Permission has been given to Deputy Butler to take Deputy Kelleher's questions.
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
41. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions being taken to reduce the cost of doing business in Ireland and to reverse competitiveness deficiencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20851/19]
I thank the House for allowing me to stand in for Deputy Kelleher today. What actions are being taken to reduce the cost of doing business in Ireland and to reverse Irish competitiveness deficiencies?
I thank the Deputy for raising this matter.
Ireland is a competitive economy, as reflected in a range of economic metrics such as high economic growth, the strong performance of the labour market across sectors and regions, strong trade figures and productivity figures. For example, the results from the Labour Force Survey show there was a 2.3% increase in employment in the year to quarter 4 2018, bringing total employment to 2,281,300, the highest number on record. In quarter 4 2018, there were 128,800 people unemployed, a decrease of 10.5% compared to the previous year. However, this strong competitiveness position cannot be taken for granted. There is no room for complacency. Improving Ireland’s competitiveness position is a key priority for this Government and my Department.
The National Competitiveness Council report, Cost of Doing Business in Ireland 2019, found that while Ireland is a high cost economy - the fifth most expensive in the EU - the cost base for enterprise is internationally competitive across a range of metrics, including, for example, the cost of starting a business, communications costs and average income taxes. However, the council noted that cost pressures are evident in some areas, including the labour market, credit, business services and residential property.
Future Jobs Ireland 2019, launched in March, is a whole of Government framework designed to improve our economy’s resilience in the face of emerging and future challenges. It sets out 26 ambitions to 2025 across five pillars in the areas of innovation, productivity, skills and talent, participation and transitioning to a low carbon economy. Along with Project Ireland 2040, Global Ireland 2025 and the Government’s forthcoming All of Government Climate Plan, Future Jobs Ireland 2019 represents an integrated approach to prepare for the opportunities and challenge of the future economy.
A range of specific deliverables in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 aim to enhance the business environment and improve competitiveness, as well as other factors, that contribute to specific sectoral cost challenges. For example, on credit and financial costs, the future growth loan scheme will provide long-term debt financing for strategic investments at competitive rates in a post-Brexit environment; on legal services, new business models for legal services will be introduced, including new legal partnerships and limited liability partnerships; and on construction, an implementation plan for actions to stimulate construction sector productivity will be delivered, including greater deployment of building information modelling. As a small open economy, we must never underestimate the importance of maintaining competitiveness and ensuring that the cost of doing business does not impede it. In this regard, Future Jobs Ireland 2019 is an integral component of the Government’s overarching plan for the future of the Irish economy.
The cost of doing business is a major issue for Irish competitiveness. As stated by the Minister, Ireland is a small open economy and we rely on our businesses to compete internationally and at home. The latest National Competitiveness Council report is another detailed examination of serious Irish competitiveness deficiencies across the board. The Minister is correct that we cannot take anything for granted. Ireland remains an expensive location in which to do business across several cost metrics, including property, insurance, transport, energy and business services. The cost of doing business report states that the cost profile of Ireland is a high cost, at the same level as Japan, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. I ask the Minister to set out the actionable timetable for the implementation across her Department of the recommendations of the National Competitiveness Council, if possible?
In the 2018 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook Ireland was ranked 12th in the world, as compared with 24th in 2011. As such, we have made substantial progress in recent years. We continue to attract high levels of foreign direct investment, FDI. IDA Ireland had another record year for job creation in 2018 in a highly competitive global market. This shows that internationally Ireland is considered a strong place in which to do business. We have a young, well educated workforce and so there is a strong talent pool here. For companies experiencing difficulty finding skills here our employment permits system is flexible, which I demonstrated recently in terms of the changes to the system in respect of companies with genuine difficulties sourcing workers in the construction, meat processing, horticulture and dairy sectors. In any country, there will always be challenges sourcing workers. What is important is how one responds to those challenges. The new Future Jobs Ireland 2019 initiative will have a key role to play in that regard.
Last year, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation held extensive hearings with stakeholders on the cost of doing business in Ireland, in respect of which it published a report. The common denominators across all sectors were, the cost of rates, insurance and banking, and labour and skills shortages. Have any of the committee's recommendations been taken on board by the Department? Leaving aside the issues of insurance and rate costs, which I know do not come under the Minister's remit, have any of the committee's recommendations around labour costs and skill shortages been implemented?
