Despite evidence from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) that suggests a sharp fall in exports this year, Enterprise Ireland (EI) chief executive Frank Ryan said yesterday that indigenous industry in recent years reversed its export declines and this year could outperform the overall export growth rate in the Irish economy.
Speaking at an EI and Investnet Informatics Technology Commercialisation Showcase at the RDS yesterday, Ryan said indigenous industry is positioned for strong growth this year.
He said exports in 2004 were up 5.8pc from 0.81pc in 2003. “The good news is that for the past six months this growth rate is continuing to hold.
“The CSO in August had a lot to say – particularly that gross domestic product was 2.4pc in the first quarter of this year. Indigenous industry, however, will outperform that growth rate in the Irish economy,” Ryan told the assembly of academics, start-ups companies and financiers.
Focusing on high-potential start-ups and the need to enable third-level institutions to turn research into high-revenue businesses across a variety of sectors, Ryan said EI has supported more than 500 start-up companies over the past five years. “Between them, these companies employ 7,000 people and have revenues of €1.2bn a year. Today Ireland and Israel are considered the best in the world at starting up companies and I foresee that continuing going forward. There is an increasing stream of high-potential companies emerging from the universities. “We are unashamedly in the commercialisation business,” he told his audience.
Ryan said in 2004, more than €80m in financial support was given to indigenous companies. “Over the next five years we will see €400m invested. Looking back on 2004, some 50pc of that funding went into in-company research. Some €15m of that went into third-level research that provided commercialisation results.
Ryan said his strategic plan is to see indigenous companies spend €100k per annum on research and development (R&D) and an increase in the number of SMEs deriving revenues in excess of €2m a year.
“Things don’t happen overnight and we need to re-hone and re-focus our R&D investment programme. On average it takes two to three years for research to be conclusive. We need to establish a pipeline of leading research that can be commercialised over the next few years. Technologies don’t make things happen, people do,” Ryan said.
By John Kennedy