215,000 new jobs by 2020 if Ireland becomes a Global Innovation Hub

11 Mar 2010

Nationwide 1Gbps broadband, the creation of a ‘European Accelerator’ to attract the world’s most innovative start-ups and a sea change in structures and attitudes to start-ups were among the recommendations of the Innovation Taskforce revealed today.

The plan envisages that if the recommendations – which centre on taxation, intellectual property and spinouts from multinationals, indigenous firms and universities – are followed through anything between 120,000 by 2014 even up to 215,000 jobs by 2020 could be created.

But the long-awaited report with 24 recommendations to transform the country’s economic fortunes is right now just that, a report. Now that it has been presented to the Government it is now open to debate whether the Government will pick up the ball and run with it.

Launching the report Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted that restoring Ireland’s cost competitiveness and simply waiting for global demand to pick up is not enough. “To position Ireland as a Global Innovation Hub, we must make Ireland the best place in Europe to turn research and knowledge into products and services, to start an innovative company, the best place to scale an SME and the best place for research-intensive multinationals to collaborate with each other with clusters of small companies.”

Cowen assured the report’s authors, which included KPMG’s Anna Scally, Cisco vice president Barry O’Sullivan, software entrepreneur Chris Horn and Enterprise Ireland’s Frank Ryan, to name but a few, that he would use the report to look at the best way to align structures to take forward the Taskforce’s recommendations.

The report presents a vision of an Ireland where entrepreneurship spurred by innovation transcends all sectors of the economy, whether it is new entrepreneurs with clever business or hi-tech ideas or spin-outs from the large multinational base amassed here. Innovation, the Task Force says, is not just about “people wearing white coats” it includes family-run businesses and multinationals based in Ireland for years.

It calls for a sea change in this nation’s attitudes to entrepreneurships and particularly failure and deals predominately with the task of unlocking innovation, the mechanisms for funding companies and valuing intellectual property. Where the report falls short, however, is the infrastructure that for example software companies, digital media firms and scientists will need to get their product to an international market. Broadband, regrettably, only gets two pages in the 124-page document.

The key recommendations of the report include:

·         Growing Ireland level of R&D from 1.6pc of GDP today to 3pc between 2014 and 2020.

·         Nationwide rollout of a Next Generation Network capable of universal speeds of 1Gbps

·         Get better value for money in science investment by creating a single lead responsible agency focused on commercialistion supports and identify priority opportunities for Ireland

·         Immediately introduce measures to boost take-up of higher level maths, including potentially bonus points, starting with the Leaving Cert class of 2012.

·         Develop and publish a national intellectual property (IP) protocol with ‘ground rules’ around ownership and access to State-supported IP

·         Create a single point of contact for entrepreneurs to facilitate speedy commercialisation of IP from universities

·         Attract top tier venture capital players from abroad by creating the €700m Innovation Fund Ireland originally envisaged in the Taoiseach’s first smart economy document in 2008.

·         Create public procurement models to buy local technologies and stimulate collaboration between SMEs and multinationals.

·         IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland jointly developing and implementing a “European Accelerator” programme with the goal of attracting the top 20 innovative companies from the portfolios of top tier venture capitalists to locate in Ireland

·         Remove the incremental spend requirement for the R&D tax credit

·         Create a State Seed Scheme to fill current gap in seed funding for investments between €100,000 and €300,000

·         Create structure to support Business Angel funds, including a €10m fund as a primer to grow these funds

·         Modernise Ireland’s out-of-date bankruptcy legislation

Dermot McCarthy, secretary general of the Department of An Taoiseach said the debate at present needs to be around start-ups and how these companies will be the growth engine that will put Ireland on the road to recovery.

Anna Scally from KPMG said a key facet would be making it easier for entrepreneurs and start-ups to sell to the State.

“It’s about the Government providing a framework where the entrepreneurs will create the jobs. This is about the State buying innovative services, encouraging people to take the risk knowing that if they fail they won’t be punished and they can try again and again.”

It was also pointed out that the large number of multinationals in Ireland have a unique culture that isn’t often seen even in Silicon Valley. “The heads of the US multinationals all know each other and talk to each other regularly whereas in the US they only get to talk in courts. Here they meet and talk, that’s an opportunity,” said Scally.

Havok co-founder Steven Collins who now runs Kore Virtual Machines said: “There is a real opportunity to be the innovation hub for Europe, it is achievable.”

“The fact that we have so many overseas firms in our economy means there’s many opportunities to channel to the global market, to take unused intellectual property and license it to start-ups and significantly within multinationals there’s opportunities to work across different sectors,” said Chris Horn.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years