In 1998, the Government launched the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI). The PRTLI, which is managed by the HEA on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science and the Government, provides integrated financial support for institutional strategies, programmes and infrastructure. The programme is competitive. Calls for proposals are issued to all publicly funded third level institutions.
The PRTLI initiative was motivated primarily by the following considerations:
- The need for prioritisation, based on institutional strengths, in the face of constrained resources;
- The need to build collaborative inter-institutional programmes to overcome problems of scale and rapidly rising research costs;
- The need to develop research centres with critical mass;
- The importance of encouraging transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary basic research;
- The desirability of assisting research strategies in smaller research institutions through alliances and collaborative arrangements with larger institutions; and
- The benefit of integrated funding packages providing support for personnel, infrastructure and recurrent programme costs.
The objectives of the PRTLI are (i) to enable a strategic and planned approach by third-level institutions to the long-term development of their research capabilities, consistent with their research missions and with their existing and developing research strengths and capabilties, (ii) to promote the development of high quality research capabilities in third-level institutions, so as to enhance the quality and relevance of graduate output and skills at all levels (iii) Within the framework of these objectives, to provide support for outstandingly talented individual researchers and teams within institutions and the encouragement of co-operation between researchers both within the institutions and between institutions.
The PRTLI does not only support transport research initiatives. In all 23 institutions will receive funding for projects in a broad range of disciplines including medicine, biotechnology, environmental science, marine science, neuroscience, information technology, food and health science, humanities, social sciences and business. An important sub-programme however, not least due to its inter-disciplinary focus, is the Centre for Transport Research and Innovation (TRIP). The aim of TRIP is to develop and deliver cohesive and dynamic interdisciplinary activity on all aspects of transport research, but in particular in the following areas: ICT in transportation, Balancing transportation supply and demand, Quality of life, Safety and Environmental impacts of transportation. This extensive programme will be discussed further in a separate programme profile form.
The PRTLI is publicly funded through the National Development Plan (NDP). To date, EUR 605 million has been allocated to third level institutions. Substantial funding has also been provided from private philanthropic sources that have supported the strategic focus and competitive basis of the programme.
This funding has provided for:
- 62 new and expanded research programmes established
- 90,000 additional square metres of research space funded, from an indicative baseline of 50,000 in 1999.
- 796 new post-graduate research posts in place to date in the research system with projected numbers of over 1,500 by the end of Cycle 3 (PRTLI funded research posts are projected to increase from 192 in 1999 to over 1,600 in 2006, an increase of over 730%)
- 40 new inter-institutional programmes/initiatives established
- Over 1,900 publications to date arising from PRTLI funded programmes (over 2.5 years), representing a 250% increase in output compared to the previous period.
- New research funding to 15 third level institutions in total, including 6 Institutes of Technology.