The current Cycle 5 of the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI) was announced in 2010 and has involved Exchequer expenditure of approx. €277m with a further €59m of private investment Cycle 5 projects have now been completed and my Department is addressing the remaining payments associated with these awards. In addition to supporting the provision of top-class research infrastructure (buildings, laboratories and cutting-edge equipment), PRTLI saw significant investment in human capital development, through Structured PhD/Emergent Technology programmes across Ireland’s Higher Education Institutes (HEIs).
Innovation 2020, the Government's strategy for research and innovation, includes an action to scope out and develop a successor to PRTLI to support new investment in research infrastructure, including buildings and equipment. It also contains an action to increase the enrolment of PhD and research masters students. The scoping of a future cycle of PRTLI has been undertaken by my Department, working with the Department of Education and Skills (DES).
While future cycles of PRTLI are referenced in the National Development Plan, Project Ireland 2040, it is important to note that actions are already being taken by DBEI and DES to fund all of the key elements that had been encompassed by PRTLI including research buildings, equipment and structured PhD programmes. These actions include:
- My Department, through Science Foundation Ireland, has allocated circa €75m for research equipment across the higher education system since the start of 2016, providing significant additional investment for research equipment.
- My Department, again through Science Foundation Ireland, has commenced roll-out of a new €100 million programmes of investment in PhDs and Research Masters through new Centres for Research Training (CRT). The annual budget for this programme increased to €15 million this year. The CRT programme will provide training for cohorts of Research Masters and PhD students with new cohorts of students enrolling each year for four years from 2019. It will provide training for 700 postgraduate students in areas of nationally and internationally identified future skills needs of digital, data and ICT. The first intake of 126 students commenced in September 2019.
- As regards buildings, under Project Ireland 2040, €2.2 billion has been earmarked for higher education infrastructure over the period 2018-2027. This spending by the Department of Education and Skills will be focused on expanding capacity and upgrading existing infrastructure, as in other sectors, the funding increase will be gradual during the first half of the period. Funding programmes include the Higher Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund which has five major projects and the Higher Education PPP programme, which incorporates eleven projects across the Institute of Technology/Technological University sector. It also includes the funding of certain research activities, most notably by the Irish Research Council.
The actions being taken by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills are addressing to a significant degree the requirements for increased investment in both physical infrastructure and human capital in higher education research as identified in Innovation 2020.