Thursday, 27 June 2019

Questions (5)

Billy Kelleher


5. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to set out by county the number of payments issued to date for successful applications made under the disruptive technologies innovation fund, DTIF; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27394/19]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Business)

Will the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation set out by county the number of payments issued to date for successful applications made under the DTIF? Will she make a statement on the matter?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The DTIF is a €500 million fund established under Project Ireland 2040 and forms a key part in the delivery of the pillar 1 goal of future jobs Ireland to embrace innovation and technological change.

In December 2018, a total of 27 collaborative projects were approved for funding under the first call of the fund. The DTIF will result in investment in the research, development and deployment of disruptive technologies and applications on a commercial basis. The successful projects come from the health, food, ICT and manufacturing sectors in Ireland. There are 104 organisations involved in the 27 projects that will receive funding. These include large enterprises, SMEs, colleges and public research bodies. Several colleges and public research bodies are involved in multiple projects.

A total of 18 successful projects involve partners based outside Dublin. They are located in Limerick, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Monaghan, Waterford, Louth and Tipperary. As indicated in December 2018, the 27 projects involve a request for DTIF funding of approximately €75 million, of which €20 million is due to be drawn down during 2019.

The DTIF is being administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of my Department. Contracts are now being finalised by Enterprise Ireland in respect of each of the 27 projects and grant drawdown will commence shortly. With this fund, as with typical grant funding programmes, most recipients will have to incur up to six months of costs before grant payments will issue. A proportion of the funding can be provided in advance to the higher education institutes involved in the projects and, in certain circumstances, to small firms with fewer than 50 employees.

In September 2019, the first payments of DTIF call 1 will have been made and I will be in a position to provide information by county at that point. I expect it will be late in 2019 before I can report on the full 2019 drawdown of DTIF funding. Pending this, the details of each of the successful projects, including the partners involved in each, a brief description of each project and the value of funding approved, is available on my Department website. I will be officially launching the second call of the disruptive technologies innovation fund in early July. As part of this event, an information session on the fund will be held for potential applicants.

I welcome the fund. We welcomed the announcement of the fund at the time as part of Project Ireland 2040. However, we are now one year on. Applications were sought and made and funding was approved, yet no payments have been made to date. Sometimes this diminishes Government announcements. That is not a criticism but an observation at this stage. It diminishes Government announcements that utterances are made but action is slow to follow.

Disruptive technologies, by their nature, are aggressive exciting, changing and dynamic, yet the fund underpinning the assessment of these technologies and the impact they will have on industry and broader society does not have these characteristics. We seem to be slow, lethargic and incapable of making the assessments and payments quickly. I would welcome the Minister's observations on those points.

When I announce funding, I want it spent. In this case, this is a new fund. Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to have a fund like this in place. This makes Ireland an innovation leader globally. There is a great deal of collaboration on the projects between colleges, multinationals, SMEs and public research bodies. There is a lot of money at play, with €75 million available in the first call. Naturally, it will take time to finalise the contracts. As this is taxpayers' money, we need to ensure that everything is done right and in accordance with the public spending code. Drawdown of funding is expected to commence in September. It is important to remember that these projects are being carried out over a three-year timeframe. The sum of €20 million is provided in my Department's baseline for the DTIF in 2019. I have been assured by Enterprise Ireland, which is administering the scheme on behalf of the Government, that the full €20 million will be drawn down by the end of the year. There is significant demand for this scheme. I will officially launch the second call in July.

I thank the Minister.

I beg the indulgence of the Acting Chairman and the House for 30 seconds. As this is the final opportunity I will have to speak in this Parliament, I thank the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and those who previously held that position, the Acting Chairman, all of my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party, my family, friends and everybody who helped me on my amazing journey. I thank the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, current and past, for their courtesy and professionalism over the many years during my time in this House. To the people of Cork North-Central, it has been an honour and a privilege to serve them. I hope I never took that honour and privilege for granted.

I am sure everybody here will join me in wishing Deputy Kelleher well. When I was elected in 2016, I came to this House not knowing much.

The Deputy went out of his way to help me and all new Deputies. It was always a privilege to sit with him at parliamentary meetings and in this Chamber. I know the Deputy has a special friendship with Roscommon. Hopefully, that will continue. I wish him well in Europe and I thank him for the valuable contribution he has made, and will continue to make, in Europe, not alone on behalf of the south of Ireland but all of Ireland.