In terms of the skill shortages, my Department has reviewed economic migration policies to ensure they are fully supportive of Ireland's emerging labour market needs, be they skills or labour shortages. The report of the review, which was published in September 2018, confirms that the current employment system is robust and has served the country well in recent years. An action plan has been formulated to drive the recommendations of the review. I was pleased to be able to remove particular sectors from the ineligible list, including the construction sector. I have issued a number of work permits to enable the construction sector to address critical skills shortages in terms of quantity surveyors, engineers and so on, from outside of the EU, which the sector has welcomed.
42. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the uptake of the Brexit business supports to date; the number of businesses that have availed of the Brexit loan scheme, the future growth loan scheme, be prepared grant and the market discovery grant; the number of businesses that have had their applications for these grants rejected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20613/19]
I am seeking an update from the Minister on the uptake of the Brexit supports to date to include how many have been allocated per category and how many have been denied; and if she plans to introduce new measures to help businesses prepare for Brexit. I have asked this question in different guises over the past number of months.
I thank the Deputy for raising this matter.
We have been preparing for Brexit for well over two years. The last three budgets introduced supports to help businesses prepare for Brexit. Informed by detailed research, my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. These measures aim to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and the practical preparatory actions to be taken over the coming weeks and months.
The €300 million Brexit loan scheme provides relatively short-term working capital - one to three years - to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. The scheme is open to eligible businesses from all regions of the country, including those in the Border counties. The scheme was launched in March 2018 and, as at close of business on 3 May, 608 eligible applications were received, of which 550 have been approved, with 124 loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €27.76 million.
The future growth loan scheme was launched in March 2019. The scheme provides a longer-term facility - eight to ten years - of up to €300 million to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment by business at competitive rates. This scheme makes available loans of €50,000 to €3 million, with loans of under €500,000 being provided on an unsecured basis. To date, there have been 115 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which all have been approved and none have been deemed ineligible.
The Enterprise Ireland Be Prepared grant supports its clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit.
To date, 194 grants have been approved. The Enterprise Ireland market discovery fund encourages businesses to undertake market research and develop viable and sustainable market entry strategies in new geographical markets. To date, 149 businesses have had projects approved under the market discovery fund.
Enterprise Ireland engages with client companies through teams of sectoral focused development advisers. Based on this, the agency can tailor a support package to the companies' growth potential based on their ambition, capability and need. The market discovery fund and Be Prepared grant are grant supports available to companies to deliver on the identified potential. For example, in the case of the market discovery fund, client companies seeking support under this grant will undergo a due diligence process with their Enterprise Ireland development advisers. As a result of this interaction and process, Enterprise Ireland does not keep track of rejected applications.
While I have seen a very positive uptake of the supports available, I am conscious that the delays to Brexit may have led businesses to defer their immediate planning. However, the UK's exit from the EU will mean changes for Irish business. I want businesses to know that my Department and its agencies are here to help.
It is very concerning to hear the figures provided by the Minister. Only 9% of the total of €300 million Brexit loan scheme has been sanctioned at bank level to date. Does the Minister have a target for this scheme? Is there an expected uptake rate and a timeframe for achieving that? Has the figure of €300 million been plucked from thin air to sound good or is the Minister expecting the remaining €272 million to be allocated before Brexit? Clearly that is unlikely to happen. Will the Minister indicate what types of companies have been allocated these cheap loans so far? Are they indigenous Irish companies and businesses or multinational companies? How many employees do they have on average?
The Government has been working to raise awareness of the Brexit supports through events, including through clinics and seminars, and the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready campaign. When it comes to Brexit preparedness, it is important to note that companies are choosing from a full suite of supports available from the agencies. A wide array of different supports is in place to help businesses prepare across Departments and agencies. Businesses must ultimately decide for themselves whether they want or need to avail of those supports. In the case of the Brexit loan scheme, it is important to remember that this is a loan and that businesses will still have to pay it back. Understandably, there is a natural reluctance on the part of businesses to take on debt until the full details of the Brexit challenge become clearer. It is important that the loan is in place in order that businesses are able to avail of it when it is needed. I encourage them to apply for the loan and leave it in place without drawing it down immediately. I engage with and meet businesses on a regular basis.
