A failure to invest in research and development in physics could cost the country the ability to create up to 80,000 jobs over the next decade, a report from the Institute of Physics warns.

The research shows that companies here are already facing critical skills shortages in the area, hindering future growth potential in the sector.

Physics covers areas as diverse as engineering, Information Technology, electronics, aerospace, meteorology, geophysics, development of new materials, teaching and academia.

Nearly half of respondents to a survey of physics-based companies cited skills shortages as a key challenge to undertaking research and development and activity around innovation.

Nearly all said they experienced difficulties recruiting across the board, both for specialist and technical skills, but also manufacturing and commercial roles.

About three in five said they had to suspend or delay R&D activity over the past five years.

A third of survey participants said they had looked overseas - outside of the UK or Ireland - to recruit candidates in order to meet skills shortages.

To build on its preliminary research, the Institute is launching a new consultation on its R&D blueprint in association with Ibec.

The IOP is also calling for increased public funding as well as better access to finance, such as loans, to ensure research and development activity can continue.

"We are at a crucial point, as our preliminary research shows companies are already experiencing critical skills shortages, which is hampering growth, and are now looking abroad to fill these positions," Tom Grinyer, Institute of Physics CEO said.

"As a driver of innovation, investment in physics R&D means vital industry will be embedded in Ireland and the resulting benefits will be seen here," he added.

Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said the consultation would help to inform and adapt strategies to support physics research and physics-based innovation.

"The IOP's preliminary research clearly shows there are important opportunities to be grasped if we are to accelerate physics-based innovation, and just how essential Government's support is in enabling innovation," he said.

Dr Sinead Keogh, Head of Sectors and Director at Ibec Medtech & Engineering Sectors, said the physics sector had an important role to play in enabling new technologies and enhancing our competitiveness.

"While Government’s Impact 2030 report is a positive step, the IOP’s research clearly shows more public funding is required," she said.

"As we look to the future, we must increase investment in R&D to address the evident skills shortage and drive job creation across the country," she added.