nd in the world for our research capacity in Immunology, Nanotechnology and Animal and Diary, 
  • 3rd in the world for Materials Science research And
  • 4th for Agricultural Sciences. 


We have managed to significantly transform the level and quality of interactions between our higher education institutions and Irish based enterprise. Ireland is ranked first in the world for Knowledge Diffusion, and second for Knowledge Impact, illustrating our world-beating capacity to commercialise our public research.  

I am determined to ensure that we support and build on this remarkable success and a key priority for me is to achieve the ambitious vision set out in Innovation 2020.  

Our Innovation 2020 goals are to have: 

  • an internationally competitive research system which acts as a magnet and catalyst for talent and industry; 
  • excellent research performed in strategically important areas which has relevance and impact for the economy and society; 
  • a renowned pool of talent in academia and industry which maximises exchange of talent and knowledge between the two; 
  • a coherent joined-up research eco-system, responsive to emerging opportunities, delivering enhanced impact through application of knowledge; and 
  • a strong innovative enterprise base, growing employment, sales and exports. 

Coherence is crucial. Effective connectivity between our research base and our enterprise base is the recipe for success. 

Effective industry-academic collaboration is essential for the successful translation of the best new ideas from the lab into innovative new products and services in the marketplace – and ultimately, the delivery of good quality sustainable jobs for our people.  

I know that Tyndall works with industry and academia to transform research into products in Ireland’s core market areas of agri-food, communications, energy, environment and health and other areas. Tyndall also hosts several research and technology centres funded by agencies of my Department, in addition to housing the European Space Agency’s Solutions Centre for Ireland.  

Our investment in research and innovation has been instrumental in licensing new technologies, in creating new companies, and in providing the highly educated workforce needed to grow the economy and contribute to society. Furthermore, it has been key to securing, diversifying and growing foreign direct investment.  

Ireland is now home to:

  • All of the top 10 ‘Born on the Internet’ companies;
  • All of the top 10 global pharmaceutical firms;
  • 9 of the top 10 global software companies;
  • 13 of the top 1 global medical technologies companies;
  • 7 of the top 10 industrial automation companies.

And we’re recognised worldwide as a magnet for global talent, research and innovation. This is obvious in the reception we receive on trade missions abroad. 

Just last week I was on a Trade and Investment Programme in Australia, which is an increasingly important market for Irish companies, in its own right, and also as a base for the Asia Pacific region. 

I was joined by 55 Enterprise Ireland Clients, 27 of whom were not already exporting to the Australian market and 16 of whom are heavily exposed to Brexit.

Companies must be willing – and they are willing – to take a risk, enter new markets and diversify. 

The Australia Trade and Investment Mission led to:

  • 14 EI clients closing deals with Australian companies and
  • 4 EI clients opening new offices in Australia.

I want to pay tribute to all of you – the very people who help to make our astounding innovation success a reality. 

All of us, on every level, benefit from your collective endeavours. 

Tyndall is leading at a global level in core research areas such as smart sensors, optical communications systems and Nano materials. 

This is the fifth year of Tyndall Technology Days and this year’s theme – Innovation for Industry – echoes my own commitment to advancing Ireland as a leading nation for innovation and research.  

Today’s event allows us to understand - not only by listening to accomplished speakers in research, academia and industry, but also through the demonstration of some of today’s most innovative and advanced technology – the invaluable role that innovation plays in Ireland’s economic development.

Today’s conference will take on the important task of looking into the future by considering questions such as: 

• What devices will we use in five, ten or fifteen years? 

• How can the enterprise sector in Ireland use emerging technologies to remain competitive internationally? And;

• How can Ireland lead the way in technological advances? 

I look forward to seeing demonstrations today of Tyndall technology at work, such as:

• Smart Manufacturing

• Smart Med-tech and Smart Drug Delivery Systems; 

• Future Communications; and Energy Management 

These are just some of the examples of the technology applications arising from research here at Tyndall.  

But I don’t want to gloss over the challenges we face. In recent weeks I brought a Memorandum to Cabinet highlighting the need for increased investment in R&D to ensure our performance as benchmarked against global competitors does not plateau. 

Brexit brings into sharper focus the need for our indigenous firms to innovate, develop new products and increase resilience to economic shocks. 

We want to support companies to build scale and enhance their global reach through improved competitiveness and market diversification. Nothing else will do in this uncertain economic world.   

In this month’s Budget, we have been able to announce significant increases in investment in education and research which will serve us well in advancing our innovation agenda. 

I was particularly pleased to be able to secure the funding for an additional SFI Research Centre – the FutureMilk Centre - in Budget 2018. 

I know that Tyndall will be a key player in the SFI FutureMilk Centre, with Teagasc, universities and institutes of technology throughout the country. 45 industry partners have committed €16m to the new Centre. It will be an agent of growth for the Irish dairy industry by being a world leader in research for precision pasture-based dairying.  

A €7.5 million allocation for a new PhD and Research Masters Programme in 2018 will provide funding for 150 new enrolments in disciplines aligned to enterprise needs. This programme will address a key action of Innovation 2020 to increase the enrolment of postgraduate researchers by 500 places by 2020. 

Investment in human capital is critical if we are to maintain and build Ireland’s competitiveness. We know that skills are the key differentiator in attracting and retaining Foreign Direct Investment as well as building Research, Development and Innovation capacity in our indigenous enterprises.  

This month’s budget marks the second year of major reinvestment in the education sector as we aim to make the Irish Education and training service the best in Europe within a decade. 

 The story of John Tyndall, the inspiration for this Institute, highlights the importance of investing in education. Born in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, in 1820, Tyndall stayed in school till he was 17 or 18. He worked in the Ordnance Survey, went on to complete a PhD in Germany and returned to the UK where he lectured, experimented and invented. 

We must protect and enhance our internationally-regarded education system. Total investment in higher and further education will be €100 million higher in 2018 than it was in 2016 and there will be a significant ramping up in capital investment. 

The Government will publish a new ten year capital plan before the end of the year. It will be aligned with the new National Planning Frameowrk to ensure that both complement and reinforce each other. In this way we will be able to plan meaningfully for the next twenty years. 

It we were able to provide €30 million for the re-development of this wonderful stadium - Páirc Uí Chaoimh - back in 2014, think of all we can achieve now that our books are balanced. 

I look forward to hearing from today’s accomplished speakers and to witnessing the demonstrations of some of Ireland’s most advanced and innovated technology.  

Thank you. 


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