The Next Economy: Martin Murphy, HP

3 Jan 2008

Key business leaders in Ireland’s technology and science industries look back on 2007 and highlight what’s needed for Ireland’s emerging knowledge economy in 2008. Martin Murphy (pictured) is general manager of HP in Ireland.

What in your opinion have been the key developments of 2007 in terms of industrial and infrastructural progress in Ireland?

Key developments during 2007 would be that in the interests of Ireland’s continuing international competitiveness, the National Development Plan and Transport 21 remained as top priorities in 2007 and will continue to be in 2008.

NDP provisions for capital investment at 6pc of national income is twice average of the EU15 richer states, however it is matched as a percentage of the economy by the Czech Republic, Poland and Latvia.

What issues have not been addressed and you believe should be a priority if we are to create genuine knowledge-based industries as we go into 2008?

A genuine knowledge-based economy is achieved by being successful on two fronts: competing for investment in knowledge-based industries and competing for skilled labour/knowledge workers.

Strong leadership and vision to deliver competitiveness are critical.

On top of this, Ireland needs to deliver stronger financial incentives for multinationals to locate research investments in Ireland, for example, an improved system of taxation on intellectual property development. It also needs to support our own entrepreneurial culture by measures such as extending the ‘innovation voucher’ scheme for SMEs and other financial measures which can be brought to bear in this regard.

To compete for skilled labour we must be able to offer high standards of living and value for money and provide measures which will improve quality of life now and into the future.

In its endeavour to create a knowledge-based economy, where do you think Ireland stands in relation to other nations with a similar agenda?

Successful economies, both at a local or national level, attract talented, young and highly skilled workers, are centres of innovation and entrepreneurship and are competitive locations for global and regional headquarters.

Ireland is a top performer in the EU for entrepreneurial activity, private capital investment and first in the OECD for attracting new greenfield foreign direct investment. However, we cannot afford to become complacent. Ireland must continue to maintain and develop a dynamic and competitive economy.

The Government’s new Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013, launched in summer 2006, outlines a vision of Ireland as a leading knowledge economy by 2013 and sets out the steps we need to take in order to ensure that Ireland becomes a world-class centre for the development and exploitation of knowledge.

ICT competence from an early age is a critical building block in a knowledge society. Leadership, direction and continuous investment in ICT has to come from government if we are collectively to sustain the type of competitive economy desired.

It has been suggested that as we march towards 2020, Ireland will need to field another one million workers. How urgent is this and can this be achieved?

Our vision for a knowledge economy will be achieved through a process of attracting and retaining qualified and skilled workers.

In order to attract these knowledge workers we need to compete on three levels: technology — embrace change and new ways of doing things; talent –attract and welcome new people and ideas; tolerance — be open to diverse lifestyle choices.

Desirable cities with high-quality infrastructure, green spaces and residential areas and public projects can contribute to economic success, attracting highly qualified professionals.

Communications and PC penetration are central to Ireland’s industrial development. Yet league tables suggest we are not at the races. How can these deficits be best addressed?

Ireland needs to set itself apart as a knowledge economy. To do this we need to select to focus upon a number of key areas where improvements could be made to raise the productivity and efficiency levels.

Government must take a leading role in encouraging PC penetration and the adoption of broadband technologies by all citizens and businesses. Simply put, having a national broadband strategy and the implementation of PC penetration schemes similar to those that have been successfully implemented elsewhere in Europe, are preliminary steps that will help to ensure that all citizens develop the 21st-century technology skills necessary to be successful in a knowledge economy.

For example, implementing a Vat-free PC scheme for all 10-18 year olds would cost Government approximately €80m for 100pc coverage.

By John Kennedy