As a small open trading economy, Ireland depends on excellent and innovative education and training to sustain economic success and to convert economic success into building a strong and fair community. Ireland has developed particular strengths within Education in fostering entrepreneurship and in supporting the early emergence of high tech enterprises. We have also a proven track record in converting good research into practical innovations which can better meet market needs.
Research and innovation are of major importance to Ireland given their role in contributing to competitiveness and growth. Research investments have had a very positive impact on Ireland's industrial development and highlight how research, development and innovation can contribute significantly to job creation and economic prosperity.
We know that the strength of our economy depends on the quality of our workforce and on our capacity for research and innovation. A well-educated and well trained work force that embraces knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship is the very basis for our competitiveness. In particular, continuous innovation in higher education has been an important driver of Ireland's knowledge based economy; which has led us to being the fastest growing economy in Europe.
The United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation, in its Global Innovation Index ranks Ireland Number 7 in the world for innovation an increase of 4 places since 2014 making Ireland the fastest climbing of the top twenty countries. In 19 fields of re-search, Irish universities are in the top 1 percent in the world. For example, we are ranked second in the world for nanotechnology, second for immunology, second for chemistry, third for agricultural sciences and fourth in the world for mathematics. A network of applied research centres within Ireland's higher education system, as well as a robust Phd framework play important roles in fostering continuous innovation.
Entrepreneurship requires critical thinking, creativity and risk-taking. A number of our higher education institutions are significantly engaged in many programmes to support entrepreneurship through undergraduate, postgraduate and research incubator programmes and spin off companies as well as ensuring that the actual entrepreneurial competences of students are developed.
Ireland's R&D is in the top 5 percent in the world in nanotechnology, immunology, materials science, food science and computer science, among other areas.
In order for our enterprise base to thrive, it must be both resilient and internationally competitive. Innovation is central to ensuring that our enterprise base achieves these aims and a key goal is to increase enterprise engagement in R&D. In Ireland, we have a research base that is well connected to the enterprise sector through collaborations and partnerships. Close co-operation between industry and academia promotes the relevance and attractiveness of higher education programmes; it provides business with the skilled people that it needs and provides graduates with the assurances on the relevance and marketability of their skills.
The bedrock of our research system is a strong cohort of highly creative and innovative researchers and we have a reputation where enterprise and academia work well together. Collaboration between higher education and enterprise is undoubtedly a win-win for both. Enterprise, from micro to multinational, can access specialist knowledge and innovation supports to boost the development of new ideas for products, services and technologies.
We must foster the role of higher education institutions as engines of innovation, as talented people need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to drive innovation forward.