Ireland can be world leader in innovation, says Sean Kelly MEP

6 Mar 2014

Sean Kelly, MEP, launches the Ireland for CERN campaign in January, at the Science Gallery, Dublin

Former GAA President, Sean Kelly, MEP, has called on banks, small businesses, researchers and universities to collaborate closely to make Ireland a world leader, rather than a follower, in Innovation.

Earlier this week, the European Commission released its annual Innovation Union Scoreboard study, which shows that Ireland, while better than the average, is still lagging behind other leading innovative countries in Europe coming in ninth position out of 28 EU countries.

Sweden was shown to be the most innovative country in the EU, in terms of its investment in research (among other criteria) in the study, followed closely in this ‘leaders group’ by Denmark, Finland and Germany.

Based in the second tier designated ‘innovation followers’, Ireland was joined by France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria.

One area that must be tackled, according to Kelly, is Ireland’s non-membership with one of Europe’s largest and most innovative scientific bodies, CERN, the group behind the Large Hadron Collider.

“I recently launched the Ireland for CERN campaign in TCD (Trinity College Dublin), supporting Irish students and scientists who are currently missing out on valuable CERN research contracts worth up to €500m a year (total CERN spend p/a), because of Ireland’s failure to subscribe to the CERN project to date,” said Kelly.

“Scientist’ estimate that CERN contracts deliver a return of at least €3 to the economy for every €1 spent on membership.”

Currently, Ireland is still the only country in Europe and the OECD not to be signed up to the scientific body but there have been calls elsewhere in the Government for Ireland to join CERN.

Also, according to Kelly, the country could also benefit from a spin-off in investment by indigenous, fast-growth, technology companies, as Ireland aims to tender for €1.25bn, of the EU’s Horizon 2020 aid programme for innovation and research.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic