Global executives don’t rate Ireland for innovation – survey

Irish based respondents are more positive about domestic innovation framework

Chief executive of Enterprise Ireland Frank Ryan said it “shows that the work we have been doing must continue.” Photograph: Frank Miller

Chief executive of Enterprise Ireland Frank Ryan said it “shows that the work we have been doing must continue.” Photograph: Frank Miller

Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 17:15

Just one third of global business executives responding to a survey believe that Ireland’s economic framework is conducive to innovation. And, while executives based in Ireland have a more positive take on the domestic environment for innovation, more than half expressed a concern as to whether or note the government’s approach was “efficiently organised and co-ordinated”.

According to the latest GE Global Innovation Barometer report, which Ireland featured in for the first time, global executives ranked Ireland 16th out of 25 countries in terms of its innovation framework, behind top-ranked Germany (85 per cent approval) and the US (84 per cent).

“Ireland needs to improve its marketing plan on innovation,” said Antoine Havary of Strategy One and author of the report, adding “the external reputation for Ireland is not as established as we might have had expected”.

Of the poor placing from global executives, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland Frank Ryan said it “shows that the work we have been doing must continue”. However, he noted that from an Irish foreign direct investment perspective, it is the opinion of executives in ten or so countries that really count, and it is in these regions, such as the US and China, that promotional efforts are concentrated.

From the perspective of companies already based in Ireland, the country placed much higher, with 63 per cent of Irish based executives reporting that their country has an innovation friendly environment.

“Business executives surveyed in Ireland are more positive about their country than their peers in countries like Canada,” Mr Havary noted.

Indeed more than 90 per cent of Irish executives said that “society as a whole is supportive of innovation” while more than three quarters noted that Irish universities “prepare the innovation leaders of tomorrow”.

Ireland fell down however in areas such as government support, with just 46 per cent of Irish respondents noting that public sector support for innovation was “efficiently organised and co-ordinated”, while a lack of support for SMEs was also noted. Almost half of respondents said that public authorities give less support to SMEs than larger companies.

Commercialisation was another area where respondents noted that there is room for progress, with just over half (56 per cent) reporting that the speed at which innovative products are brought to market is adequate.

Irish executives gave an overwhelming “thumbs up” for collaboration, with 83 per cent of respondents noting that their firm would be more successful at innovation through partnership, rather than going it alone.

There are barriers to collaborative innovation however, and as noted in the survey these include a lack of protection of confidentiality and a lack of a tested collaboration process or tool. A lack of time was another factor, with 41 per cent of Irish respondents - versus just 28 per cent of global executives - noting that they didn’t have time to collaborate.

“It takes more time to collaborate and enter a market that way - but collaboration can be more successful,” said Mr Ryan.

The survey revealed some further distinctions between Irish companies’ priorities and their global counterparts. Irish companies for example, place a greater emphasis on innovation in customer services, with 61 per cent identifying it as a focus, compared to to 42 per cent of global respondents. Similarly, 90 per cent say that SMEs and individuals can be as innovative as large companies, compared with a global average of 84 per cent.

The report surveyed 3,100 people, of which 100 were based in Ireland, from a range of business sectors.