The uptake rate is less than 10%. Unfortunately, the Minister did not answer my question, which concerned the types of companies that are availing of the loans. In the case of the market discovery fund, more should be done to diversify our export markets and reduce our over-reliance on American foreign direct investment, FDI, as welcome as that is. According to Enterprise Ireland's export performance in global markets reports, just 1% of our exports went to the entire continent of South America in 2017. In addition, just 9% of exports went to the continent of Africa, the Middle East and India combined. We need to diversify our export destinations to avoid a repeat of an over-reliance on any single market. Furthermore, steps must be taken to diversify the locations from which we secure foreign direct investment. Recent figures show that of the 1,444 client companies, more than 53% are from the United States, with just seven of the 1,444 coming from the entire continent of Africa. Will the Minister outline what steps she has taken to diversify our export markets and the countries of origin of IDA Ireland client companies?
Additional funding was provided to both Enterprise Ireland and the IDA to get more boots on the ground and to diversify our markets. There have been extensive trade missions to China and Japan. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, is in China at the minute, and I myself have been there, as well as to Singapore. The Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Breen, has been to a number of different countries in South America. The EU is carrying out negotiations at the moment; a trade deal is currently being negotiated with New Zealand, and I plan to travel there in June. I have also been to Australia. A huge amount of work is being done in terms of diversifying markets. We have also increased our share of the European market. Funding was provided so that Enterprise Ireland could put additional people out there to look for new markets. There is a lot of work going on in that space in terms of broadening our market base.
Personal Injury Claims
43. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the timeline for the implementation of each of the 14 recommendations made by the Personal Injuries Commission regarding personal injury awards. [20852/19]
Will the Minister provide the timeline for the implementation of each of the 14 recommendations made by the Personal Injuries Commission regarding personal injury awards?
Deputy Kelleher has, in Deputy Butler, a good substitute in place for this afternoon's priority questions. I am very aware of the serious impacts on businesses and consumers of high insurance costs. It is important that consumers and businesses can obtain insurance cover at a reasonable and fair price.
The cost of insurance working group, chaired by my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for financial services and insurance, Deputy D'Arcy, and associated subgroups have been continuing to meet regularly to ensure the focus remains fixed upon the timely implementation of all the recommendations of the report on the cost of motor insurance and the report on the cost of employer and public liability insurance. The work of the cost of insurance working group is complemented by the work of the Personal Injuries Commission. The first report of the Personal Injuries Commission was published in December 2017 and made four recommendations, of which two are ongoing. One recommendation is partially complete and the final recommendation, relating to the book of quantum, has been superseded by the Personal Injuries Commission's recommendation that a judicial council, when established, be requested by the Minister for Justice and Equality to compile judicial guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury.
The second and final report made a further ten recommendations. While these are not timebound, I expect that they will be implemented as soon as possible by the relevant bodies. Following publication of this report, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, wrote to relevant colleagues in the Government and other organisations seeking co-operation in advancing the implementation of the recommendations relevant to them. Progress on implementing the recommendations is reported on through the cost of insurance working group progress reports. Four of the recommendations relate directly to recommendations in the two cost of insurance working group reports. Of the remaining six, as at the end of 2018, one is complete and the remaining five recommendations, including two relating to the development of judicial guidelines, were under consideration by relevant organisations.
The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect on 3 April with the aim of strengthening the board in terms of operational issues to ensure greater compliance with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board process. This measure forms part of the Government’s response to facilitate cost savings in the claims environment.
The cumulative effects of the implementation of all the recommendations I have outlined, namely, the two reports of the Personal Injuries Commission, the reports of the cost of insurance working group and the measures contained in the 2019 Act, should bring greater consistency and predictability to awards, which is really important, and faster resolution of claims and ultimately, a reduction in insurance premiums. This will benefit consumers, businesses and society as a whole.
Small businesses up and down the country have been crippled by massive increases in insurance costs. Pubs, bars, farms and marts have all seen their insurance premiums rise by thousands of euro in recent years. Among the reasons for the increases in premiums advanced to us at the committee were the increasing levels of awards. The Personal Injuries Commission confirmed that the level of damages for soft tissue whiplash injuries in Ireland is 4.4 times higher than in England and Wales. In addition, the level of fraudulent, false or exaggerated claims was highlighted as a major concern by a large number of stakeholders.
Several witnesses told the committee that in the current system there is little disincentive to make fraudulent, false or exaggerated claims.
I accept the Minister of State referred to the first four recommendations. However, regarding the other ten recommendations which are not timebound, will he agree that it would be more effective if a timescale for implementation was put on them?
