Ireland needs to revise its 3pc GDP target for R&D upwards

16 Nov 2010

Former Intel CEO Craig Barrett has said that the 3pc target for investment of GDP into R&D for Ireland is no longer a reasonable target and called for increased State investment in R&D projects. A 5pc objective, already achieved by Israel, would be more like it, he said.

Speaking at the ‘Education for Innovation’ seminar in NUI Galway, Dr Craig Barrett said a sustained plan of funding needed to be implemented if Ireland wishes to keep up with the world’s larger and more business-savvy nations.

“We cannot jerk around with the R&D policies of our Government and expect to get good results,” said Barrett.

“It needs to be a sustained commitment. Why can’t we have a Silicon Valley in our own country? What is it about society that makes that work? Universities are the key and they are wonderful spots to create wonderful ideas. Smart people and smart ideas combined in the right environment can create wealth.

“There has got to be a synergy between the public and private sectors. We have got to see our private sectors involved with the universities. They have the great ideas. We need to see them acting as mentors and partners in research. It is vital,” he said.

Changing the R&D target

As part of his key note address, Barrett also claimed that a 3pc investment of Ireland’s GDP into research and development “is no longer a reasonable target” and that we “have now to compete with the rest of the world to get paid”.

Pointing to the example of Microsoft, Barrett said: “They have a research budget of approximately US$8bn per year. That is huge, and is more than all of Ireland spends in R&D.

“Israel now invests 5pc of its GDP into research and development. And Israel has 140 new companies listed on the NASDAQ. Europe only has between 30 and 40.

“That is the future for Ireland and if we fail to pursue it with vigour, passion and resources, there will be no future for us because our lunch will be eaten by somebody else. We must outsmart them and outthink them,” said Barrett.

Silicon Valley comes to Ireland

The former Intel boss is in Ireland this week in his role as chairman of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, and was keynote speaker at an event at NUI Galway.

His address was followed by a discussion panel with John Ryan, Macrovision; Prof Patrick Cunningham, Ireland’s chief scientific adviser; Tom McDermott, Georgia Tech Research Institute; Dr Martina Newell-McGloughlin, ITLG and University of California; and Prof Terry Smith, vice-president of research at NUI Galway.

Prior to his keynote address, Barrett met with representatives of NUI Galway’s leading research institutes, The Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) and the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES), two major research groups, REMEDI and the Molecular Diagnostics Research Group (MDRG), as well as University of Limerick’s research centres, LERO and the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI), plus Georgia Tech Ireland.

DERI is the world leader in semantic web (Web 3.0) research.

DERI showcased a portfolio of more than 25 of the latest cutting-edge technologies emerging from the institute.

REMEDI is a leading biomedical research centre focusing on gene therapy and stem cell research. REMEDI was joined by industry partner Ovagen, which is working with the institute to develop technologies for the production of novel biotherapeutics.

MDRG at NUI Galway has 20 years of experience and an international track record of achievement in the development and application of molecular diagnostics tests for microbial species identification. The MDRG was joined by research partners at Beckman Coulter Ireland with whom it is developing molecular diagnostics for clinically relevant bacterial and fungal pathogens.

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