This week’s interviewee is Scott Wickware (pictured) vice-president of strategy and operations at Nortel.
Nortel has transformed its Galway operations from a traditional manufacturing entity to being a fully-fledged research and development (R&D) operation. How does Ireland perform in terms of R&D?
Ireland distributes a disproportionably high number of patents for the country. This is the sort of thing we value a lot and it adds value to a facility to be able to innovate. The Galway operation is valued very highly internationally.
While most global tech firms talk about the importance of R&D, what in your view is the best operational approach? ?
There’s no one way but several. It is good to have a diverse set of locations where we do R&D. We try to locate them in areas close to major customers. We want customers to have easy access to R&D and innovation at any time.
What resources must a location have to be a potent R&D force?
It’s important to have a critical mass in terms of innovation. It’s a ready mix between a company’s cost base, the intellectual property you can produce, the history of innovation in the area, people’s expertise and experience and most important having linkages to universities.
Which of these factors mattered most in terms of Galway?
We tend to target the non-obvious locations in the world but often the presence of a university in that region is a factor. The existence of a university in a region evinces a commitment to education and innovation, people are committed and the whole community rallies around it. Ireland is very strong in this regard.
Apart from education, what infrastructure elements are vital as an investor in the country?
In terms of other infrastructure I think there’s a clear need to build better roads between Shannon and Galway. While that’s more a public infrastructure issue, making it easier to get from A to B would make it easier to attract more investment.
I can’t emphasise more the importance of broadband, a strong high-speed backbone and wireless access. Location is mattering less and less due to broadband and most businesses could operate out of west China if the high-speed access was available. So this is something Ireland needs to focus on.
By John Kennedy