Review of the year part 4

2 Jan 2004

2003 may go down in the annals as the year when Ireland truly set itself on course to become a knowledge economy — a shift in direction that comes at a price and is far from complete. Revisit the highs and lows in a month-by-month flashback of the year that was. OCTOBER-DECEMBER

Who said manufacturing was dead? Xsil was named the winner of this year’s Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Award, a maker of micro-machining systems for high-volume manufacturing in the semiconductor, photonics and microelectromechanical systems industries. The company achieved aggregate revenue growth of a massive 3,064pc over the past three years. In second place was Web Reservations International, a provider of online reservations technology for the budget travel market…. Level 3 Communications subsidiary Software Spectrum sold its Ballsbridge technical support centre to US-based outsourcing company ECE Holdings for an undisclosed sum, saving some 30 software jobs that were earmarked to be transferred to Germany… The Chambers of Commerce of Ireland rounded on the Government and telecoms firms for the lack of broadband take-up. It cited over-promising, under-delivery and empty rhetoric by the industry as reasons why Irish SMEs are sceptical about signing up for broadband services… The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs confirmed fears that there may be insufficient graduate numbers in ICT, science and engineering by 2005 and said a considerable “balancing act” will be required over the next few years to meet demand as the global economy gets back on its feet…

E-working — the best way to drive broadband take-up? Forget about downloading movie trailers, an Eircom study revealed that people who use e-working technologies during their working day experience less stress in their lives and enjoy a better work/life balance. The project studied 60 workers and found that 90pc of the participants discovered that they suffered significantly less stress in their lives as a result of e-working. Some 87pc of the 60 workers discovered they had more spare time and used this to improve their work/life balance. Half of the workers used the spare time for family activities and responsibilities. A further 25pc became involved in leisure activities whilst 12pc engaged in community activities… Responding to a growing crisis on science in schools, the ICS launched a €500k initiative to encourage secondary pupils to think about the broad range of opportunities that await people with IT skills. The ChooseIT campaign will run over two years and will target students and career guidance counsellors in every secondary school in Ireland through the portal… Thanks to aggressive lobbying by the science sector, the Minister for Education, Noel Dempsey TD, announced an end to the freeze on capital funding for research in third-level institutions…

In his Budget for 2004, Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy TD announced that he is retaining the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) for start-ups until 2006 and will be extending its ceiling from €750,000 to €1m. In addition, McCreevy has assuaged the demands of indigenous and multinational tech firms by introducing tax credits for R&D as a means of rewarding innovation and attracting higher value inward investment. The tax credits were applauded by the multinational sector. Joanne Richardson, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland, which represents 570 US multinationals in Ireland and 65pc of all foreign investment in Ireland, described the decision as a bold move that will greatly assist existing multinationals in Ireland that want to attract R&D to their operations here. “In seeking to attract such investment Ireland has to compete against many countries that already provide tax credits on R&D including Canada, the UK and Australia. Today’s decision will increase our competitiveness as we seek to attract more added-value investment to Ireland and should lead to additional jobs. It is also accepted that companies with R&D and other added-value operations are less likely to move operations to lower cost countries.”

Something worth saying …

On communications
“There are big decisions to be made on a whole range of infrastructural issues. Broadband is only one of them. The same nerve exuded by TK Whitaker and Sean Lemass in shaping Ireland’s economic future needs to be seen again” — Danny O’Hare, chairman of the Information Society Commission

“We will not provide services to customers until such time as the products are working well and easy to use. With Hutchison’s 3 network you can see all of the pain that comes from being bleeding edge rather than leading edge” — Paul Donovan, CEO of Vodafone Ireland