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Sustained growth in indigenous research sector

Funding and support body Enterprise Ireland says that the next three years will see 528 jobs created in 32 newly formed high-potential start-up companies backed by the organisation in the third quarter of 2011.

They will add to the 755 jobs coming through the high-potential start-up system announced for the first six months of 2011.

Most of the companies are strongly research-dependent and involved in information technology, software development and medical technology.

The details were announced by the minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton, on 21 December.

EI also released an end of year statement looking at the wider indigenous sector which showed that EI client companies won FP7 research contracts worth more than €30 million in 2011.

The department is targeting the hi-tech sectors for start-ups and academic spin-out companies as a way of boosting indigenous research-dependent sectors. The goal is to support company development and export growth to complement the drive for more foreign direct investment.

The Enterprise Ireland programme supported “dynamic, high-growth companies in key sectors” and was a central part of the plan to build up the indigenous sector, the minister said in a statement. The support programme had received a budget increase for its activities during 2012, he said.

The department’s “action plan for jobs” to be released in January would be even more ambitious, with further supports to generate new companies, jobs and growth from the indigenous sector, he said.

The idea was not only to attract the next Google to Ireland but to see it created within Ireland, he said.

Enterprise Ireland backs local start-ups but also has a €10m fund for companies that trade internationally.

“The environment for new business start ups is positive and already the pipeline for 2012 is strong,” said Greg Treston, head of the high-potential programme at EI.

The programme was attracting an increasing number of international entrepreneurs who viewed Ireland as a good place to start a new business, he said.

Many of the supported projects are in the software development and complementary mobile communications sectors. Medical research includes cancer treatments based on enhancing immune system response and the development of novel medical devices.

The end of year statement said that large-scale research expansions were backed by EI in 110 companies during 2011, with investments in companies in sectors that included microelectronics, nanotech, materials and food.

More than 90 technologies developed in academic labs were licensed to companies during the year and more than 50 companies made use of the Innovation Partnership programme that helps link companies needing technical solutions with academic researchers.

EI awarded 748 innovation vouchers, each worth €5,000, during the year in support of company/academic collaborations. Companies backed by EI also won research grants worth €31.8m from FP7 during 2011, the end of year statement said.