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SDG 9.5.1 Research and development expenditure as a proportion of GDP - the internationally recognised indicator for benchmarking State-funded performance of R&D is the ‘Government Budget Allocations for R&D’ metric (GBARD) which is published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.  This data has been required since 2004 under Commission Regulation (EU) No 995/2012.  

Total Government expenditure on R&D is charted and benchmarked against international comparators in this section.

Government Budget Allocations for Research and Development (GBARD)

GBARD includes:

  • Government funding for R&D programmes in the higher education sector administered by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS), the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and others;
  • Government funding for business sector R&D, administered through State agencies including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and others;
  • Government funding for R&D performed in the public sector e.g. Teagasc, the Marine Institute and others; and
  • Also included in GBARD are Government contributions to international R&D programmes or organisations solely or mainly concerned with R&D.

Government funding of R&D in 2019 was €802.15m which represents an increase of 4.8% over the outturn figure for 2018.  It is estimated that GBARD will increase by 8.4% in 2020 to €869.21m.  The 2020 estimates are based on Government Department and Agency returns to the R&D Budget 2019-2020 Survey.

€802.15 Million
Government Budget Allocations for Research and Development (GBARD) for 2019 was €802.15 million

GBARD by Government Department

In 2019, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) was responsible for the largest proportion of Government investment in R&D at €408.4m or 50.9% of total GBARD.  For DETE, this represents 42.9% of its total budget.  The Department of Education had an R&D outturn in 2019 of €209.2m or 26.1% of GBARD.  The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine invested €92.3m or 11.5% of total GBARD in 2019.

GBARD as a Percentage of GDP/GNP/GNI*

In order to compare state funding of R&D across countries, the OECD recommends using the GBARD indicator with data derived using the guidelines set out in the Frascati Manual.

GBARD includes all funding for R&D from direct exchequer sources.  It also includes funding for R&D in the humanities and social sciences.  

In Figure 6.1, the GBARD trend line shows that there has been an annual downward trend between 2009 and 2013 falling from €890.4m to €721.7m.  

Since 2014 levels of funding have been maintained, with the outturn figure falling slightly for GBARD in 2016 being €718.9m before increasing again to €802.2m in 2019.  In 2020, estimated funding has increased by 8.4% over 2019 to €869.2m.  See Figure 6.1.

X-axis labelGBARD Trend

The GBARD intensity rate (State R&D funding for R&D activities as a percentage of economic activity) fell over the past decade to 0.29% of GNP, 0.23% of GDP and 0.38% of GNI* in 2019.  It is projected to increase in 2020 to 0.32%, 0.25% and 0.43% of GNP, GDP and GNI* respectively.  Please note that the 2020 figures are based on estimated decreases in GDP of 1.3% in current prices, 1.8% for GNP and 4.7% for GNI*, and an estimated increase in GBARD of 1.2%.  See Table 6.1 and Figure 6.2.

6.1 - SDG 9.5.1 GBARD Trend in Current Prices


The declining trend in GBARD intensity is due to two factors:

  1. Our economy has grown quickly: GDP in current prices has increased by 109% between 2009 and 2019 and GNP and GNI* have increased by 95% and 58% respectively over the same period; and
  2. GBARD has declined by 14.2% over the period 2009-2019, despite the upward trajectory in recent years.

Table 6.1 also shows the trend in GDP and GNI* since 2009.  The economy has grown particularly quickly following the downturn, with GNI* increasing by 69% between 2012 and 2019.  See Figure 6.3.

X-axis labelGDP bnGNP bnGNI bn

Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD)

GERD is defined as the total expenditure (current and capital) on R&D carried out by all resident companies, research institutes, university and government laboratories, etc., in a country.  It includes R&D funded from abroad but excludes domestic funds for R&D performed outside the domestic economy. (OECD: Main Science & Technology Indicators)

GERD is estimated by surveying the performers of R&D by sector in Ireland and data is provided by the following surveys:

Business Sector: (BERD - Business Expenditure on R&D)

The Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD) Survey is a survey of the research and development activities of enterprises in Ireland and other EU Member States.  Data is collected every two years by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and results are available on the CSO website.

Higher Education Sector: (HERD - Higher Education R&D)

The Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey is a survey of the research and development activities of third level institutions in Ireland and other EU Member States.  Survey data is collected every two years by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) and is made available on the website.