I agree with the Deputy on the awards made in certain cases. The Government is committed to ensure we get these measures put in place. As I stated already, it is about the cumulative effect of what we have been putting into place. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019 is important legislation as it encourages people to settle awards out of court. That will mean reduced costs and fewer high awards. As my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy D’Arcy, has said, there is no silver bullet in this matter. The cumulative effect of the 14 recommendations, however, will be important, together with the recommendations from the Personal Injuries Commission report. It wants to include the judicial council and the awards of the Court of Appeal. In many cases, the awards have been halved by the Court of Appeal. All these factors have to be taken into consideration.
The Deputy has pointed out how high insurance costs are in Ireland compared to the UK and how soft tissue injury awards are 4.4 times higher here than for similar injuries in England and Wales.
We can suggest many measures to tackle increasing insurance costs and insurance fraud. Without follow-up action, however, we will not see the benefits of these implementations. It is unacceptable that we are still without a dedicated Garda unit specifically tasked with fighting insurance fraud. Setting up such a unit would be an important development.
Last week it was reported that senior members of the Judiciary have called for proposals for a working group to be set up comprising judges, officials from the Department of Justice and Equality and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board to revise guidelines for awards levels for less serious injuries such as whiplash.
Has the Minister of State had any engagement with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and the Minister for Justice and Equality on this proposed work?
The Minister for Justice and Equality is working on this. We have published guidelines on the reporting of fraudulent insurance claims to the Garda Síochána.
The combination of what we have done over the past several years will bear fruition shortly. The Deputy referred to small businesses and she did a report on that for the enterprise committee. It is important to ensure that the measures put into place work out.
The European Commission carried out a report on the Irish motor insurance industry in 2017. Today, it announced that it decided to carry out an in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. As it is the subject of a formal investigation by the Commission, we do not want to comment on it or prejudge what is going on with the insurance industry in Ireland. We are determined to get to the bottom of this to ensure we can get cheaper insurance, not just for motorists but for businesses for which the Deputy has a concern.
44. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions and preventions taken to support the midlands region in terms of employment in view of the recent job losses in Bord na Móna. [20901/19]
Will the Minister outline the actions and preventions taken to support the midlands region in terms of employment in view of the recent job losses in Bord na Móna?
While recognising the challenges posed in the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy, I especially regret that individual workers, their families and the community will be negatively impacted by the job losses announced by Bord na Móna.
Since I became Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made job creation and enterprise development in the regions a top priority. I launched the new midlands regional enterprise plan on 6 February last in Mountmellick, County Laois. It has emerged from a bottom-up collaborative process which ensures regional stakeholders remain focused on delivering on the employment targets set to 2020 under the original regional action plan for jobs, as well as ensuring the plans are robust and relevant in the context of today's challenges and opportunities.
The midlands have made excellent progress with employment growth of 18.5%, well above the 2020 target. The midlands plan complements the ongoing work of the enterprise agencies and the local enterprise offices in the region through driving collaborative initiatives with the local authorities, the regional skills forum, tourism bodies, enterprise champions and higher and further education bodies.
The midlands plan sets out seven strategic objectives for enterprise growth which span areas such as addressing the challenges posed by the transition to a low-carbon economy, big data opportunities, advanced manufacturing, place-making and marketing, tourism, food and skills development. The first of these objectives aims to ensure the midlands is well positioned to address the challenges posed by the transition to a low-carbon economy and renewable energy. Actions include development of Portlaoise as a low-carbon town, county climate adaptation strategies, feasibility of developing an energy park, along with progressing aquaculture and herb production opportunities.
In October 2018, Bord na Móna detailed plans to implement strand 1 of its brown-to-green strategy to consolidate and simplify traditional peat harvesting operations. In response to this announcement, a regional transition team, including the local authorities, enterprise agencies and others, was established by Offaly County Council.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The midlands regional enterprise plan to 2020 is strongly aligned with and supports the work of the regional transition team, in particular, by encouraging collaboration to develop employment opportunities.
Finally, it is important to note that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development including my Department’s regional enterprise development fund, the rural and urban regeneration and development funds under Project Ireland 2040 and the town and village renewal scheme. Under the €60 million competitive regional enterprise development fund, the midlands have secured total funding of over €2.8 million under the two completed calls to date.
I thank the Minister for her response and agree the job losses will affect workers and their families. That is why we must ensure that every effort possible is made for the midlands, which are a disadvantaged region.
