Ireland is now winning global R&D investment and is witnessing a wide geographic spread of high quality investment throughout the regions, said chief executive Sean Dorgan yesterday at the agency’s end of year review. He said that 2005 was the best year for job creation since 2000, with 4,296 jobs created – up 3pc on last year.
“2005 was notable for the spread of investment by multinational companies throughout the regions, and for the depth and quality of R&D investments now being won,” Dorgan added.
During the year, 50 R&D investment projects were supported by IDA Ireland involving a total investment by business in excess of €260m – an 85pc increase in value from 2004. Multinational companies made regional locations their preference as 46 out of 71 investments located outside of Dublin.
The agency said that close to 40pc of all new jobs in IDA-backed projects now earn in excess of €37,000 per annum. More than 50pc of the jobs created in 2005 require third level qualifications across all disciplines from IT, financial services and webs design to software engineers, biotechnologists and physicists.
Proving that manufacturing is far from finished in Ireland, employment in manufacturing increased by over 1,500. In fact, manufacturing output in Ireland is now two and a half times the value of 1995 and employment in the sector is 5pc higher than 10 years ago. Dorgan said this reflected the strong productivity growth the sector still yields, a factor essential to competitiveness.
He also said that 2005 was made notable by significant R&D investment decisions such as Microsoft’s establishment of a 100-strong software R&D centre at its European centre in Sandyford as well as a investments totalling over €50m by Xilinx, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Citigroup and Genzyme Corporation in leading edge R&D projects. Palm is also locating an R&D centre at Swords, Co Dublin to develop software applications and Dell is to establish an Engineering Centre of Competency for Communications and Network product Development in Limerick in collaboration with the University of Limerick.
Dorgan said that 2005 saw Ireland emerge as a major global competitor for R&D investment. “We are seeing the results of a concerted effort in Government policy to build a foundation of science and technology in our academic institutions and in particular to encourage strong business and academic collaboration. This is enabling the build up of the research and development capability of Irish based businesses which is fundamental to Ireland’s future competitiveness.”
He added: “The nature and the quality of investments have noticeably changed in the last year. Once we firmly placed Ireland on the world map as a knowledge economy, our challenge then was to make sure the investments we secured for Ireland would be innovation-driven, technologically advanced and with the highest calibre of employment creation.”
He continued: “Our bright young graduates – many of them in science, engineering or business – are a key attraction for investors, and their availability right throughout the country is the essential basis for regional success. Our clients are finding that they can source large numbers of staff, highly skilled in all areas of business and educated to a level necessary to satisfy major investments in biotechnology and ICT for example. Our universities and third level colleges are second to none in providing the courses most suited to global business.”
However, he warned apathy on the part of students in opting for technical subjects at second and third level could still impact Ireland’s competitiveness. “Our students need to be aware of the opportunities available to them so they can make the right choices for third level courses. The science and IT disciplines need candidates now more than ever and we have to strongly encourage a drive toward further education to the fourth level for Master Degree and PhD graduates if we are to remain competitive into the foreseeable future.”
By John Kennedy