Morning business news - January 25

Friday 25 January 2013 10.44
Morning business news with Conor Brophy
Morning business news with Conor Brophy

85 NEW RESEARCH PROJECTS WIN €60m IN STATE FUNDING - The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has announced details of 85 projects which have been awarded €60m in state funding for research under Science Foundation Ireland's investigator programme. The idea is to target research that will, ultimately, have a commercial application. Professor Stephen O'Brien from the University of Limerick has emerged as one of the big winners from Science Foundation Ireland's Investigator programme. He has been awarded €2.8m in funding to pursue applied mathematical modelling research, where he will research how maths can be applied to solve practical problems in industry. That can cover anything from how bubbles move in a pint of stout to modelling how diseases spread in order to develop more effective treatments.

Research and Innovation Minister Seán Sherlock says that funds will be directed through Science Foundation Ireland to turn good ideas into good jobs. He says this latest funding will enable Ireland to compete on a word class basis with firms like IBM Ireland, Intel Ireland, HP and Bord Gáis. The research projects funded include computer assisted neurosurgery, inflammatory diseases and applied maths. The Minister said the funding will also indirectly support further research initiatives and many more researchers by leveraging significant additional funding on a pan-European basis. He says there is a highly evolved system to insure the research has a positive impact on society and a positive impact on job creation. A technology transfer system is also in place to mind the intellectual property of solutions created by universities, the Minister said.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Belgium's KBC Bank has repayed €8.3 billion in funding it received under the European Central Bank's Long Term Refinancing Operation. That programme, launched in December 2011, provided money to banks at low interest rates to help ease funding issues. A lot of banks took the funds and immediately bought government debt. Many banks here bought Irish Government bonds, which pay an interest rate much higher than the cost of that LTRO money from the ECB. KBC says the vast bulk of the €8.3 billion was deployed at KBC Bank Ireland to make it less dependent on funding provided by its parent company but it has now paid those loans back to the ECB.

*** Microsoft saw the benefit of sales from its newly released Windows 8 software over the final quarter of last year. Results published overnight show sales from its Windows division up 24% compared to the same time last year. This one is a crucial software release for Microsoft because it needs to make inroads into the market for tablet computers. Microsoft's Windows is still the dominant operating system on desktop personal computers and laptops.

But PC sales last year fell for the first time in over a decade. Sales of tablet computers and smartphones are now where computing is at and Microsoft lags behind rivals such as Google and Apple in selling its operating system on those devices. These latest results show Windows 8 is selling but Microsoft still saw its quarterly profit fall from $6.6 billion to $6.4 billion over the final quarter of 2012.

*** Phone maker Nokia which, like Microsoft, is trying to recapture its past dominance, returned to profit in the most recent financial quarter. That came after swallowing losses of €4 billion over the previous six financial quarters. The reason for this turnaround sales of its Lumia smartphone which runs Microsoft's Windows.