INITIATIVE TO KEEP RESEARCHERS RELEVANT - Businesses can get together with research teams at universities to work on research and development projects. It is an area that those involved say has the potential to create a significant number of jobs, and boost exports. Today NUI Maynooth is encouraging these collaborative research partnerships. 200 companies are going to meet university and Institute of Technology research teams, and Technology Transfer Offices, to see what they can join forces on.

The Director of Commercialisation at NUI Maynooth, John Scanlon, says the initiative keeps researchers relevant and gives students the chance to work in the real world and is great preparation for working in business. He says the research work is governed by the new IP protocol and while it sustains jobs it also creates new companies and therefore new jobs. Mr Scanlon says that there are currently about 50-60 open collaborations with researchers and companies.


MORNING BRIEFS - Ireland should be given, on average, an additional seven years to repay its bailout loans, according to a draft paper from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Reuters have reported that the recommendation is contained in a Troika document which will be considered by EU Finance Ministers at an informal meeting in Dublin this weekend. By extending the repayment schedule, payments would be spread over a longer time, which would give the markets the confidence to lend to Ireland at lower rates.

*** The technology breakdown at Ulster Bank last summer is to be investigated by the new financial regulator there. The Financial Conduct Authority, or FCA, which took over regulation of financial services companies at the start of this month, said it had started an enforcement investigation into the breakdown. If it finds that there were systemic failures behind the technology problems, the bank could face a fine, or individuals could be censured and banned. The issues started in mid-June when customers found they could not access their accounts online, or withdraw or transfer money. Accounts at Ulster Bank did not operate as normal for many weeks. The bank has paid €52m in compensation to Irish customers affected by the error, which has cost it about €103m in total.

*** Ireland's second biggest dairy processing co-op - Lakeland Dairies - has reported a 16% increase in profit before tax to €7.9m for the year 2012. Lakeland operates in 15 counties processing over 700 million litres of milk a year, mainly for export markets. Its chief executive Michael Hanley said the international environment was challenging, but that the group had made strong progress. Revenues in its food service and agri-trading divisions was higher; while in food ingredients it fell. Cavan based Lakeland's sells 170 products in 70 countries.

*** Mastercard is being investigated by the European Commission over fees charged for card transactions made by people visiting Europe. The Commission said some of the firm's "inter-bank fees and related practices may be anti-competitive". The commission is already investigating rival Visa over similar practices.

*** China has reported a surprise trade deficit for last month, as imports rose more-than-expected on stronger demand for commodities like copper and oil. Analysts said the deficit may signal that domestic demand is picking up and China's attempts to move away from export-led growth were working. Imports surged 14% from a year earlier. Analysts were expecting a 5% increase. Exports only rose by 10%, leading to a $884m deficit. There was a surplus of $15.3 billion in February.