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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny T.D., at the official opening of the BioScience Research Building, at NUI Galway on Monday, 3rd February

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the future. The future of science. The future of medicine. The future for NUI Galway.

This state of the art BioScience research facility is where miracles will happen.

Not big bang miracles of old but by step by step… the researchers who will pass through these doors will transform our knowledge of human biology and medicine.

This building may not look like a ship but it is a vessel of discovery.

The researchers here are the explorers of the 21st century. Delving deep into the human genome… making fascinating new discoveries.

There is so much unknown about how our bodies work, of how we fix common diseases and conditions.

New fields of study are being discovered all the time… new cures… new problems… new mysteries.

NUI Galway is quickly becoming a global leader in this research.

Only last week I was fascinated to learn that NUI Galway will be the first facility in Ireland to manufacture human stem cells… One of less than a dozen such facilities in academic centres in Europe.

This on the same week that researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have released startling findings on a new method to create human stem cells that is cheaper, faster and more efficient than ever before with the potential to transform the ability of scientists to develop personalised medicine.

With the amount of research undertaken globally I am delighted that NUI Galway is up there with the best of them so that Ireland can play its part in creating a better future.

I last visited NUI Galway in July 2011 to open Ireland’s largest School of Engineering. Two-and-a-half years later, I am very happy to be able to mark another milestone in the University’s continued, and exponential development.

Today’s opening of the Biosciences research building is a wonderful development, and I congratulate President Jim Browne, his academic and administrative colleagues, the funders and all those involved in bringing this project to fruition.

This €30 million project was partially funded under the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions; co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund; and the balance came from private philanthropy, led by Galway University Foundation.

Among the philanthropic interests to support this project are Bank of Ireland and I want to thank those private donors for their support in what is a wonderful example of public-private collaboration.

In recent years, Ireland has built a reputation for research excellence and for its strong support for significant academic-industrial collaborations.

Since 2009, Ireland has been among the top 20 countries in the scientific global rankings for the quality of its research. We are ranked 2nd in the world for the quality of our research in the fields of Immunology and Probiotics; 6th for our Nanoscience research; and 8th in the world for the quality of our research in Materials Science.

Bearing these rankings in mind, perhaps it is no surprise that Ireland has become an acknowledged world-leader in the medical technology sector.

Many of the world’s top medical technology companies have invested significantly in Ireland and a number of exciting, research-based, indigenous companies are emerging and competing internationally. In fact, 50% of Ireland’s cohort of stellar MedTech firms are indigenous.

Our MedTech sector has evolved into one of the leading global clusters for medical device and diagnostic products. It has seen a shift from being based primarily on manufacturing, to a greater focus on research and development. It now involves intensive collaboration between a broad range of partners, including research institutions, clinicians, manufacturing companies, and Government agencies.

Presently, 250 medical technology companies based in Ireland export €7.9bn worth of product annually and employ 25,000 people. Per head of population, this level of employment represents the highest number of people working in the industry in any country in Europe.

Exports of medical devices and diagnostics products now represent 8.5% of Ireland’s total merchandise exports, and growth prospects for the industry are excellent.

Irish Economic Recovery

While the Government is delighted to play its part in the delivery of this centre, we also have a wider responsibility to bring stability and prosperity back to the wider Irish economy.

After many years of sacrifice, understanding and determination from the Irish people the country successfully exited our international bailout last December.

After years of a shrinking economy, skyrocketing unemployment and an exploding deficit we managed to stabilise the economy and begin to turn things around.

Today the economy is growing and we have seen over 58,000 new jobs created in the past year.

As the first country inside the Euro area to successfully emerge from an EU/IMF bailout, it is a significant vote of international confidence in Ireland and an important milestone.

But while the country has returned to the private debt markets we still have a major challenge to bring the public finances under control to ensure that Ireland remains a highly competitive and stable location for investment and jobs for sectors such as BioScience.

As a Government we plan to safeguard this progress by ensuring we put the country back on self financing basis. We will reduce the deficit to under 3% of GDP by 2015 and plan to eliminate it altogether by 2018.

This is a major part of our plan to make Ireland the best small country in the world for business.

This stability will help drive new long term investment in research and development.

The Government has identified BioSciences as one of the key drivers of economic growth for the future and investment in R&D will remain a high priority for the Government.

A fundamental element of our Action Plan for Jobs is to continue to build upon the major achievements in scientific research we have realised over the past decade, and by working with industry, turn more good ideas into good jobs and commercial returns.

Under the Irish Presidency of the European Union the Irish Government played a central part in reaching agreement on the new EU R&D programme Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 has a total budget of over €70bn to 2020. We are now very much focused on leveraging EU Horizon 2020 funding to win support for collaborative research programmes in Ireland. And progressive Irish universities like NUI Galway will have a key role in ensuring that Ireland achieves a significant portion of the Horizon 2020 funds.

Let me conclude by congratulating all involved with this project – President Jim Browne and all his colleagues – and by acknowledging the support of the public funders and private philanthropy led by Galway University Foundation.

To all those who will undertake a voyage of discovery in this building, I wish you well. Your work is crucial to Ireland’s future.