Eight thousand jobs could be lost every year for a decade if Ireland fails to invest in physics research and development.
According to the Institute of Physicsits research shows that the sector is undergoing a critical shortage of skills and if we don’t invest in R&D in the area 80,000 high-level jobs could be lost to the economy in the next ten years.
The warning comes in the organisation’s R&D Blueprintwhich is supported by employers’ trade union Ibecwhich it says “provides a platform for stakeholders to highlight barriers to a thriving R&D system in Ireland and actions to overcome these”.
IOP chief executive Tom Grinyer said: “Today we launch our new consultation with a warning that a failure to invest in physics R&D could cost Ireland the opportunity to create over 80,000 jobs.
“Our R&D Blueprint, which will gather insights from the wider physics community, will enable us to make key recommendations to government and policy-makers to ensure Ireland does not lose out on essential job opportunities.
“We are at a crucial point, as our preliminary research shows companies are already experiencing critical skills shortages, which is hampering growth, and are now looking abroad to fill these positions. As a driver of innovation, investment in physics R&D means vital industry will be embedded in Ireland and the resulting benefits will be seen here.”
The Institute of Physics is the largest professional body and learned society for physics in Ireland and Britain, promoting cooperation in physics around the world and representing 21,000 members with expertise in physics in academia, business, and industry.
Science Foundation Ireland head prof philip nolan commented: “The IOP’s new consultation is vital for the physics sector and the wider research and innovation community, as gathering views from the community will be key in enabling the IOP to make well-informed recommendations to government, and will help us adapt our strategies better to support physics research and physics-based innovation.
“The IOP’s preliminary research clearly shows there are important opportunities to be grasped if we are to accelerate physics-based innovation, and just how essential government’s support is in enabling innovation. I encourage those in industry to input into the IOP’s consultation so we can seize these opportunities and ensure a thriving physics R&D system in Ireland.”
The research,titled Paradigm Shiftshows physics-based businesses in Ireland are already facing critical skills shortages:
- 46% of cited skills shortages as a key challenge to undertaking R&D/innovation activity.
- In addition, 95% said they experienced difficulties recruiting across the board, both for specialist and technical skills, but also manufacturing and commercial roles.
- The result of these skills shortages means 61% of respondents said R&D/innovation activity had to be suspended or delayed in the past five years.
- In order to address the critical skills shortage, many companies looked further afield, with a third (33%) of respondents recruiting from outside the UK or Ireland.
Paradigm Shift, says the IOP, highlights the inherent need for increased public funding to ensure R&D can continue. To put it in context, 70% of respondents said public funding had helped fill financing gaps, without which the activities would not have been undertaken.
Looking ahead, 65% of respondents said greater access to direct funding for early-stage R&D could encourage more R&D/innovation activity, while 65% also noted long-term funding schemes could encourage more activity in the next five years.
In addition, greater access to finance, such as loans, was highlighted by 65% of respondents as a policy enhancement that would allow them to undertake more R&D.
The R&D Blueprint is now open for input here. Based on that input, it will set out how Ireland’s R&D system can be strengthened, and how Ireland’s policy environment for R&D can be improved, to ensure Ireland will realize the full economic and societal benefits in the coming years.
The Blueprint will focus on four key pillars where it will identify the highest priority actions needed in the short, medium, and long term: people and skills; infrastructure; scientific discovery; and businesses.