Written Answers. - Basic Research Grants Scheme.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

46 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the proposals she has to raise the level of funding for new projects under the basic science programme from the present £6,000,000 to at least £12,000,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17521/01]

The basic research grants scheme, which is directed at supporting high-quality basic research projects in the third level sector, with a particular emphasis on the training of new graduates, is an essential element of the Government's research, technological development and innovation strategy.

This scheme has been expanded considerably in recent years from a base of £0.83 million in 1994. The amount of £6.32 million for new projects which has been approved for the basic research grant scheme this year represents a substantial increase of 35% on the £4.68 million funding approved last year. The increase in overall funding has allowed a dramatic increase in funding granted to individual projects, with an average cost of £91,000 per project in 2001 compared to £55,000 last year. This expansion is in line with the recommendations contained in the independent review of the scheme carried out by Technopolis in 1997.
The Government's commitment to basic research as a driver of economic growth extends beyond the basic research grants scheme. In particular, the technology foresight fund, administered by Science Foundation Ireland, will provide £500 million over the course of the National Development Plan, 2000-2006, to build up world class basic research capacity in niche areas of key strategic interest to Ireland in the fields of biotechnology and information and communication technologies. The programme for research in third level institutes – PRTLI – which is administered by the Higher Education Authority, also provides significant funding over the course of the national development plan for the strategic development of basic research infrastructure in Irish higher education institutions.
The overall objective of the basic research grants scheme is to train researchers and develop a good research base here in Ireland. I am confident that the funding provided for basic research under the scheme and under the many other measures provided for in the National Development Plan, 2000-2006, will ensure that this objective is met.