Government Sector: (GOVERD - Government R&D)

This data comes from the ‘The R&D Budget 2019-2020’ report which is now the responsibility of DFHERIS. 

In 2019, Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) increased to €4,373m and represents a 60% increase over the 2009 figure of €2,736m.

GERD is the sum of R&D expenditure in the business, higher education and government sectors.

  • The highest expenditure on R&D continues to be in the business sector where €3,256.3m was invested in research programmes in 2019.  Despite a reduction in spending in 2010 and 2011, there has been an upward trend in R&D expenditure in the business sector since 2009.
  • The higher education sector saw a decline in R&D expenditure between 2009 and 2012, however, since 2013 there has been a reversal of this trend with R&D expenditure reaching an estimated €952.4m in 2019.
  • The Government sector is the smallest sector with €164.7m of research being carried out in 2019 in government institutions e.g. Teagasc and the Marine Institute. (Government sector figures include an estimate for government funded Hospital performed R&D of €35 million).

See Table 6.2 and Figure 6.4.

€4,373 Million
Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) for 2019 was €4,373 million
6.2 - SDG 9.5.1 GERD - Business, Higher Education and Government Sectors

X-axis labelBusiness Sector (BERD)Higher Education Sector (HERD)Government Sector (GOVERD)GOVERD less Hospital EstGross Expenditure on R&D (GERD)

Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) expressed as a percentage of GDP, GNP and GNI* stood at 1.23%, 1.59% and 2.05% respectively in 2019.  See Table 6.3.

As a percentage of both GDP, GNP and GNI*, GERD has been falling since 2012 when it reached a high of 1.57%, 1.99% and 2.18% respectively.  The actual amount of R&D investment has increased over this period, however, GDP, GNP and GNI* levels have increased at a faster rate.   See Table 6.3 and Figure 6.5.

6.3 - SDG 9.5.1 GERD as a % of GDP, GNP and GNI*

X-axis labelGERD as % GDPGERD as % GNPGERD as % GNI*

As a percentage of GNI*, expenditure in the business sector fell from 1.6% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2019.  As a percentage of GNI Ireland’s GERD was 2.0%, HERD was 0.4% and GOVERD was 0.1% in 2019.  See Table 6.4 and Figure 6.6.

6.4 - SDG 9.5.1 GERD as a % of GNI* by Sector

X-axis labelGERD as % GNI*BERD as % GNI*HERD as % GNI*GOVERD AS % GNI*

Business Expenditure on Research and Development Survey (CSO)

The Business Expenditure on Research and Development survey for 2019-2020, from the CSO, shows that €3.26bn was spent on R&D by enterprises in 2019 in Ireland.  Services sector had the highest total R&D expenditure in 2019.

This represents an increase of 17.5% compared with actual expenditure in 2017.  Current expenditure, which comprises of labour costs and other current costs, accounted for 82.9% of all expenditure in 2019, with capital expenditure accounting for the remaining 17.1% or €555.7m of total expenditure.

R&D in Irish-owned enterprises rose from €858.8m in 2017 to €963.0m in 2019, an increase of €104.1m or 12.1%.  See Table 6.5, Figure 6.7, Figure 6.8 and Map 6.1.

6.5 - SDG 9.5.1 Total Expenditure on Research and Development by Size of Enterprise, Nationality of Ownership, Sector of Activity and Region

Total R&D Expenditure, 2019No Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry Here
Small 14.3
Medium 19.6
Large 66.1
Total R&D Expenditure, 2019No Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry Here
Irish Owned70.4
Foreign Owned 29.6

National Accounts R&D Data Series

The National Accounts R&D data series includes expenditure on R&D services carried out in another country funded by Irish based enterprises, and net imports of IP assets (results of R&D e.g. patents).  Both of these items make a significant contribution to the R&D recorded in the National Accounts (which also includes the domestic R&D carried out in Ireland).  Full details can be seen in the latest National Income and Expenditure 2020 Report.

The R&D figure for 2020 is €101 billion and is 27% of GDP.  See Table 6.6.

6.6 - SDG 9.5.1 Research and Development as % of GDP

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SDG 9.5.2 Researchers (in full-time equivalent) per million inhabitants data are published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the CSO.

Frascati Manual 2015 definitions are as follows:

Full-Time equivalent (FTE) of R&D personnel is defined as the ratio of working hours actually spent on R&D during a specific reference period (usually a calendar year) divided by the total number of hours conventionally worked in the same period by an individual or by a group.

