Thursday, 24 October 2013

Questions (269)

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

269. Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Health his views on the multiple independent procurements of research grant management software by agencies under the control of his Department and the total cost to the taxpayer of these systems; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the same supplier has supplied all but one of these systems and that all are complaint with EU Commission standards on the exchange of research information and are all capable of being integrated into one grant management system, as has been done in the US and the UK, with the consequent savings that produces; the reason despite the existence of a national research platform report, no progress has been made on the implementation of an integrated national research platform; and if his attention has been drawn to the consequent diversion of resources in research bodies HEs and others to the management of these multiple systems and away from the proper good governance of public resources spent on research. [45568/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Report on a National Research Platform to which the Deputy refers was published in 2008. This report was aimed at generating a platform to house and view/search details of those researchers and projects funded by the various State agencies (to avoid having to search in each website). The only agency under the aegis of my Department to which the Deputy's question refers is the Health Research Board (HRB).

The HRB manages a portfolio of health research awards with a value exceeding €150 million. The HRB submitted a business case to my Department seeking approval to proceed with the procurement of a new grant management solution to replace two legacy systems which were not fit for purpose (issues pertaining to stability, high cost of maintenance and poor usability). The HRB received final approval of €100,000 for this system in November 2011. To date €45,000 has been spent on the project with a further €55,000 to be spent over the next three to four years.

As part of the process of seeking approval for a new Grant Management system, the HRB engaged extensively with other agencies and public bodies to explore collaboration options. This included a series of meetings with Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. In each of these cases it did not prove possible to align the individual business requirements with the procurement cycle in such a way as to allow the HRB to proceed within the time frame it needed to migrate from its legacy platform.