I acknowledge and welcome the necessary seven objectives which the Department has outlined in the midlands regional enterprise plan to 2020. Since October 2018 when Bord na Móna announced 430 job losses, the midlands region has been deeply concerned about the need to transition to a more sustainable employment model. Will the Minister clarify what role or assistance her Department has provided to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment concerning the recent application to the European Commission's coal regions in transition platform?
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and I, along with the local authority, met with a group from the midlands regarding the Bord na Móna job losses at the time. The regional transition team was established by Offaly County Council in response to the announcement to consolidate and simplify traditional peat-harvesting operations. It aims to pursue funding opportunities and actions to mitigate the impact of the Bord na Móna job losses on the individuals concerned, as well as the impact on the local and regional economy. It also aims at positioning the region to develop alternative forms of employment, attract investment, as well as maximising existing employment opportunity and resources. It comprises Offaly County Council and all stakeholders, including the Athlone Institute of Technology, education and training boards, chambers of commerce and the eastern and midlands regional climate action office. I understand they would have all been part of that application.
I thank the Minister for her response. The first objective of the midlands enterprise plan aims to ensure the midlands are well positioned to address the challenges posed by the transition to a low-carbon economy and renewable energy. This clearly means it would be a cross-departmental effort. I acknowledge the transition forum which is working well. However, more is needed and it will require a whole-of-government approach.
I was disappointed by the reply to a parliamentary question last week regarding the European Commission's request to include the midlands as part of the platform on coal regions in transition. Given that the platform was launched in early 2017, a full year before Bord na Móna announced job losses, the Government's reaction seems a little lethargic. I would have liked it to have been more proactive. I have highlighted my concerns about the midlands region and the need to generate more jobs there and also the fact that the Government should give the greater attention and have more input in respect of it.
Go raibh maith agat. The Minister to respond.
The purpose of the platform on coal regions in transition is to facilitate investments for structural transformation, growth and jobs. There is no mention of it in the midlands regional enterprise plan.
The Minister to respond.
There are six objectives in the regional enterprise development plan. The Government supports all the agencies to provide the necessary support in the region. Hearing that there will be job losses in a traditional industry is a big blow to any region. Much work has been done. Many of the agencies, driven especially by the local authority, have collaborated here. The regional enterprise development fund is there to support companies and regions to come together to put forward good proposals, where agencies, industry and education work together, and a total of €2.841 million went into Westmeath, Laois and Offaly. The rural regeneration development fund has invested €5.3 million and a further €7.3 million has been invested through urban funds.
Science Foundation Ireland
45. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the strategic priorities she plans to deliver via the research programme supported by Science Foundation Ireland. [20929/19]
Earlier, the Taoiseach stated that the Dáil's declaration of a climate emergency was just symbolic. His statement is symbolic of the Government's approach to climate change. At a meeting with the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, last year, we discussed controversial comments by the head of Science Foundation Ireland in which he appeared to downplay the significance of the climate change issue. That was a cause of real concern. We raised our concerns at the time that Science Foundation Ireland's priorities were not focused on moving to a decarbonised economy. What has changed since then? What is changing? What does the Government intend to do, in conjunction with Science Foundation Ireland, to put decarbonisation centre stage in Ireland's research priorities. It is not central to those priorities now and there is no evidence that the position is changing.
The research funded through Science Foundation Ireland and the strategic direction that the agency provides is central to achieving many of the Government’s national strategic priorities as outlined across a range of policies and strategies Project Ireland 2040 and Innovation 2020.
Science Foundation Ireland's funding of scientific excellence with economic impact is also crucial to many aspects of the Government’s Future Jobs strategy. Future Jobs Ireland 2019, launched on 10 March last, is the first in a series of annual reports as part of a new multi-annual framework to ensure that our enterprises and workers are resilient and prepared for future challenges and opportunities. This is a whole-of-Government approach that will form a key part of Ireland’s economic agenda over the medium term.
As one of the major agencies of my Department, representatives from which I meet regularly, Science Foundation Ireland was allocated €206.61 million in funding in 2019. One of its key priorities for this year is the development of the network of 17 research centres to provide world-leading capacity in strategically important areas of research for the economy. Last week, the second phase funding for six of the original 2012 centres was announced, involving an investment of €230 million and match funding from industry of another €230 million, bringing the total amount involved to €460 million.