Researchers are professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge. They conduct research and improve or develop concepts, theories, models, techniques instrumentation, software or operational methods.

Technicians and equivalent staff are persons whose main tasks require technical knowledge and experience in one or more fields of engineering, the physical and life sciences, or the social sciences, humanities and the arts. They participate in R&D by performing scientific and technical tasks involving the application of concepts, operational methods and the use of research equipment, normally under the supervision of researchers.

Other supporting staff include skilled and unskilled craftsmen, and administrative, secretarial and clerical staff participating in R&D projects or directly associated with such projects.

R&D Personnel - All Sectors

According to The R&D Budget 2019-2020 report from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment there were a total of 31,396 personnel (full-time equivalents - FTEs) working in R&D across all the sectors of the economy in 2018.  Of these R&D personnel over 60.4%, or 18,956 were working in the business sector.  The number of R&D personnel in the business sector has increased 58.5% between 2009 and 2018.  Growth in R&D personnel numbers in the Government sector has been slower with an increase of 14.1% over the period 2009-2018.  See Table 6.7 and Figure 6.9.

6.7 - SDG 9.5.2 R&D Personnel (FTEs) in Ireland by Sector

X-axis labelRD Personnel - TotalBusiness SectorHigher Education SectorGovernment Sector

Researchers (Full-Time Equivalent - FTE) by Sector

The R&D personnel numbers include researchers, technicians and support staff.  Figure 6.10 focuses on researchers only and reports the full-time equivalent numbers. 

According to the budget report there were 22,808 researchers (FTEs) working across all sectors in 2018 with numbers increasing since 2010.

  • There has been a decline in the number of researchers employed in the Higher Education sector after 2016 due to a break in the methodology which has reduced the misclassification of R&D personnel across the different categories.
  • Researchers in the Business sector has increased by 54.6% since 2010.
  • A small number of researchers (652 in 2018) are employed directly in the Government sector.

See Table 6.8 and Figure 6.10.

6.8 - SDG 9.5.2 Researchers in Ireland by Sector

X-axis labelResearchers - TotalBusiness SectorHigher Education SectorGovernment Sector

Three in five of all R&D staff were employed in research

According to the CSO, Business Expenditure on Research and Development report, enterprises were asked to indicate the numbers of staff who devoted any of their time to R&D activities.  R&D personnel includes researchers (PhD qualified and others), technicians and other support staff.

In total, there were 27,755 persons engaged in R&D in Ireland in 2019.  Of this total, 59.8% or 16,609 persons were employed as researchers, of which 1,966 were PhD qualified researchers.

In addition, there were 6,832 (24.6%) technicians and 4,313 (15.5%) support staff.  See Table 6.9, Figure 6.11, Figure 6.12 and Map 6.2.

6.9 - SDG 9.5.2 Total Headcount of Research Personnel by Size of Enterprise, Nationality of Ownership, Sector of Activity and Region

Total R&D Headcount, 2019No Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry Here
Small 29
Medium 26
Large 45
Total R&D Headcount, 2019No Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry HereNo Entry Here
Irish Owned43

R&D Personnel (FTEs) by Sector and Occupation, 2018

More than half (60.4%) of all R&D personnel are employed in the Business sector, a total of 18,956 FTEs. 

Over 6 in ten (64.3%) of Business Sector R&D personnel are researchers.

Nearly nine in ten (88.6%) of R&D personnel (FTEs) in the higher education sector are researchers.  See Table 6.10.

6.10 - SDG 9.5.2 R&D Personnel (FTEs) by Sector and Occupation

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SDG 9.a.1 Total official international support (official development assistance plus other official flows) to infrastructure is published by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

OECD Development Co‑operation Peer Reviews IRELAND 2020
The following information is taken from the OECD report titled 'OECD Development Co‑operation Peer Reviews IRELAND 2020'.

The OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) conducts periodic reviews of the individual development co-operation efforts of DAC members.  The policies and programmes of each member are critically examined approximately once every five to six years, with five members reviewed annually.

The objectives of DAC peer reviews are to improve the quality and effectiveness of development co-operation policies and systems, and to promote good development partnerships for greater impact on poverty reduction and sustainable development in developing countries.  DAC peer reviews assess the performance of a given member and examine both policy and implementation.  They take an integrated, system-wide perspective on the development co-operation and humanitarian assistance activities of the member under review.

