Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster and Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry have highlighted the importance of research and innovation to driving growth in the economy.
The Ministers were speaking at the launch of the Northern Ireland Horizon 2020 strategy. The strategy sets out the key actions to help local researchers across academia and business win €145million from Horizon 2020, the European Union’s €79 billion flagship research and innovation programme.
Launching the strategy, Arlene Foster said: “Companies that engage in research and innovation are more productive, employ more people and more likely to export. My department, and the Executive, has placed innovation and R&D at the heart of its efforts to rebalance our economy into one that is export-led and knowledge based. If we are to meet this challenge, Northern Ireland will need more companies willing to engage in research and build collaborative partnerships with universities and colleges both at home and, importantly, abroad.
“Horizon 2020, with its focus on international collaboration, provides an excellent platform for this. The new strategy, developed with industry and academia, sets out our commitment to provide the conditions needed for success in the field of business-driven research and innovation.”
Delegates at the workshop were briefed on Northern Ireland’s success in some of the initial competitions within Horizon 2020. During the first nine months of 2014, over €11 million euro has been won by Northern Ireland participants in areas as diverse as ICT, health and agri-food. Delegates also heard of the success of local energy company B9 Energy Storage which has been successful in a €15 million project with over €2 million coming to Northern Ireland.
Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry said: “Access to Horizon 2020 is a key priority in Northern Ireland and the new strategy details the approach that will be taken to deliver the Executive’s target to secure at least €145million from Horizon 2020. It is a key driver of research and innovation and is also an important source of funding for our universities which continue to produce internationally and world-leading research as recognised in the results of the recent UK-wide Research Excellence Framework.
“Research capability in collaboration with industry is vital for economic growth, competitiveness and the well-being of the community. There are challenges involved in delivering the proposed target within Horizon 2020; however the new strategy represents a key opportunity for funding for innovation, research and development. I believe that Northern Ireland will reap the rewards of participating to the fullest extent in the Horizon 2020 programme.”
Colette FitzGerald, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland said: “Northern Ireland has an excellent opportunity to participate in the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme, Horizon 2020, which is worth €79billion over the next seven years. It is clear that increased cooperation in the field of research and innovation will encourage competitiveness and create growth and jobs and I hope that Northern Ireland companies take full advantage of the exciting opportunities that Horizon 2020 offers.”