Innovation the key to future success – Harney

20 Nov 2003

“Building innovation capacity is a fundamental long-term development challenge facing Ireland. Our ability to innovate will determine how successfully we can compete in the future global marketplace.” So said Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Mary Harney TD opening the 8th National Innovation Conference in Dublin today.

Hosted by Forfás, the conference focused on exploring the need for co-operation and partnership between education, enterprise and Government in the development of Ireland’s innovation environment and heard keynote speeches from Richard Riley, former US secretary of education and Claire Nauwelaers, research director of the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology.

Noting that Government spending on research and innovation would increase by 39pc to €285m in 2004, the Tánaiste stressed the importance of innovation as the engine of Ireland’s economy in future years. “We cannot look to the past. We must acknowledge that Ireland can no longer compete just on the basis of costs and skills, and that our future requires the development of additional competitive advantages,” she said.

Riley reflected on the significant contribution made by the Irish education system to the creative and economic successes of Ireland in the Eighties and Nineties and highlighted the importance of partnership for increased innovation. “Irish universities would do well to develop a new sense of partnership and co-operation in order to compete on the world stage. It is clear to me that no nation can hope to innovate if it remains insular, bound by tradition alone and dominated by structure and institutions that diminish individual creativity. Individuals who risk, who are willing to break the mould, make the difference when it comes to sparking innovation.”

Peter Cassells, chairman of Forfás, echoed this partnership theme. “Innovation in a global environment depends not just on how firms, universities, research institutes and regulators perform individually, but also on how they work together,” he noted. “The key to building a successful innovation system, which is critical for our development as a knowledge-based economy, is partnership.”

The National Innovation Conference provides a networking forum for members of enterprise, education and Government on policy issues important for industrial development and future national competitiveness. Previous conferences have contributed significantly to the development of national strategies to encourage innovation, according to Forfás.

By Brian Skelly