Barrett preaches patience in State funding

 

POLITICIANS AND funding agencies should not measure the value of science and technology research investments by swiftly-produced intellectual property (IP) portfolios, former Intel chairman and chief executive Craig Barrett said yesterday.

Speaking at Intel Ireland’s Leixlip headquarters, Dr Barrett claimed politicians and funding bodies internationally were short-sighted in expecting quick results and an IP portfolio after only a few years of funding a project.

This has been the measuring stick used by political committees and funding bodies in Ireland in the past. “One thing that’s short in a democracy is patience. The government, the funding entities, have to have patience, seeing this through not just one electoral cycle. The politicians want to see an ROI [return on investment] in just a few years,” he said.

Likewise, he said it would take time to build up university research institutions and a broad base of strong indigenous technology companies.

“I frankly think it’s difficult for politicians to grasp this if they haven’t gone through this,” he said. “Silicon Valley didn’t happen overnight. MIT [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] didn’t happen overnight. There has been a building of those entities. It’s a very complex equation, making this happen.”

Maintaining research funding was particularly important, not just for corporations to keep their competitive edge but for competitive nations in a global market, too. “At Intel, the one thing that never decreases is the RD budget. If you slice it by 10 to 15 per cent, you know your future is mortgaged. Nations have to start realising this too.”

He said that Ireland would need to shift from reliance on outside investment and build on its base of multinationals to create an indigenous technology sector.

“Ireland was swamped with FDI [foreign direct investment] for 10 years and that grew the tech sector,” he said, but this could not be a long-term strategy. “The ultimate game has to be spinning off people and ideas and that will create high-paying jobs on the edge of technology.”