Foster: Innovative companies can benefit from €7billion research boost

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has urged Northern Ireland businesses and research organisations to tap into a new €7billion European research programme.

Areas eligible for funding under the latest strand of the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) range from energy, health care, biotechnology , food security to climate change and digital security.

Arlene Foster said: “I welcome the recent announcement by the EU Research and Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn that €7billion is being made available as part of the latest FP7 calls for research proposals.

“Northern Ireland organisations have already drawn down almost €30m in funding through the Framework 7 programme. Recent successes include Queens University and the University of Ulster who have been very successful in projects related to IT Security. In fact, in terms of securing funding on this particular theme Northern Ireland ranked 3rd among EU nations.”

The Minister paid tribute to the Centre for Secure Information Technologies Cyber Security (CSIT) at Queens University, which was the first Northern Ireland organisation to coordinate and win an FP7 Security proposal.

The Minister also welcomed the €1billion that the Commission has made available exclusively for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Arlene Foster said: “Greater participation by SMEs in the Framework programme and simplification of the application process was one of the key issues I raised with Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn when she visited Northern Ireland last year. I want to see more Northern Ireland businesses taking advantage of the opportunities available within FP7.”

To ensure that Northern Ireland organisations are best placed to take advantage of FP7, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in conjunction with Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Science Park, CBI, Queen’s University and the University of Ulster, along with other Government departments, are currently reviewing the support mechanisms to ensure organisations are better able to participate and succeed in applications to FP7.

CBI Northern Ireland director Nigel Smyth encouraged companies in Northern Ireland to investigate the funding opportunities available through the Framework Programme for Research.

He said: "We welcome this announcement by the European Commission of €7billion fund as part of the latest funding available under FP. It is particularly encouraging to see that approximately €1billion is being made available this year to support SMEs. This will allow more companies in Northern Ireland to access grants to support R&D across a wide range of sectors.

“Increasing investment in R&D is critical to growing our economy and helping Northern Ireland firms compete in global markets.”