Ireland lags behind on innovation, says EU study


Ireland remains a follower rather than a leader when it comes to high-tech innovation, according to a new European Union study.

The EU's "Innovation Scoreboard", which was published today, reveals that while Ireland is quick to follow its counterparts it still lags behind so-called 'innovation leaders' such as Sweden, Finlan, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

The scoreboard measures key indicators such as investment in R&D, numbers of highly educated workers, exports and sales in the high-tech sector as well as access to broadband and numbers employed in high-tech manufacturing.

Ireland is included in the group of 'innovation followers', with an innovation performance above the EU27 average. It is a growth leader within this select group of countries, which also includes France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria, with a rate of improvement just above that of the EU27.

The results show that Ireland's greatest relative strength is in human resources, marked by its strong growth in graduates and doctorates. Ireland's weak point is R&D investment by business and co-operation across firms.

Over the past five years, human resources and finance and support have been the main drivers of the improvement in innovation performance in Ireland, the study says. This is due in particular to strong growth in S&E (science and engineering and SSH (social sciences and humanities) doctorate graduates, private credit and broadband access by firms.

However, performance in firm investments, linkages & entrepreneurship and innovators has worsened in Ireland, according to the scoreboard.

Last month, the Government issued its Framework for Sustainable Economic Development, a 102-page document which is designed to boost the economy. The plan will establish a series of venture capital funds worth a total of €500 million in a bid to lure innovative industries to the Republic and boost research and development activity here.

The EU's Scoreboard indicates that innovative investments by businesses across the European Union are still relatively weak, especially if compared to the United States and Japan. In addition, despite increased investment in research by many member states and an improved efficiency of their research systems, the EU is still far from reaching its target for 2010 of investing 3 per cent of GDP in R&D.

“At a time of crisis, it is not the moment to take a break in research investments and in innovation. They are vital if Europe wants to emerge stronger from the economic crisis and if it wants to address the challenges of climate change and globalisation,” said EU commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen and Janez Potočnik EU commissioner for Science and Research in a joint statement.

“The EU does have many assets, notably an increasingly attractive European research area and a continuously improving innovation performance. But there is still work to be done, especially on the relative underinvestment by business,” they added.