Significant supports in place to buttress Ireland’s R&D infrastructure
But country still lags behind other European states in terms of public R&D spend
Ireland is a country which has a great talent pool, a multicultural society, has a can-do attitude to business, and as a key gateway into Europe for US MNCs in particular we offer something unique,” says KPMG partner, Ken Hardy.
Ireland is doing quite well when it comes to its R&D infrastructure with a lot of the ingredients in place to create the right environment for innovation activity. But the infrastructure is not confined to physical buildings and pieces of technology. Much more is required.
“Ideas are as important as facilities,” says Knowledge Transfer Ireland director Alison Campbell.
“And there are some really great supports for ideas available from Enterprise Ireland. For example, the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) is supporting the development of new and exciting technologies and we are seeing investments from the European Innovation Council into some very exciting companies in Ireland as well.”
Knowledge Transfer Ireland itself is part of the infrastructure. It is the office that helps business to benefit from access to Irish expertise and technology by making it simple to connect and engage with the research base in Ireland.
KPMG partner Ken Hardy points to other less tangible aspects.
“Ireland is a country which has a great talent pool, a multicultural society, has a can-do attitude to business, and as a key gateway into Europe for US MNCs in particular we offer something unique,” he says.
“These factors, along with the available tax credits and grant funding, put Ireland at the top table of places to undertake R&D activity.”
Tax is another important factor.
“Ireland has an attractive R&D tax credit rate at 25 per cent for large companies, representing one of the highest rates internationally, and an even higher rate of 30 per cent for small and micro companies,” says Hardy.
“Our R&D tax credit regime has been recognised in the past as being best in class internationally,” he continues.
“We also have an established OECD approved Knowledge Development Box which in the right circumstances enables companies to pay a reduced rate of tax (6.25 per cent) on patented products and copyrighted software.
“Interestingly, indigenous companies are more likely than multinationals to be able to claim the KDB as all their R&D work is typically undertaken in Ireland. In addition, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, and Science Foundation Ireland offer a range of attractive grants and, from our own recent experience, we have seen that they are open for business and actively providing funding support to companies undertaking new R&D projects.”
But there are some areas where we still need to improve.
“We probably need to find some way of nurturing and supporting the establishment of start-ups in biopharma,” says Matt Moran of industry group BioPharmaChem Ireland.
“That needs some attention from Government, especially the commercialisation piece. Luke O’Neill of TCD has been very successful in that space.”
Areas of significant potential such as cell and gene therapy also require attention, he contends.
“Cell and gene therapy need to be prioritised for investment. Academic institutions and companies that want to work in that area should be supported possibly through the establishment of a new SFI research centre or the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.”
Clinical trials is another area highlighted by Moran.
“We haven’t been as successful as we might have been in that space. We are well below the international average there. Clinical research is very important and there is an opportunity for Ireland to become a base to support trials and research.”
National R&D spend is another area in need of improvement, says KPMG partner Damien Flanagan.
“It is clear that as a country, we need to do more in terms of publicly funded R&D spend, particularly in support of SMEs, to reach parity with other EU states,” he says.
“This was made notable by a recent European Commission paper outlining that Ireland still lags well behind other states in terms of public R&D spend. While business expenditure on R&D might naturally depend on business expectations, publicly funded R&D could be made more counter-cyclical, providing a buffer to the effects of economic downturns. Ireland has a long way to go in this regard.”
He also suggests a change in approach to State funding.
“For Ireland to optimise its R&D investment we might consider a broader approach which looks at where the future ‘R&D dollars’ are going to be spent by industry. Streamlining research programmes to align with these key areas may help to increase collaboration between industry and academia.”