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The Role of PhDs in the Smart Economy

Clarisse Faria-Fortecoëf

A report which encourages Ireland to continue its efforts and investments in the education of its PhDs as well as to develop their skills and qualifications more closely aligned with enterprise needs in R&D.

Comprised of members of academia, enterprise and professional sectors and a representative from Forfás (Ireland’s national policy advisory body for enterprise and science), the Advisory Science Council (ASC) published in December 2009 a report entitled "The Role of PhDs in the Smart Economy".

Produced by a task force which have used information from different sources, this report examines the enterprise demand for PhD researchers, the roles they fulfil in enterprise and also identifies the barriers that reduce the pull of these graduates to enterprise.

At the PhD output level…
In 2004, the OECD recommended that Ireland double its PhD output.
Two years later, in 2006, this country had one of the fastest annual growth rates in the field.
Thus, the PhD output increased from 661 in 2002/2003 to 1,055 in 2006/2007. 

At the enterprise level…
Ireland has also made special efforts to the private sector.
From 420 in 2001 to 1,179 in 2007, the number of PhD researchers employed in enterprise has almost trebled. 
The ratio of these young researchers to total researchers is highest in small companies where they account for 20% of all researchers compared with 14% for large firms. The main sectors concerned are : Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals, Electrical and Electronic, Software and “Other Services”.

Regarding PhD-qualified researchers, they represent 58% of the 1,305 additional researchers employed in the business sector between 2001 and 2007.

Among conclusions/recommendations…
Beyond the development of structured doctoral programs and research training, emphasis is placed on the need to strengthen links and partnerships with industry.For example, the IRCSET proposes the Enterprise Partnership Scheme (see also our article of March 2009) which aims to facilitate the establishment of new relationships and the strengthening of existing relationships between industry and academia while offering financial support to researchers at an early stage of their career development (co-funding of postgraduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships).
Furthermore, the development of a programme based on the Danish industrial doctoral model is recommended to ensure close alignment between enterprise research needs and PhD graduates.

For more information, please download the report in pdf format.