Lionel Alexander, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland and a member of the Government’s Innovation Taskforce, today warned that Ireland runs the risk of missing out on future opportunities if it fails to implement the recommendations of the Innovation Taskforce.
“The shelves of Government are creaking with reports and as a member of the Innovation Taskforce I do not want our report to be left on the shelf gathering dust like so many before it,” he said. “I am calling on the Government to put its cards on the table and to outline how and when it plans to implement the recommendations of the taskforce. The report provides a wide range of proposals. It is imperative that Government targets both the immediate and long-term recommendations.
“We do not exist in a vacuum. And we certainly don’t have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to assessing what a modern economy needs to thrive,” Alexander said. “Our competitors are already moving ahead with their plans to become innovation hubs and we are already falling behind. Action is needed now. The report of the Innovation Taskforce sets out a road map for our future economic success for Ireland and we should lose no time in following it.”
Time to act is now
Speaking to a meeting of the American Chamber member companies in Dublin, Alexander said that swift action was required or Ireland will lose ground on its competitors. He believes funding for an implementation plan need to be clearly outlined and “the agencies responsible for delivering the funding must to be clearly identified and accountable”.
“The American Chamber fully acknowledges the constraints which exist due to the fiscal difficulties facing the country at this time, but our long-term economic and social well-being depends on the decisions we make today. Resources will need to be re-prioritised if we are to achieve our long-term vision of transforming Ireland into a world-class innovation hub,” he continued.
“The taskforce called for the establishment of a high-level group drawn from the public and private sectors and reporting to the Taoiseach and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Renewal to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in a timely fashion. That group needs to be established immediately and must be industry led. Specifically, the multinational and exporting sectors, which have performed well through the recession and have the greatest potential for innovation, must be strongly represented on the implementation group. We also need to see representation from innovative indigenous start-up companies who have a critical role in delivering Ireland’s smart economy.
“One of our main strengths in driving innovation is our vibrant multinational community,” he continued. “Ireland continues to attract new inward investments, particularly from US companies and this will be vital to Ireland’s economic recovery and renewal. However, the reality is that in the future, investment will be heavily influenced not just by the ability of Government to devote its energies to answering yesterday’s problems, but also by how it is taking advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities.”
Almost 100,000 people are directly employed in more than 600 US firms in Ireland. Almost two out of every three foreign direct investment projects coming to Ireland in 2008 have originated from the US. In 2008, US firms paid more than €3bn to the Irish Exchequer in Corporate Tax (or about 40pc of total corporate tax take in 2008 and contributed a further €16bn in expenditure to the Irish economy in terms of payrolls, goods and services employed in their operations.
Photo: Lionel Alexander, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland