Innovative export firms will fuel economic recovery

28 May 2009

Ireland’s economic recovery will only be sustainable if it is generated by export-led growth fuelled by innovative firms in Ireland, according to the new President of Engineers Ireland, Iona Technologies co-founder, Dr Chris Horn.

Speaking in his inaugural presidential address at the Engineers Ireland AGM, Dr Horn highlighted that since the Sixties, Ireland has always placed international trade as its key national focus, until the recent unsustainable reliance on domestic demand in the construction sector.

“We have traditionally been one of the most openly traded economies in the world, but we lost sight of this in the recent construction industry bubble that was based on publicly funded infrastructure, commercial property and domestic housing.

“In my view, our construction industry now needs to more proactively consider export growth, while retaining appropriate domestic capacity, using the skills we have gained at home to bring new techniques, processes and skills to the global market.

“More broadly, a sustained emphasis on Irish innovation for the global market should be our highest national priority. Our pharmaceutical, medical devices and ICT industries have been underpinned by foreign direct investment and are export-oriented.

“However we need to be more proactive in supporting and nurturing innovation across our indigenous firms also. Our private-sector investment community, both institutional and high net-worth individuals, has recently largely focused on domestic construction and overseas property speculation, rather than investment in innovative projects with potential for the global market.

“Our innovators, whether start-ups or spin-outs, have found it challenging to raise their necessary funds. This must change.”

Dr Horn also thanked outgoing President Jim Browne for his significant contribution over the previous 12 months, and stated that he looked forward to working with Engineers Ireland Director-General John Power over the coming year, in what he said will be a time of great change across the engineering industry.

By John Kennedy