Here's a summary of the Bill. A more detailed analysis is below.
A number of Senators recently introduced a bill geared toward improving research and innovation at our universities, and rewarding those who take part in that research. In recent years we have had a number of national strategies for third level, so you might wonder why introduce this Bill at all, or if it is up to legislation to foster better research.
The context to the Bill is important. During the boom years, public and private research spending grew at an annual average growth rate of almost 5% between 2000 and 2010. But during the recession, public funding for higher level fell by a third,  class sizes grew, and our universities struggled in international rankings. The recession changed Ireland from a dynamic research country to one applying cutbacks and consolidation. And while those cutbacks were going on, the state was still able to subsidise non-university R&D through a tax credit. Public third level funding fell and private R&D was kept stable. This is a peculiar way of structuring research funding.
This Bill tries to tackle these issues by strengthening research.
· Researchers with controversial findings are better protected,
· Universities are helped to develop spin-off companies,
· The State is given more control over research funding,
· And a protocol for intellectual property is proposed.
So the Bill is big on making money out of ideas, and protecting those ideas. We are good at this, and have several projects between industry and academia, all of which helps academic projects to become commercial successes. The Bill would also help empower universities, which would improve administration and research management.
But apart from making these improvements to research bureaucracies, the best way to achieve better standards is to have better researchers. In 2013, non-nationals accounted for 40% of PhD students and 35% of post-doctoral students. This suggests that Irish students are choosing not continue to doctoral level, are going abroad to do research, or are not good enough for doctoral work.
And when foreign students do come to study at our universities, 85% of them would recommend doing so. So what’s happening is we are investing much in academic research but are losing a lot to mobile foreign-born researchers because Irish researchers aren’t there. The Bill would tackle this situation by making research more attractive through changes to working conditions and pension provisions: Irish researchers should come out of the woodwork.
But why is all of this important? Firstly, we know that going to university can add €350,000 to your income over your lifetime; secondly, it can add €200,000 extra in taxation for the state; and thirdly, local economies gain. We already know that most of us do go to university, but the point is that few of us stay on longer. And the Bill recognises that we need to improve that.
So this Bill has many positives. But should policy like this be legislated for? Or should this be left to departments and State bodies? Whichever the answer, the Bill brings up some good points and provides some good proposals. And that is what is welcome.
 - National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (2011) , Report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group 2012
 Researchers’ Repot 2013, Deloitte, 3
 Humphreys, Irish Times, 1 October 2014
 From 23:1 to 27:1 - Humphreys, Irish Times, 1 October 2014
 THE World University Rankings, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13; QS World University Ranking by Region, 15 November 2010
 “The importance of the R&D Tax Credit in attracting mobile Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Ireland was highlighted extensively in the public consultation with companies“ – Review of Ireland’s R & D Tax Credit, Department of Finance, 15 October 2013, 3
 Researchers’ Repot 2013, Deloitte, 7
 International Student Barometer survey 2011/12
 Humphreys, Irish Times, 30 September 2014
 the multiplier effect: Dublin-based universities show very good returns per €1 investment, ITs show smaller but good returns - Lucey, Larkin, Qianto (2014) (preliminary findings)