In March 2019, an additional €15.5 million in dedicated funding was announced for PhD and research masters enrolment through new six centres for researcher training. The centres will train 700 postgraduate students in areas of nationally and internationally identified future skills needs of digital, data and ICT. The first student intake will be in September. This new programme will be the subject of an investment of over €100 million from the Government over an eight-year period. The six centres are in the areas of machine learning, digitally enhanced reality, advanced networks for sustainable societies, foundations of data science and artificial intelligence.
This new programme is a direct response to the action in innovation 2020 to increase PhD and research masters output in areas aligned to enterprise needs.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Ireland needs to take a proactive approach to supporting its research and innovation sector in the light of Brexit, one which focuses on maximising the opportunities as well as mitigating the risks. Science Foundation Ireland is targeting globally-renowned researchers to relocate their research operations to Irish universities, benefitting Ireland but also offering these researchers certain access to EU funding.
Science Foundation Ireland has recently undertaken a widespread consultation as part of preparing the new strategy for the period 2020 to 2025. This new ambitious plan will be brought to Government for agreement and published by the end of the year.
I was in the Dáil when we passed the legislation to establish Science Foundation Ireland. We asked its first CEO, Bill Harris, why decarbonisation was not one of its priorities. He agreed that this was regrettable but the agency went on to concentrate on the areas of data analytics and biopharma. In the Green Party's time in government we changed this and added the third leg to the stool. It was starting to be implemented but that has disappeared in the past eight years.
It is welcome that €230 million will be invested in the six centres, as the Minister outlined, but this is symbolic of where we stand. I have nothing against AMBER, APC, Insight or the areas of data analytics and the bioeconomy. However, only one of those six centres, the marine and renewable energy research, development and innovation centre, MaREI, in Cork, is directly linked to the third leg of the stool of investment in climate action. What is changing? Where is the evidence of that priority being reflected in funding and the research centres to which reference is being made? I do not see it under the current programme.
Science Foundation Ireland funds large-scale research projects that are relevant to many of the recommendations outlined in the Citizens' Assembly report on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. Examples include climate-friendly agricultural practices, renewable energy sources and the mitigation of climate change effects. These projects are being funded in partnership with industry. Both SMEs and multinational corporations investment in fundamental research is critical to ensuring that Ireland is well positioned to deploy future climate mitigation technology.
The Deputy referred to the MaREI centre in Cork. The Minister and I announced new funding for the centre some days ago.
World-leading researchers and experts matter. Science Foundation Ireland is actively recruiting these researchers to Ireland. For example, the world-leading economic geologist Professor Murray Hitzman – I do not know if Deputy Eamon Ryan has heard of him, but I have – was appointed director of the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, iCRAG, in 2018. Professor Hitzman moved to Ireland from the USA to take up the post. Science Foundation Ireland investments are producing the skills required to advance the relevant sectors here through funding MSc., PhDs and postdoctoral positions.
I very much welcome the arrival here of the likes of Professor Hitzman. I wish him and iCRAG the very best of luck. It is important. However, I hoped for a breakdown of the figures. The Minister of State might provide one in a written response. The percentage of funding going to various categories suggests that the priorities in the State research sector are the two founding areas, namely, data analytics and biopharma. That needs to change. I seek evidence of change, other than the investment in the MaREI centre, which I welcome, or Professor Hitzman's arrival. I do not see this in the overall direction of investment and the priorities in SFI. That needs to change. This is the area where globally the most advanced research will be needed. Every country will be doing this. If we are going to become climate leaders, we should lead in this area too. Under the current Science foundation Ireland programme, we are not doing so.
I will provide an analysis and breakdown in respect of the 17 research centres. For the Deputy's information, a former MaREI researcher is now technical director of Ocean Energy, an SME that is building a 1.2 MW energy device in Portland, Oregon, as part of a USA-Ireland collaboration.
The Deputy will be well aware how the 17 research centres are funded and how they have been developed over the past number of years.
Ireland is now ranked ninth in innovation on the innovation scoreboards in Europe. In the top ten science subjects, Ireland is now second in agri-science, second in nanotechnology, fourth in chemistry and fifth in material sciences. Much of that has to do with the work that is being done through Science Foundation Ireland and our collaboration and co-operation with major industries, universities and institutes of technology.
The Deputy is correct in saying that a lot more needs to be done on defining what climate change is, how we deal with it and whether we can deal with it through our research centres. Within a week, I will have an analysis done as to where we work on and how we address climate change through any of the centres and I will have it sent on to the Deputy.
I appreciate that.