We are open for business as a global innovation hub


This St Patrick’s Day, Ministers have a message to deliver around the world, writes BRIAN COWEN

IRELAND HAS faced the global economic and financial crisis head on. We are coming through this difficult period – I am determined that we will continue on this path. And I am confident that growth will return to the economy later this year.

But I don’t want us to come through it merely surviving as best we can. I want us to come through the recession with a capacity to provide our citizens with enhanced opportunities, employment and secure living standards.

In the aftermath of the global crisis, a new economic order will emerge. We will face renewed competition from both East and West. I want Ireland to be positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be presented.

Restoring Ireland’s cost competitiveness and simply waiting for global demand to pick up will not be enough. Innovation, in both the production and use of ideas, technology and processes, across all areas of economic activity, is crucial because it drives productivity growth and, consequently, economic growth.

In December 2008, I launched the Government’s medium-term economic framework – Building Ireland’s Smart Economy. This contains five key action areas for driving productivity growth and innovation across all sectors of the economy, public and private. The report of the Innovation Taskforce launched on Thursday is concerned with one of those action areas – which involves positioning Ireland as a global innovation hub.

The vision for the Ireland they set out is for a smart, high-value, export-led economy. It will have some of the world’s leading research-intensive multinationals, a number of which will be Irish-owned.

It will have thousands of innovative small and medium enterprises. These companies will be creating the products and services of tomorrow for a world market.

To position Ireland as a global innovation hub, we must make Ireland:

the best place in Europe to turn research and knowledge into products and services;

the best place in Europe to start and grow an innovative company;

the best place to relocate or expand and scale an SME; and

the best place in Europe for research-intensive multinationals to collaborate with each other and with clusters of small companies.

If we do this successfully, we can create a step-change in the number of new jobs we create over the next decade.

And Ireland can do this: many of the world’s leading multinationals already have operations here; we have built up our research base over recent years; we have a very high rate of entrepreneurship; we have a young, and increasingly well-educated population; and we offer an English-speaking, business-friendly location.

The Innovation Taskforce has shown the glass is more than half full when it comes to Ireland’s potential. In its report, the taskforce has focused, correctly, on how we can deliver a step-change in the level of company start-ups and job creation in innovative, export-focused sectors.

The taskforce has made a wide range of recommendations including in the areas of investment in research and development, the higher-education sector, access to intellectual property, public procurement, tax and other incentives, convergence and other opportunities for transforming existing companies, infrastructure and marketing.

People say the best way to predict the future is to invent it. One of Ireland’s best attributes is our ability to be agile and to make quick decisions to get ahead of the game. We need to use that quality now, as we have in the past. I will be working with my colleagues in Government to take forward the taskforce’s recommendations as we seek to make Ireland a global innovation hub and ensure Ireland provides quality jobs for ourselves and future generations.

In the next few days, I, and the members of the Government, will lead a major marketing effort around the world as part of St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The report of the Innovation Taskforce and its vision will be a central pillar of the message we will bring with us.

I will be bringing a positive message of hope and confidence about Ireland. I am going to tell everyone why I am confident and proud of Ireland; what we have to offer and what will be the source of our success for the future.

And the good news is that, in so many ways, we have the fundamentals of these success factors in place. We have not lost them at all in this recession. The foundations for economic growth are not destroyed, but are firmly in place, ready to be built on.

The recommendations and vision set out by the Innovation Taskforce are a timely input which will inform how we best align the structures and priority actions of Government as we continue on the road to economic renewal.