Professor Patrick Cunningham, the chief science advisor to the Goverment addressed the IRCHSS and IRCSET Postdoctoral Symposium at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin in July, 2011. He spoke about how, over thirty years ago, the sector had responded to the need to create a more educated workforce to attract foreign companies and investment to Ireland.
"Of the OECD countries as a whole, those entering the workforce with third-level education have been increasing at a half per cent per year. So over 30 years it has come up about 15%. In Ireland, it has come up at a 60% faster rate. We started thirty years ago well below the OECD avergage and now, we're well above it".
However,in the 1990s, it was realised that this was not enough and the Goverment promised to create 1,000 Ph.Ds. every year.
He continued "We're probably about average now - we have six per 1,000 of our workforce with qualifications at Ph.D. level. Some countries have a great deal more and those that we compete best against are actually moving faster than we are. Nevertheless, if we look back over the last ten years, there is a lot to be content about. We had grownth in the celtic tiger years of about 7% a year in GDP- extraordinary by Western European Standards- but in fact the investment in R&D both business and public, has been increasing by 14% twice that rate".
In 2011 IRCHSS and IRCSET will grant €10 million in awards to Irish researchers.