This Bill has two main purposes. One is to provide a more effective organisation for the promotion of industrial research. The other is to formulate standard specifications for industrial commodities, processes and practices. For these purposes, provision is made in the Bill for the establishment and maintenance of an institute for industrial research and standards. The functions of the institute as set out in the Bill are: to undertake, encourage and foster scientific research and investigation with the object of (1) promoting the utilisation of the natural resources of the State, (2) improving the technical processes and methods used in the industries of the State, (3) promoting and facilitating the expansion of existing industries or the development of new industries; also to make recommendations to the Minister as to the formulation of standard specifications for commodities, processes and practices and the provision and use of standard marks for commodities, which conform to standard specifications, and to test and analyse commodities intended for sale or for use by the public. It is necessary to stress that it is proposed that the institute should have these functions only. It is to be severely practical in its work. It is not being established to undertake fundamental research but to apply known scientific principles to the development of industry and industrial technique. Its standardisation work will be directly related to known economic and social needs and to the productive capacity of Irish industry.
The Seanad is no doubt already aware of the special steps to organise research activities under State auspices which have been taken in the past. They include the setting up of such bodies as the Industrial Research Council, the Emergency Scientific Research Bureau, the Building Research Committee and the provision for an experimental station in connection with turf development contained in the recent Turf Development Bill. The Industrial Research Council was the first of these organisations. It was appointed in March, 1934, and is still functioning.
The general function of the Industrial Research Council is to furnish advice or take such action as may be approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce for promoting the use of natural resources, and for furthering industrial development by scientific research. All the members of that council are unpaid. It functions under the auspices of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It was established by means of a formal minute of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is intended that it will cease to function as soon as this new body is established. The Industrial Research Council had very little scope for independent action. It was required to obtain the prior approval of the Minister for Industry and Commerce for any research activities it undertook, and if that work involved the expenditure of funds the approval of the Minister for Finance was also required. It had no laboratory and no permanent staff. Most of its research work was carried out in the laboratories of the universities. While the Industrial Research Council did a great amount of very useful work, the limited powers given to it circumscribed the field of its activities in a very definite degree. The Emergency Scientific Research Bureau was established as a temporary organisation in February, 1941, to give the Government technical advice, and to conduct research on emergency problems in relation to industrial processes and raw materials. The bureau worked in co-operation with the Industrial Research Council and took advantage of the council's organisation and experience. The activities of the bureau were, however, terminated early in 1945. Since the bureau terminated, the services of the Industrial Research Council have been availed of in connection with problems arising out of emergency conditions.
In December, 1944, the Building Research Committee was appointed. Its function was to furnish advice and take such action as might be approved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in technical matters relating to the building industry, including the preparation of standard specifications for building materials. A number of standard specifications have been prepared by that committee. It also is still functioning, and it is contemplated that it will become one of the advisory committees associated with the industrial research institute when this Bill has been enacted.
The House will remember that the Turf Development Act, which was recently before it, made provision for the establishment of an experimental station for the conduct of investigations into various problems associated with the production of turf by mechanical methods and the utilisation of turf and turf products. The new institute, which this Bill is intended to set up, will be so constituted as to preserve the advantages of the three research bodies to which I have referred, and to include other features found in research and standards organisations in other countries, and considered desirable in the circumstances of this country. It is recognised that for research, especially for applied or industrial research, elastic conditions of control and development are required. In order to give the proposed institute as great a measure of independence as is practicable, the Bill provides that it shall be a body corporate. The constituent parts of the institute will be a council, an industrial research committee, a standards committee and a director of industrial research and standards. The council will consist of the members of the industrial research committee and of the standards committee, who will be ex officio members of the council, and, in addition thereto, not more than 50 other members, each of whom will be appointed for his special attainments. As many members of the present industrial research council as are willing to act will be appointed to the first council. That proposed council for the institute will have advisory functions only. It will meet at least once a year, and it will have the duty of considering and making observations on the draft annual report, and on the programme of the work of the institute. It is contemplated that the annual meeting of the council of the institute might be held in public, and that it would ultimately take the form of a scientific convention which, by providing an occasion for the reading of special papers and a discussion on those papers, would help to arouse interest in the work of the institute.
The industrial research committee will consist of not more than nine members, each of whom will be appointed for his special scientific attainments applied to industry, or because he is capable of giving substantial practical assistance in the work of the institute. The committee will be appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and will be charged with the general government of the institute and the administration of its affairs, particularly the administration of its finances, subject to the reservations to the standards committee and to the director.
The standards committee as proposed will consist of seven members, of whom three must be members of the research committee. The members of the standards committee will also be appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and it will be their duty to formulate standard specifications for commodities and processes at the request of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Provision has been made for the standards committee as a separate organ of the institute as it would be undesirable to give the standards committee a status inferior to that of the industrial research committee. The two committees will be linked together by having a common director as well as the same members in common. The director of industrial research and of standards will have as his primary duties the direction, supervision and conduct of research decided on by the industrial research committee and the formulation of specifications by the standards committee. He will, however, have the right, independently of the industrial research committee, to conduct such research as he may think proper on behalf of the institute. It will be appreciated, however, that the committee will control the finances of the institute and that the power given to the director to carry on research activities outside the field laid down by the industrial research committee is designed to enable him to make the fullest and the most continuous use of the staff and resources of the institute.
The director will have the right to attend and speak at meetings of the council and of the two committees— the industrial research committee and the standards committee. He will not have the right to vote at any meeting. He will have power to appoint advisory committees to consult with him and advise him in relation to any of its functions, subject, in the case of functions with which the industrial research or standards committee is concerned, to the prior consent of the committee. I have mentioned that that provision of the Bill will allow for the services of existing organisations of a special kind such as a building research committee to be availed of for the purposes of the institute. Provision is made in the Bill whereby the institute will carry out researches, investigations, tests and analyses at the request of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and also on its own initiative, provided it is in the public interest to do so. The institute will have power to render such assistance, financial or otherwise, as it thinks proper to persons undertaking research of a kind which the institute is itself authorised to undertake. It can also, subject to the approval of the Minister, provide scholarships and other awards for the training of persons in industrial research, and pay bonuses or royalties to members of its staff who have made or have materially assisted in making important discoveries or inventions. I may mention that all discoveries and inventions resulting from researches undertaken by the institute will be the property of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, subject to the special provision in the case of work undertaken for private persons.