One of the central targets of the Government's national research strategy, spending on research and development (R&D), looks set to be missed by a wide margin by the time the plan comes to an end next year.

According to data recently released by the Department of Business, total R&D spend last year by the public and private sectors here was 1.46% of the country’s gross national product (GNP), down from 1.56% in 2017.

Innovation 2020, the Government’s research plan launched in 2015, set a target for total research spending here to reach 2.5% of GNP over the five years of the strategy.

The data shows that last year research spending here as a percentage of GNP was at the lowest level since the plan was launched.

Ireland’s GNP has been growing at a rapid rate in recent years, fueled by a resurgence in the economy here.

But GNP and GDP are not considered an accurate measure of growth in the domestic Irish economy because of the distorting effects of the large multinational sector here.

However, even as a proportion of the modified Gross National Income measure that the Central Statistics Office prefers, spending on R&D here has fallen over the five years of Innovation 2020.

The figures also reveal that Ireland languishes well down the table in comparison to other developed nations when it comes to R&D spending.

Of the total €3.704bn spent on R&D by the private and public sectors in 2018, €766m came from the state and €2.94bn from the private sector.