Govt research strategy not working – report

1 Jul 2005

Government policies aimed at improving innovation in Irish high-technology businesses are not have the desired effect, a new survey has claimed.

A study of 184 high-technology businesses in Ireland shows that 68pc rarely or never interact with third-level colleges and support agencies such as IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland for the purpose of promoting innovation.

Declan Jordan and Eoin O’Leary of the Department of Economics at University College Cork wrote the report, published today as part of the ESRI’s Quarterly Economic Commentary Summer 2005.

The results “suggest the absence of strong interaction for the purpose of promoting innovation between locally or regionally based concentrations of suppliers, customers, competitors, third-level colleges and agencies and Irish high-technology businesses,” the reports states.

This suggests that the Exchequer may be getting a sub-optimal return from substantial state funding (€599 m in 2003) on research and development activities, through initiatives such as Science Foundation Ireland.

On the specific issue of industry-university partnerships the report finds they are “weaker than might be expected”, which emphasises “the need to achieve a better understanding of how such linkages can be fostered, in order to achieve the best possible future return.”

The study also finds while there are high levels of interaction for the purposes of both product and process innovation between high-technology businesses and other group companies, suppliers and customers (81pc of companies surveyed), most of this is happening over long distances. This implies such interaction does not occur locally or regionally within Ireland and may be international.

“This is a cause for concern, particularly in the context of continued state funding devoted to developing networks and clusters. In addition, the finding of weak interaction with innovation support agencies is important, as these institutions, as part of their role, facilitate the process of developing linkages at local/regional level.”

In recent years, a number of reports on national economic strategy have stressed the importance of creating local linkages and innovation clusters, from the Enterprise Strategy Group (2004) to the National Spatial Strategy (2002).

By Brian Skelly