Everyone seriously interested in the future prosperity of our country will certainly welcome this Bill. We are living in an age, as everyone knows, of ruthless technological competition and unless we gather all our forces, we simply will not survive in this competitive world. Very often, when these drastic developments are put into operation, the work of some smaller private or voluntary bodies is affected. This evening, very briefly, I should like to refer to one voluntary body which will be affected to some extent by this Bill. I should like the Minister to give the position his sympathetic consideration, as I am sure he will.
The body I have in mind is the Institute of Irish Inventors, founded about four years ago by some citizens of Dublin and of the country in general. It collected a very fine body of advisers and has a hard-working committee, and for nearly four years now, it has been pursuing its objectives very effectively in its quiet and small way. I should like to mention two of the objects which this Institute of Irish Inventors has before it: (1) To assist the members by giving advice on the protection of their ideas, suitability of inventions, marketing, and patents; to encourage potential inventors to pursue their idea so as to ensure a useful flow of ideas to the market and to form a link between the inventor and the various sources of information, supply and demand; (2) to provide a panel of experts to assess the commercial potentialities of a novelty or device and to give advice on the best method of manufacture and marketing.
Clearly, a good deal of this effort will be taken over by the reconstituted Institute. What I should like to know is what is the future of the Institute of Irish Inventors? It has no paid staff; it has no property; it has no offices except those given by voluntary support About a year ago I understand some representatives of the Institute approached the Minister's Department. They had very friendly discussions with some of the officials and they came away hopeful that perhaps they might get some Government support. With that in mind, the Institute has not been as active within the past year as in previous years. The Institute knew something was brewing and developing and held its hand.
During the past year or so, the Institute has mostly confined its activities to affording help and advice on a purely personal and voluntary basis to inventors, because the introduction of legislation was apparently impending.
The problem for us in the House and I think for the Minister is whether an Institute of that kind can continue to serve its useful function under this legislation. The newly reconstituted Institute will take over a good many of its functions and, what is more, the newly constituted Institute will take over most of the lucrative inventions. I imagine that if any one of these Irish inventors has something that is likely to be really valuable for Irish industry, he will, of course, go to the Industrial Research Institute from this private body.
On the other hand, as Senator Quinlan was saying, it is unwise to draw too firm a line between commissioned industrial research and what we might call free invention. Very often, it is the crack-pot inventor, or the person who is believed to be a crack-pot inventor, who really turns up with something of immense value not only to his country but the whole world. That has happened in the past. It is the eccentric who sometimes produces the unusual and valuable invention.
I suggest that this small but effective body can still serve a useful purpose but its sources of revenue which are very small will be probably considerably diminished by the new body set up under the Bill. I wonder what the Minister's policy in a matter of this kind would be? Would he be prepared either under this Bill or by some separate provision to give some funds to this Institute of Irish Inventors to help them to work parallel with his own Industrial Research Institute? Personally, I think that for the sake of the country, it would be worth doing. This Institute is able, on a kind of personal direction basis, to do what a big Government institute sometimes cannot do. I think something will be lost if this Institute completely goes out of operation, as there is some risk, although I hope it will not come to that.
I would ask the Minister if there is any possibility that he could either under this Bill or in some other way find funds to help this voluntary organisation. It has, amongst others, on its list of patrons a Nobel prizewinner and several other distinguished Irish scientists and industrialists. It is not a completely negligible body by any means. The Minister would be well advised to consider its welfare and how this Bill will affect it.
Another measure the Minister might consider is to give one of its leading members representation on the board which is being set up under this Bill so that at least there will be some kind of liaison between the Institute of Irish Inventors and the Industrial Research Institute. I know there is a certain risk that when these very desirable and necessary developments are put into operation, small and valuable bodies will be swept aside. I know that the Minister is broad-minded enough to realise that it is not always the big, highly-organised body that gets all the good results, that occasionally the small rather personally run bodies can produce very surprisingly valuable results. While welcoming this Bill otherwise, I would appeal to the Minister to take this matter into account and do what he can do to keep this useful element in our society going as strongly as it has been going in the past.