Prioritise education and RD, former Intel boss tells forum

 

IRELAND IS falling behind other countries in education and research and development, participants in the Global Economic Forum at Farmleigh in Dublin heard yesterday.

Former Intel chief executive Craig Barrett was a keynote speaker at the plenary session following Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s speech, which was the only event inside Farmleigh which journalists were permitted to attend.

Observers said Dr Barrett portrayed Ireland’s level of investment in research and development as mediocre by comparison to its competitors.

On education, he suggested there had been a slippage in standards at the higher levels.

Dr Barrett was described as “massively impressive” by observers, who praised his straight-forward and plain-speaking style.

Dr Barrett spoke to the media afterwards and said Ireland needed to prioritise its efforts in a few areas.

“Ireland’s not a big country. It’s limited in resources, so it has to prioritise. You need to then have the education system, the RD system and the Government policies crystallised about a few areas to focus on and be world leaders in those areas,” he said.

Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe attended the plenary session as well as a workshop on education.

He indicated that the recommendations of economist Colm McCarthy’s report were challenged.

“Certainly I suppose in total contrast to what Colm McCarthy said in his report. There was a very strong view that research and development should be an investment into the future of Ireland,” he said.

“I think there was a view in terms of education, expressed certainly at our workshop, that our education doesn’t have the standing that it had quite a number of years ago and that there is a need to look at exactly how we teach our subjects.”

Mr O’Keeffe said he was pleased to hear so many experts had said education must be protected at all costs.

He said he would remind Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan of that ahead of the pre-budget estimates.

“It’s still going to be a very tough estimate and everything is going to be impacted upon, but I think anybody who was in there today will see that the leaders in industry out there believe that whatever growth we’ll have will be stimulated from education itself.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin also attended the opening event and took part in a workshop on helping export companies, which he said produced proposals that could be brought to Government.

“A big, strong theme today was the degree to which the centre of gravity is changing in the world towards Asia,” he said.

Bob Geldof, who was a guest at the forum, also confirmed that there were suggestions from experts that the State needed to spend more on research and development.

“There was a suggestion in our group for example that there should be a mandated 3 per cent expenditure on research and development, which is much lower than, let’s say, a southeast Asian economy, which is an emerging economy,” he said.