Ireland's 'Two-Year Average' commitments to Total Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2017-18 was $864 million (2017 USD million).  Of this, $209 million (2017 USD million) was bilateral aid for social infrastructure and services, while $3 million (2017 USD million) was for economic infrastructure and services.  See Table 6.11.

6.11 - SDG 9.a.1 Bilateral Official Development Aid by Major Purposes

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SDG 9.b.1 Proportion of medium and high-tech industry value added in total value added data is provided by the CSO, National Accounts Division.

In the UN metadata repository the SDG 9.b.1 metadata document defines 'medium and high-tech industry value added in total value added' as follows:

"The proportion of medium-high and high-tech industry (MHT) value added in total value added of manufacturing (MVA) is a ratio value between the value added of MHT industry and MVA".

The industries defined as 'medium-high and high-tech industry' in the  SDG 9.b.1 metadata document are listed in  Table 7.1 in the background notes.

MHT value added in Table 6.11 includes NACE 31 (manufacture of furniture). In the strict definition of MHT, NACE 31 should be excluded, however this is difficult due to the aggregated nature of the data.  MHT value added is at constant basic prices (chain linked to reference year 2019).

MHT value added accounted for 33.5% of total economy gross value added (GVA) at constant basic prices, in 2015, falling to 30.8% in 2017.  This figure changed by less than 1% in 2018 and 2019, but rose significantly to 36.4% in 2020.

MHT value added was around 85% to 86% of manufacturing (NACE C) GVA from 2015 to 2019, and rose to 89% of manufacturing GVA in 2020.  See Table 6.12.

6.12 - SDG 9.b.1 Proportion of Medium and High-Tech Manufacturing Industry Value Added in Total Value Added of Manufacturing (NACE Section C)

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SDG 9.c.1 Proportion of population covered by a mobile network, by technology is published by the Commission for Communication Regulation (ComReg).  Data on Smartphone usage is published in the CSO ‘Information Society Statistics’ survey 2018.

ComReg is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of the electronic communications and postal sector. They have a wide range of responsibilities in electronic communications services & networks, posts and spectrum management. ComReg operate under Irish and EU legislation.

They are responsible for facilitating competition, for protecting consumers and for encouraging innovation.  Their role involves dealing with complex issues of law, economics and technology, and ensuring that their decisions are taken fairly and are clearly explained.  ComReg operates as a collegiate body, with decisions taken collectively by the Commissioners.   They see this as important in fulfilling the spirit of the Communications Regulation Act, 2002, which established the Commission.

Table 6.13 shows the total number of mobile phone subscriptions (both contract and prepaid) inclusive of and exclusive of mobile broadband subscriptions in Ireland.  A prepaid subscriber refers to an active prepaid subscriber - i.e. those who have made an event that decrements their balance in the previous 90 days such as a pre-paid top up, outgoing call, SMS, MMS or mobile internet usage.  A contract customer refers to a customer with a current contract subscription.  This chart provides separate lines for mobile subscriptions with and without mobile broadband data cards, USB modems and machine to machine (M2M) subscriptions.

In Q1 2021 there were 7,181,054 mobile subscriptions (including mobile broadband and M2M), an increase of just over 41,568 since Q4 2020. 

Mobile subscriptions (excluding mobile broadband and M2M) totalled 5,217,230, a decrease of 16,797 since the last quarter of 2020.  See Table 6.13.

6.13 - SDG 9.c.1 Number of Mobile Subscriptions

More than three quarters (77%) of all individuals aged 16-74 years use a smartphone for private purposes - 76% of which were males and 78% were females.

In the CSO ‘Information Society Statistics’ survey in 2018 respondents were asked about their use of smartphones for private purposes.  

More than three in four (77%) people aged 16-74 used a smartphone for private purposes in 2020, according to the ‘Information Society Statistics’ survey from the CSO. The proportion of males (76%) and females (78%) who used a smartphone were very similar.

Smartphone usage was very high (90%) for those people who used the internet within the previous year, with very little difference between people in the different deprivation quintiles. In the very affluent quintile, 94% of people had used a smartphone compared with 90% of those in the very disadvantaged quintile.

The highest smartphone usage was 98% among students. See Table 6.14 and Map 6.3.

6.14 - SDG 5.c.1 Individuals who use a Smartphone for Private Purposes

Go to next chapter: Background Notes