The Government has set a goal for Ireland to become a leader in research and development and innovation. It has committed a budget of €8.2 billion under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2113 towards achieving this goal.
One objective of the strategy is to increase participation in the sciences by young people and to bring about a significant increase in the number of people with advanced qualifications in science and engineering. Chapter 5 of the strategy sets out the goals towards this end while chapter 8 outlines the implementation and co-ordination mechanisms intended to facilitate, drive and achieve those goals.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has overall responsibility for overseeing and directing the full implementation of the strategy. Governance structures have been established to ensure effective interaction, co-ordination and review of outputs across eight Departments, including the Department of Education and Science, the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser, State agencies and higher education institutions, all of which are working together to implement the strategy.
At the apex of this is a Cabinet committee on science, technology and innovation, chaired by the Taoiseach. Its membership comprises the key stakeholder Ministers, including the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Minister for Education and Science and myself. Its objective is to ensure the environment for science, technological development and innovation is conducive to maintaining Ireland's competitiveness and to further developing Ireland's position as a dynamic and knowledge-driven economy.
The interdepartmental committee on science, technology and innovation, chaired by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, reports to the Cabinet committee on progress being made in implementing the strategy. Several subsidiary implementing bodies and dedicated working groups work under aegis of the committee.
Implementation of the strategy will be monitored and reviewed by means of an annual report prepared by the interdepartmental committee for the Cabinet committee and drawing on all the programmatic and policy strands and the expertise available to it. The first such report will be produced in spring 2008 and will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
All of the above actions demonstrate the whole of Government nature of the strategy. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will continue to oversee and co-ordinate the work of the various groups and sub-groups to ensure the objectives of the SSTI are realised.
On the promotion of science — public awareness in schools — we recognise the importance of science in primary and secondary schools as well as the need to promote interest in science across all elements of society. The Department of Education and Science working with the Higher Education Authority has begun extensive syllabus redevelopment and continues to tackle curriculum reform, investing in professional awareness, guidance and technical assistance to support science in the educational system. This is supplemented by the work of the Discover Science and Engineering Programme, the Government's integrated science awareness programme.