Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (326)

Seán Kyne

Question:

326. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will, in view of the very welcome recent investment into research and development at higher education institutions, the supports available from his Department and relevant agencies to support the commercialisation of research projects; if he will provide an indication of the number of supported projects and research programmes that have resulted in successful commercialisation in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21551/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

There has been significant investment in research and development in the higher education sector in recent years. This investment is critical to support Ireland’s Innovation ecosystem, to ensure we are an attractive location for investment and to develop high value human capital for our economy. In addition to these benefits the commercialisation of research represents one of the most direct ways a return from this investment can be seen and this return is most recognisably evidenced by the number of commercially valuable technologies transferred from the higher education sector to industry and the number of spinout companies created that are based on academic research. Enterprise Ireland is the State agency with responsibility for the commercialisation of all research funded in the State. Enterprise Ireland employs two main approaches in commercialising Irish research; it funds the commercialisation & technology transfer infrastructure in the State and it operates a commercialisation funding programme.

The aim of the technology transfer infrastructural support is to increase the level and quality of Intellectual Property (IP) from research, and to help create effective systems to transfer this valuable knowledge into companies in Ireland. This transfer of technology to companies results in the creation of new products, processes and services which can be scaled-up for export. Enterprise Ireland supports technology transfer through its Technology Transfer Strengthening Programme (TTSI), which supports the Technology Transfer Offices in the third levels sector in bringing fresh ideas from the research environment to the attention of existing industry in a useable format. A review of the initial TTSI programme is due to be completed early this year. Results to date show that this programme has performed well. In 2005, before Enterprise Ireland technology transfer support existed, 12 technologies were licensed to industry. This figure has increased significantly since then, with 119 licences to industry in 2013. The second phase of the Technology Transfer Strengthening Programme (TTSI 2) was launched in 2012. TSSI 2 is a €22 million initiative (€5.5 million per annum from 2013-2016), which will significantly boost interaction between industry and higher education institutions. This work represents a key part of the process of unlocking the creative potential of researchers to support innovation in industry, leading to jobs and economic growth. Building on the investment to date, the overall objectives of phase 2 of the Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative are to develop the Irish technology transfer system such that it will respond quickly and flexibly to industry, deliver direct economic benefits, and radically enhancing the culture of commercialisation among researchers in the Irish HEI sector. The table below outlines the outputs of the TTSI Programme since its establishment.

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-

Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative Programme in place

Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative Programme in place

Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative Programme in place

Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative Programme in place

Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative Programme in place

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Metrics

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Licence/ Option Assignment

28

56

67

100

93

118

87

119

Spin Outs

3

13

7

35

31

31

15

34

Invention Disclosures

193

271

407

457

431

402

373

435

Patents Applications

107

124

202

148

101

141

113

119

A further initiative to support commercialisation and technology transfer is the establishment of Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) - the new name for the central Technology Transfer Office. The KTI is headed by Dr Alison Campbell, who was appointed as Director in September 2013. The formal launch of the KTI and web portal is planned for later this month. The KTI will make it easier for companies to access and use ideas developed through publicly-funded research and to develop new products and services and ultimately create jobs and exports. The KTI will also ensure that the IP Protocol launched in 2012 is delivering to the needs of business and stakeholders. The remit of the KTI will include promoting, enabling and monitoring HEI/business engagement across a wide range of intellectual assets. Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund Programme aims to improve the competitiveness of the Irish economy through the creation of technology based start-up companies and the transfer of innovations developed in Higher Education Institutes and Research Performing Organisations to industry in Ireland. The programme funds the development of innovations at all stages of the commercial pipeline to the point where they can be commercialised.

The following number of projects received support from the Commercialisation Fund in each of the last three years:

- 2011: 65 projects

- 2012: 105 projects

- 2013: 64 projects

The number of academic-industry research collaborations is also a relevant indicator of commercialisation performance in the system. In 2013, Ireland was ranked 13th out of 132 countries in the 2012/13 Global Competitiveness Report. This improvement is driven by Government policy and by ongoing Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation programmes aimed at driving collaboration. In 2013, EI supported 839 collaborative innovations between industry and third level. This figure is comprised of the redeemed Innovation Voucher figure, the Technology Gateway projects, Innovation Partnerships and supported FP7 collaborative projects. When this is added to the circa 300 companies in Technology Centres, this gives a figure of over 1,100 companies were engaged in collaborative research projects in 2013 via Enterprise Ireland schemes. In 2013, SFI researchers were involved in over 1,000 linkages with industry working directly with over 700 companies. This represents a significant increase over the 2010 figure of 534 and the 2009 figure of 389.

Ireland is scoring top of the class in Europe in terms of knowledge transfer. In the European Commission Knowledge Transfer Study 2010-2012 (published June 2013) Ireland is ranked first (out of 23 countries) in terms of knowledge transfer performance of public research organisations in individual countries. Ireland has also been ranked third in the EU according to the new "Indicator of Innovation Output" which measures the extent to which ideas from innovative sectors are able to reach the market, providing better jobs and making Europe more competitive. This provides strong evidence that our research investment is delivering on economic growth and the jobs agenda.