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Research & Innovation Leads in Brussels

Research & Innovation Leads in Brussels


Left to Right are: Dr. Niall Smith, Head of Research, CIT; Dr. Orla Flynn, VP for External Affairs, CIT; Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor; Mr Seán Kelly, MEP Ireland South; Dr Jennifer Brennan, THEA; Mr Donal Loftus, Director of Graduate Studies, GMIT; Ms Deirdre Clune, MEP Ireland South; Dr. Rick Officer, VP for Research and Innovation, GMIT; Vinny Pillay, Minister Counsellor Science and Technology, South African Mission to the EU; Brian Hayes, MEP Dublin

Technological higher education sector
influences next phase of European funding programmes

Research and innovation leaders from the technological higher education sector had the opportunity to influence the next phase of European funding programmes which support collaboration in research and innovation during a 2-day Brussels mission. Whilst in Brussels they engaged in productive discussions with European MEPs and EC officials on EC funding programmes post-2020. Opportunities for Ireland post-Brexit was a central discussion point. The mission was facilitated by the Enterprise Ireland Horizon 2020 liaison programme and coordinated by the RDIE Office at THEA.

A 25-person delegation from the Institutes of Technology and the new Technological University Dublin travelled to Brussels with Enterprise Ireland and THEA representatives to meet with key EC officials this week in order to influence the next phase of European funding programmes which support research and innovation (R&I). The delegation met with representatives from the EC Directorates General for Research and Innovation, Education and Culture, and Regional and Urban Policy, with whom they exchanged views on the future Horizon Europe, Erasmus+ and Interreg programmes. They also received a briefing from the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU on the Irish government’s input to the negotiations on these programmes.

The mission concluded with a series of meetings with Irish and European MEPs at the European Parliament, hosted by Seán Kelly MEP with assistance from ISC Intelligence in Science. During these meetings the delegation had the opportunity to influence the MEPs’ perspectives on the post-2020 European research and innovation and territorial cooperation programmes, currently under negotiation. The discussion focused on how the Irish technological higher education sector can take a stronger role in European-funded projects and ensure that the future programmes to be funded post-2020 will be set up to support this. In addition to Mr. Kelly, the delegation met with Irish MEPs Deirdre Clune, Brian Hayes, Marian Harkin and the Parliament Vice-President Mairead McGuiness.

The delegation did not limit their interaction to Irish MEPs, and had productive discussions with Angelika Niebler MEP from Germany and Jan Olbyrcht MEP from Poland, who sit on the Parliament committees responsible for the future Horizon Europe and Interreg programmes. A sub-group of the delegation from institutions in the border region had a closed meeting with Ms. Iskra Mihaylova, Chair of the Parliament’s Regional Development Committee, about the importance of future EC programmes facilitating cooperation with Northern Ireland. Ms. Mihaylova was very impressed with the case studies of cross-border collaboration presented by THEA’s members, and strongly agreed that this collaboration is of key importance to the strength and stability of the communities and economies in the border areas.

The importance of this mission to Brussels is linked to the role that European funding programmes continue to play in supporting the development of research, innovation and engagement activities in THEA’s member institutions. Approximately one-quarter of R&I activity in the institutions is supported by EU funding. Cork Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology are ranked amongst the top-ten most successful of 22 Irish higher education institutions participating in the current Horizon 2020 R&I programme. The Horizon 2020 areas in which the sector has been most successful are those that support nanotechnology, advanced materials, ICT, smart manufacturing and researcher training and mobility (the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions). This success is in no small part due to the strong collaborations the sector has with enterprises and community partners

Speaking following the mission, Dr. Jennifer Brennan, THEA Director of Research and Innovation said: “I am delighted with the success of the 2 days of meetings in Brussels. We achieved our aim of building relationships with key players in Brussels and starting the dialogue about how the next phase of EU programmes can support our sector in its efforts to strategically increase its research and innovation capacity and outputs.”

Click here for to see a selection of photographs and videos from our visit


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