Govt to act on Innovation Taskforce report – Taoiseach

16 Mar 2010

The Irish Government will be acting on the recommendations of the Innovation Taskforce, Taoiseach Brian Cowen confirmed while launching the Enterprise Ireland Trade Mission in Silicon Valley yesterday.

Speaking before senior Silicon Valley executives and a large group of Irish entrepreneurs, Cowen confirmed the Government will be acting on the recommendations of the Innovation Taskforce.

“The Government will be acting on the recommendations and will strive to position Ireland as the best place in Europe to turn research and knowledge into products and services; the best place in Europe to start and grow companies; the best place to relocate or expand and scale an SME; and the best place in Europe for research-intensive multinationals to collaborate with each other and with clusters of small companies.”

“We have all been rocked by financial shockwaves that are truly global in scale. Ireland, as a small and very open economy, was very susceptible to these destructive influences. Even though we have had the benefit of the strength and stability of the euro and membership of the EU, we have had to make tough decisions to ensure our future prosperity.”

Cowen said that decisive action by the Government since the crisis broke has seen stability restored.

“The economy is now expected to see a return to growth in the second half of this year and to net employment creation in 2011. Despite the severity of the recession, key strengths of the past two decades remain.

“Economic activity as measured by GDP will be almost one-third higher in 2010 than in the year 2000, and around two and a half times what it was in 1990. Numbers in employment this year will still be around 1.8 million, compared with 1.7 million in 2000 and 1.2 million in 1990.

“Ireland continues to enjoy favourable demographics, a highly-educated workforce, and resilient export performance – as well as the significant inroads of the last decade in modernising our physical infrastructure.”

Silicon Valley’s formula for economy

Cowen said that in recent decades, Ireland has used the same formula as Silicon Valley – education and innovation – to drive growth and success for our economy. And I’m proud to say that this formula paved the way for an economic transformation that fundamentally changed the competitive characteristics of our country.

“Our future is now predicated on leveraging the advantages of a vast reservoir of skills, human capital and flexibility in serving markets. For Ireland in the 21st century, competitiveness will depend on merging these attributes with a commitment to sustained innovation that is unmatched in the markets in which we compete.”

Cowen said the recommendations of the Innovation Taskforce would sound very familiar to Silicon Valley executives. “Your inventiveness turned California into the engine that drives the US economy and the centre of global innovation.

“You began with the silicon chip – an invention that sparked successive waves of innovation that have impacted the lives of billions worldwide. The chip revolution paved the way for the PC which, in turn, produced the internet boom of the 1990s. This boom connected the world, making global business easier, faster and more efficient.

“Governments can support entrepreneurship and enterprise. They can help to create the environment within which ingenious things happen. But it is thriving, ambitious and innovation-intensive companies that will create the products and services of tomorrow and provide quality employment for current and future generations.”

Ireland’s start-up activity

Cowen said start-up business activity in Ireland is one of the strongest in Europe. “These companies are the future for Ireland and investment in these leading-edge product and service firms is being made by investors in Ireland and overseas. Many of these companies have been established by returning emigrants from the US where they acquired key technology and business skills.

Cowen revealed that Enterprise Ireland invested in more than 70 start-ups last year and will continue to invest in these companies to support their international growth.

“Many of you have ignited and shaped outstanding business relationships between your Silicon Valley corporations and Ireland’s leading companies. We know you have the world to choose from when seeking partners in innovation. We’re proud that many of you turned to Ireland and Irish companies when making those critical business decisions.

“While we have shared strong cultural ties for centuries, our business ties are showing the same strength. We’re confident that Ireland will continue to serve as a source of innovative products and services that sharpen your competitive edge and advance your success in this competitive global environment.

“As a small nation, Ireland will, more than ever, have to look beyond its shores to forge strategic relationships with others, for our mutual benefit and the prosperity of our citizens. This will be a key element of our strategy to bring us beyond the current international economic and financial difficulties,” Cowen told Silicon Valley leaders and Irish entrepreneurs.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach met with the president of Stanford University, Dr John Hennessy. Stanford has hosted 60 CEOs from Irish IT and life science companies under the Enterprise Ireland Leadership for Growth programme.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD at the launch of last week’s Innovation Taskforce report

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