Environment key opportunity for tech sector – ICSTI

4 Oct 2004

Technical innovation can play a key role in mitigating the negative environmental effects of economic development and in doing so open up important growth avenues for the indigenous technology sector, the Irish Council for Science Technology and Innovation (ICSTI) has said.

In its statement on ‘Sustainable Development in Ireland: The Role of Science and Technology’, ICSTI examines how science and technology (S&T) can support the achievement of sustainable development in Ireland and the implications for Irish public policy of sustainable development as a national and international goal.

The report states: “S&T has an important contribution to make to the decoupling of negative environmental impacts from economic development. This decoupling would … reverse the long-standing reliance of the industrial economies on achieving growth through living off the world’s environmental capital.”

The report identifies a number of niche areas where Irish firms and research can take an international lead, including the development of wave energy, organic agriculture, water treatment, industrial ecology, micro generation of power and alleviation of the environmental effects of fish farming.

“It was estimated, in 1994 that the world market for environmental technologies would amount to move US$500bn by the year 2010 and there is little doubt that this estimate could now be revised substantially upwards. It is in Ireland’s interests that it should be among the innovators and early adopters rather than the laggards of the innovation cycle,” states the report.

The document also lists a number of principles for developing and implementing policies on sustainable development. Together these would be used by ICSTI as the basis for briefing Government departments, public agencies, the science and technology community and, in particular, the newly chief science adviser. The principles are as follows:

– Ensuring appropriate baseline research is available prior to deciding on actions to promote sustainable development

– Developing a better understanding of underlying processes and dynamics in key areas of the economy to inform effective action

– Linking research in the natural and social sciences in devising effective solutions and linking science, policy and economic research on key issues to improve the rigour of sustainability assessment

– Focusing research and analysing the S&T opportunities for overcoming constraints inhibiting sustainable development in key areas

– Engaging the public’s interests and insights in relation to S&T and sustainability

– Fostering the development of R&D clusters that are internationally competitive in their depth and range with high levels of interdisciplinary cooperation and international networking

– Linking S&T to the mission of major Government Departments.

The Statement also emphasises that Ireland needs to play its part in what is a global science and technology endeavour.

“Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Science and technology can play an important role in formulating the responses needed for sustainable, long-term growth and competitiveness and quality of life. To achieve the goal of sustainable development in Ireland we need to effectively forge the links between science and technology and policy and between the environment and the economy and our international competitiveness,” commented Dr Ed Walsh, chairman, ICSTI.

By Brian Skelly