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State Agency of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation overview
Formed January 1994
Jurisdiction Ireland
Headquarters Wilton Park House, Wilton Place, Dublin 2
State Agency of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation executives Martin Shanahan, Chief Executive
Eoin O'Driscoll, Chairman
Key document Industrial Development Act, 1993
Website Forfás website

Forfás (Irish pronunciation: [fˠɔɾˠfˠaːsˠ]) is the national policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation in Ireland. The agency was established in January 1994 under the Industrial Development Act, 1993 and is run by a board appointed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, to whom the agency is responsible.


Legally, Forfás has five separate but related functions:

  • Provide independent and rigorous research, advice and support in the areas of enterprise and science policy. This work informs the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and wider Government in its responses to the fast-changing needs of the global business environment;
  • Ensure the coherence of policies across the development agencies supporting enterprise;
  • Evaluate enterprise policy interventions;
  • Provide research and administrative support to independent advisory groups which currently include the:
    • Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (ASC)
    • Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN)
    • Management Development Council (MDC)
    • National Competitiveness Council (NCC)

In its day-to-day business, the primary function of Forfás is to analyse developments in areas concerning Ireland's industrial and economic development and to make policy recommendations based on this analysis to Government. The Irish Government is not obliged to implement any recommendations that Forfás makes. Additional functions include:

  • Accreditation services of the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB). INAB provides services for the accreditation of calibration and testing laboratories in Ireland.
  • Managing the national awareness programme, Discover Science and Engineering (DSE). DSE is the national science awareness programme for science, engineering, technology and innovation. The programme is managed by Forfás on behalf of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
  • Provision of certain shared corporate services for IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland;
  • Hosting the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser to Government.

As outlined above, Forfás also plays a significant role in co-ordinating the activities of Government Enterprise Agencies (Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland).


Forfás is ultimately a board of members that advises Government. Members are appointed to the Board of Forfás by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and as provided for in the Industrial Development legislation. Under the Industrial Development Act 1993, the CEOs of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland are automatically Board members of Forfás. By tradition, the Director General of FÁS and the Secretary General of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation are also board members. The Board also includes a panel of business, economic and other specialists.

A full list of Board members is available from the Forfás website.


While Forfás is a board, that board is supported by an executive of salaried employees. Forfás is the sole legal employer of staff in its own executive, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland. Arising out of this, all staff employed in these bodies are Forfás employees seconded to such bodies. Upon retirement, Forfás assumes responsibility for their pension, resulting in Forfás having a large annual pensions cost and a significant liability under accounting standard FRS 17.

Policy analysis and advice[edit]

Forfás fulfils its mandate through three policy divisions:

  • Competitiveness Division
  • Enterprise Policy Division
  • Science, Technology & Human Capital Division


The Competitiveness Division supports the Board of Forfás in providing advice to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the development agencies and other government departments. It has the following departments:

  • National Competitiveness, Sustainability and Infrastructure Department
  • Regulation, Trade and Policy Foresight Department
  • Finance Department
  • Systems/IT/Facilities Departments

Enterprise policy[edit]

The Enterprise policy departments of this division supports the Board of Forfás in providing advice to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on general enterprise development and related issues: It has the following three departments:

  • Enterprise Policy and Communications Department
  • Tax/Finance/Employment and Surveys Department
  • Discover Science and Engineering

Science, Technology & Human Capital[edit]

This Division supports the Board of Forfás in providing advice to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the development and implementation of science, technology, innovation and human capital policy for economic and social well-being. The division also provides research and secretariat support to the Advisory Science Council, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the Management Development Council. It is made up of the following departments:

  • Science, Technology and Basic Research Policy
  • Enterprise Research and Development Policy
  • Human Capital and Labour Market Policy

Secretariat support[edit]

Forfás provides the secretariat to a number of committees established by Government. These include:

  • Advisory Council on Science & Technology in Ireland (ACSTI)
  • Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN)
  • National Competitiveness Council (NCC)
  • Management Development Council (MDC)

Forfás has also provided support to the Enterprise Strategy Group, the Small Business Forum, the Business Regulation Forum and the Consumer Strategy Group.

Discover Science and Engineering[edit]

It also runs the Discover Science & Engineering (DSE) programme on behalf of the Office of Science & Technology. The programme bring together under one brand many of the existing national science, technology and engineering awareness activities and expands on these activities in a way that eliminates duplication and provides a more focused and effective communications strategy. The aim of the DSE programme is to encourage young people to consider careers in science, engineering and technology and, linked to that, to increase the numbers of students studying the physical sciences. In addition, the programme aims to raise the level of perception of science, technology, innovation and engineering among students and society in general. DSE runs numerous initiatives, including Science Week Ireland, Discover Primary Science, Greenwave and

Irish National Accreditation Board[edit]

The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) has three main functions. It:

  • Accredits organisations involved in the certification of quality and environmental management systems, products and personnel, laboratories involved in calibration and testing activities, certification and inspection bodies, attesters and attestation bodies
  • Responsible for accreditation in accordance with the relevant International Organisation for Standardisation ISO 17000 series of standards and guides and the harmonised EN 45000 series of European standards
  • Is the national statutory monitoring authority for GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) and EMAS (European Eco-Management and Audit Schemes)

Other activities[edit]

Forfás was responsible for the successful EMU Business Awareness Campaign in the Republic of Ireland and related Loughrea Eurotown project and more recently, the Enterprise Strategy Group and the Consumer Strategy Group.

Forfás is the direct employer of all employees in the 'development agencies', including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and also is the legal employer of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government. The post is currently held by Patrick Cunningham, Professor of Animal Genetics at TCD, who holds a PhD from Cornell University.

The previous holder of the post was Barry McSweeney, who resigned in 2005 when it was revealed that he got his doctorate from Pacific Western University, a so-called diploma mill.[1] McSweeney is now a director of research at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Chairman of Forfás[edit]

# Name Appointed Retired
1. Tom Toner 1994 1999
2. Peter Cassells 2000 2004
3. Eoin O'Driscoll 2004 Incumbent

Chief Executives of Forfás[edit]

# Name Appointed Retired
1. John Travers 1994 2002
2. Martin Cronin 2002 2010
3. Martin Shanahan 2010 Incumbent

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lynch, Donal. (9 October 2005). Sunday Independent Degree of doubt for Bertie's boffin.

External links[edit]