Events & News


Building the Knowledge Economy – the Irish Experience

Professor Patrick Cunningham, Professor of Animal Genetics at Trinity College Dublin

16 Nov 2012

SR 901 (Level 9), NTU@one-north campus, Executive Centre, 11 Slim Barracks Rise (off North Buona Vista Road), Singapore 138664

3.30 – 5pm

Ireland and Singapore are similar in several respects: scale, modest natural resources, commitment to science-based development, and dependence on foreign direct investment. Both have made rapid progress in the past decade to build a knowledge-based economy.

In this lecture, Professor Cunningham will describe the rationale for the initiatives taken in Ireland, and explain in some detail the results achieved.

Comparisons are made with other countries in the 27-nation EU, and with Singapore. The metrics which can be used for international benchmarking are examined. Finally, this lecture will also address the issue of priority setting in national science investment in times of recession.

The powerpoint slides for the lecture can be downloaded here.

About the speaker

Patrick Cunningham was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government from 2007 to August 2012. He is Professor of Animal Genetics at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and a partner of biotech company, IdentiGEN.

Professor Cunningham has a first class honours in Agricultural Science and MSc in Animal Nutrition from UCD, and a Ph.D in Animal Genetics from Cornell University. In 1962, he began a research career with An Foras Talúntais (now Teagasc), becoming Department Head in 1970 and Deputy Director (Research) in 1980. Professor Cunningham’s early work focused mainly on genetic improvement in the Irish cattle population. His research has been published in over 100 papers in refereed journals, and has twice been featured on the cover of Nature.

He was elected President of the Commission on Animal Genetics of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) in 1974, President of EAAP in 1978 and President of the World Association for Animal Production in 1984.. In 1988, he moved to the World Bank as visiting professor at the Economic Development Institute. From 1990 to 1993, he was Director of Animal Production and Health at the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN in Rome. During this period he also directed the Screwworm Eradication Programme for North Africa, the largest international campaign of biological control ever undertaken.

On his return from the World Bank in 1989, he initiated a new programme of research in TCD. This was based on the use of newly-developed methods of reading DNA to measure genetic diversity and plan livestock improvement in developing countries. The first results of this work, emerging in the early 1990s, rewrote the history of animal domestication, demonstrating for the first time the separate domestication of cattle in India on the one hand and in Africa and Europe on the other. This work has since been expanded by Professor Cunningham and his colleagues to other species including horses, salmon and humans, placing Irish research at the forefront of international work in this area. Following the BSE crisis in 1996, Professor Cunningham and his colleagues developed a system of DNA traceability for the meat industry. They went on to establish IdentiGEN, which deploys these technologies in Europe and North America.