Fiannna Fail leader Micheal Martin wants a significant shake-up of cabinet portfolios if he enters a coalition government with Fine Gael.
Mr Martin wants a new department to solely focus on third-level education and research.
The party leader has also suggested tourism may need a standalone department to address the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector.
He also wants to remove disability services from the Department of Health to ensure people with conditions have better opportunities.
His comments come as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael prepare a response to the Green Party's demands for entering programme for government talks.
Speaking to the Herald, Mr Martin said he is "very keen" to have a new department in the next cabinet focused on higher education and research.
He insisted the sector is the key to creating new companies and products which will aid the economic recovery.
"It is not the sexiest thing politically, it doesn't win votes, but research is absolutely essential," he said.
"We need to grow our own internationals in medical devices, in pharmaceuticals and also in software. Unfortunately we tend to get to a certain level and someone comes in and buys up our people."
Mr Martin said he is "actively" considering the need for a ministry for tourism.
"Part of the economic recovery will have to be looking at how to incentivise people to holiday at home, presuming you can get restaurants open again and hotels to open again before the year is out," he said.
He is not in favour of breaking up the Department of Health, as the "holy grail" is to properly integrate acute hospital care with community services.
However, he wants to improve disability services and said this could involve removing it from the health portfolio.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are set to finalise their response to 17 questions raised by the Green Party as early as today.
Green leader Eamon Ryan has identified a demand for a more ambitious 7pc-a-year reduction in carbon emissions as a red line for his party.
The Regional Independent Group of nine TDs convened by Denis Naughten has also been involved in talks.
Former climate action minister Mr Naughten has described the 7pc-a-year target is "unattainable".
However, he said the Regional Independent Group has not ruled out joining a government that involves the Green Party but is waiting to see Fianna Fail and Fine Gael's response.