Ireland still has its work cut out for it

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

GLOBAL CLEANTECH INNOVATION INDEX 2012:IRELAND IS ranked ninth out of 38 countries in the Cleantech Group/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2012.

The Index evaluated countries on 15 indicators related to the creation and commercialisation of cleantech start-ups, measuring each one’s relative potential to produce entrepreneurial cleantech start-up companies and commercialise clean technology innovations over the next 10 years.

It rates us one place ahead of our neighbours in the UK, which ranks 10th, and ahead of China in 13th place and, surprisingly, Austria, which ranks 17th, even though it has a vibrant multi-billion euro cluster of cleantech firms in the Styria region.

However, despite these overall findings, according to a report accompanying the Index we are punching below our weight in developing start-ups in this sector.

“Although Ireland (North and South) has the largest percentage of its population working in cleantech (more than 6,000 employed by over 240 firms), a number of cleantech-focused corporates, and considerable cleantech private equity investment, its mediocre patent production suggests that the country is active in cleantech primarily at later stages of commercialisation. It is not bringing many technologies all the way from RD to the market, and is thus not producing many high-impact start-ups,” it states.

According to the report, we lag behind Denmark, Israel, Sweden and Finland, who occupy the first four places in the Index, ahead of the US, which ranks fifth.

In addition, cleantech advocates have complained that a lack of joined-up thinking at State level has hamperedsignificant growth in biomass, geothermal and small-scale renewables – something that is borne out in Ireland’s poor standings in these categories in Ernst Young’s reports on countries’ attractiveness for renewable energy investment.

Some industry sources have questioned if the likes of Science Foundation Ireland is boosting enough real, applied cleantech innovation here.

While last month’s national action plan for jobs indicated the Government’s awareness

of the importance of the

sector, it remains to be seen whether a significant number

of tangible success stories

(such as those recorded by Kingspan and Nualight in the last few years) will emerge on a regular basis in the near future.