Government publishes ambitious Innovation Strategy - Innovation 2020: Excellence Talent Impact

8th December 2015

L-R: Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland and Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD

Strategy is aimed at building on success in science strategy of past decade through highly ambitious private-public collaborations

Innovation is a key part of overall jobs strategy Enterprise 2025, aimed at delivering full employment

The Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD, together with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Jobs, today published Innovation 2020, Ireland’s 5-year strategy for research and development, science and technology.

This innovation plan is a key element of the Government’s overall jobs strategy, Enterprise 2025, aimed at building a new economy based on exports and enterprise, and delivering full employment on a sustainable basis.

The strategy is aimed at building on the significant successes delivered by the Government’s science strategy over the past decade, which has seen Ireland dramatically improve its performance globally in this area. The next phase of the strategy is aimed at building on existing infrastructures and achieving ambitious private-public collaborations.

A key ambition of the Strategy is to increase total investment in R&D in Ireland, led by the private sector, to 2.5% of GNP. On current official projections, this would mean that over €5billion will be invested per year in R&D by the private and public sectors by 2020. This will represent almost doubling current levels of investment (€2.9billion in 2014).

Among the other ambitious targets to be delivered by the strategy are:

  • the number of research personnel in enterprise will be increased by 60% to 40,000
  • research masters and PhD enrolments will be increased by 30% to 2,250;
  • private investment of R&D performed in the public research system will be doubled
  • 40% increase in the share of PhD researchers transferring from SFI research teams to industry
  • Ireland's participation in International Research Organisations will be expanded – we will apply for full membership of ELIXIR, and we will explore membership options for CERN and ESO
  • the network of Research Centres will be further developed, building critical mass and addressing enterprise needs;
  • a successor to the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions will be rolled out to include investment in the creation of new, and the maintenance and upgrading of existing, facilities and equipment and ensure full utilisation;
  • €1.25bn funding under the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 will be drawn down;
  • a new Programme of Funding for Frontier Research will be introduced, providing resilience and responsiveness to meet new challenges or opportunities as they emerge;
  • challenge-centric research will be initiated to stimulate solutions-driven collaborations bringing together enterprise, higher education institutions and public sector to identify and address national challenges
  • horizon-scanning – in the coming years a formal horizon-scanning exercise will be undertaken to identify areas of strategic commercial opportunity for Irish-based enterprises. This process will feed into the next research prioritisation exercise in 2018
  • international benchmarking – we will benchmark Ireland’s performance in these areas against other comparable economies, and develop steps to improve our comparative performance

Launching the report, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD said: “Developing the talent of our population is an underlying aim of Innovation 2020 and will be critical to the successful realisation of our national vision, of Ireland as an innovation leader.  Our success in delivering on our vision will depend on our people - undertaking the research, working in and creating successful enterprises, and contributing to the society in which we live.  We will support talent development from primary level through to Postdoctoral research and from frontier research across all disciplines to practical application. We will support the successful deployment of that talent and research in driving innovation in enterprises and public services.”

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD said: "Innovation 2020 is a key element in our plan to keep the recovery going by helping to create new jobs and new opportunities for research. It sets out a vision in which Ireland would become a Global Innovation Leader, with research, development, science and technology all contributing to this goal. Our reputation for research excellence has been a major catalyst in our success in attracting and maintaining foreign direct investment, and this Strategy demonstrates that we remain strongly committed to maintaining and improving standards in the excellence of our research."

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “At the heart of our overall jobs strategy is rebuilding a sustainable economy based on enterprise, exports and innovation, to replace the failed economy based on debt and property that was built up during the last decade. A key part of this is improving our performance in innovation. In recent years we have built up a base of performance in innovation that has brought us into the top 10 of the international rankings – the aim now is to improve on this, and truly make Ireland a global leader in this area. This strategy sets out a range of ambitious actions for delivering on this, and under the leadership of Minister Damien English I am confident that we can deliver on this – with massive impact on our ability to grow the economy and create the jobs we need”.

Welcoming the launch of the strategy, Professor Mark WJ Ferguson, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “I welcome the new strategy Innovation 2020 which highlights the importance of scientific research and innovation to all aspects of Ireland’s future and which confirms the Government’s commitment to increase both public and private investment in this area.  Innovation 2020 builds on the considerable past successes and outlines some ambitious new plans such as challenge based funding.  Science, innovation and technology are driving rapid global changes and the world is becoming more competitive. Ireland needs to continue to push forward: be the creators and owners of new ideas and innovations, upskill our people, strengthen and future proof our economy and society. Implementation of Innovation 2020 will allow us to do that: excellence, talent and impact.”


