National R&D task force launched

26 Feb 2003

A new high-level body charged with boosting the role of research and development (R&D) in the Irish economy was launched this morning in Dublin.

The inaugural meeting of the advisory committee to the information and communications technology (ICT) sector on R&D was hosted by ICT Ireland, the IBEC body representing the ICT sector, and included representatives from government, state agencies and industry. The committee will meet three times a year.

Today’s meeting saw secretaries general of government departments Brendan Touhy and Paul Haran, Sean Dorgan of the IDA, Dan Flinter of Enterprise Ireland and Don Thornhill of the Higher Education Authority come together with CEOs from ICT companies including Intel, Oracle, Microsoft and Iona to launch the initiative.

The advisory group’s main focus will be on increasing industry spending on R&D, which is currently below the EU average. Ireland currently lags behind many other EU countries in terms of: R&D spend as a proportion of GDP; business spending on R&D as a proportion of GDP; government expenditure on R&D; and high-tech patent applications. OECD figures, moreover, rank Ireland 11th out of 16 countries in terms of R&D expenditure.

“ICT Ireland believes that the establishment of this advisory group is a most significant initiative, which has the potential to deliver considerable benefits to the Irish research community and the entire ICT sector,” said Dr Jim Mountjoy, chairperson of the group. He added that the development of a conducive environment for knowledge-based activities “is critically important due to the increasingly cut-throat competition between global locations”.

Eoin O’Driscoll, managing director of technology consultant Aderra, in his role of vice-chair, outlined one of the group’s key focus areas. “There is an urgent need to define specific areas or technology clusters in which Ireland can become best in class in terms of world-class R&D,” he says. The group believes that the recognition and development of such areas will allow targeted research and investments projects, which would establish a critical mass of expertise and activity thereby anchoring relevant ICT companies in Ireland.

The proposed terms of reference for the committee are to define best in class areas of R&D in the ICT sector that can form the basis for clusters, to improve collaboration between industry, educational establishments, research institutions (in Ireland and abroad) and government agencies and to identify issues hampering the growth of R&D in the ICT sector in Ireland and making appropriate recommendations. These would cover educational issues, cost base issues, disincentives, infrastructure issues with a focus on transport and telecommunications, to review the role of venture capital in Ireland in encouraging the uptake of research-based funding for ICT enterprises and the development of a proposal for a national policy on intellectual property rights.

ICT Ireland’s objective is to see Ireland increase business expenditure on R&D (currently 1.01pc) to levels comparable with countries such as Finland (2.14pc) and Sweden (2.85pc).

By Brian Skelly