Notes for Editors

Innovation 2020 Full and Key Messages

Improvement in Ireland’s performance in R&D over recent years:

  • Ireland has improved its ranking in the Innovation Union Scoreboard having moved from 10th place in 2013 to 8th place in 2015 - ranked first in Innovators and Economic Effects i.e. how innovative firms are and economic success stemming from innovation in terms of employment, revenue and exports.
  • Ireland is 8th in the Global Innovation Index 2015 (out of 141 countries) [Source: Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO 2015]
  • Ireland is 13th in the world for university-industry collaboration on R&D [Source: Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014]
  • Ireland is listed amongst the top 20 countries in global rankings for the quality of our scientific research moving up to 16th place in 2014. We have excelled in certain scientific disciplines and Ireland is ranked 1st in immunology, 1st in animal and dairy, 3rd in nanotechnology and 4th in computer science. [Source: Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators] 

Background to Innovation 2020

In June 2006, Government published the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation (SSTI) 2006 to 2013 which provided the framework for Government’s investment in research and innovation. As a result significant steps were made in establishing a strong public research environment based on scientific excellence in a number of strategic areas, in many cases meeting and exceeding targets set out in the SSTI. Research Prioritisation emerged in the intervening period as the Government’s primary science, technology and innovation policy goal and this saw a concentration of the majority of competitive funding on areas which were deemed most likely to secure greater economic and societal impact, particularly in the form of jobs. Innovation 2020 places Research Prioritisation and the focus on research relevance and impact within a broader context and incorporates policy around research to support the broader knowledge base and research to support the development of policy in key sectors of relevance to the economy and society.

An Interdepartmental Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation (IDC) chaired by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and comprising representatives from key Government Departments, along with the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government and representatives from the Higher Education Authority, was convened at the end of 2014 to formulate the new Strategy. 

A number of studies were undertaken and their findings were taken into consideration in the development of the Strategy. The studies were in areas including Ireland’s future research infrastructure needs; an independent review of Research Prioritisation; strengthening enterprise R&D; the market focused research centre landscape; the IP capability of Irish firms; and Ireland’s participation in international research organisations.

Ireland’s Future Research Infrastructure Needs Study

Review of Progress in Implementing Research Prioritisation

Optimising Policy Intervention to Strengthen the Impacts of Enterprise RD&I in Ireland

Strengthening Ireland's Market Focused Research Centre Landscape

Enhancing the Intellectual Property Activities in the Firm Base in Ireland

Review of Irish Membership of International Research Organisations

An in-depth consultation process was undertaken. A detailed consultation paper setting out key issues was circulated to stakeholders in February 2015 and some 80 written responses were received. A Consultative Forum involving 120 key stakeholders from industry, the public sector and academia was held in July 2015.  The Forum focused on a number of thematic areas which emerged from the workings of the IDC and from the written consultation process. A report of the Forum was also commissioned.

The goals of Innovation 2020 are:

  • Excellent research performed in strategically important areas with relevance and impact for the economy and society
  • A strong, innovative and internationally competitive enterprise base, growing employment, sales and exports
  • A renowned pool of talent in Ireland’s public research system and in industry, which maximises exchange of talent and knowledge between the two
  • A coherent, joined-up innovation ecosystem, responsive to emerging opportunities, delivering enhanced impact through the creation and application of knowledge
  • An internationally competitive research system that acts as a magnet and catalyst for talent and industry.

This will mean:

  • More enterprises engaged in RDI, including enterprises in the locally traded sectors, to drive productivity performance
  • More enterprises progressing from early engagement with RDI to embedding innovation as a key part of their business model in a self-sustaining way
  • Businesses across the enterprise base embracing new technologies to build successful business models
  • Achieving innovation leadership in key sectors where we can sustain a competitive edge
  • Greater utilisation by enterprises of the research assets of our Higher Education Institutes, by engaging with Research Centres and Technology Centres
  • Greater success in translating intellectual property or new thinking into commercial products and services – by providing better supports for knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship, infrastructure for test-bedding, and access to funding
  • Greater use of RDI to find solutions to pressing societal challenges in areas such as public health and energy
  • Government departments using research to inform evidence-based policy and regulation, e.g. relating to the environment and
  • Public services embracing an increased investment in RDI as a way of delivering higher productivity and service-user experience, including a greater openness to partnering with enterprise to fund solutions for difficult challenges.


For further information contact 

Press Office, D/Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Press Office DJEI

+353 1 6312200