R&D is key to our economic growth

2 Oct 2009

In a fascinating talk taking us through Ireland’s economic high in the nineties through to the current global economic downturn, Eoin O’Driscoll, director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and a member of the National Executive Council of IBEC amongst other prominent roles, explained why continuing to invest in R&D is key to our economic recovery.

Throughout the nineties, Ireland served as an aircraft carrier on the edge of Europe, said O’Driscoll: our high-tech, high-growth and low-tax environment served a European marketplace and operated an efficient business model.

Ireland’s share of world trade grew rapidly, fuelled initially by our share of global manufacturing trade, however, a combination of competition from Asian markets and costs spiralling out of control in a housing boom led to the vanishing of our temporary monopoly, he explained.

However, we can regain temporary monopolies if we utilise post-graduate talents and invest in niche green technologies, added O’Driscoll.

Intellectual property is important to Ireland but we must grow from a position of over-protecting our IP to one of commercially exploiting it, he said.

However, economic success is not just about innovation and R&D, it is about involving industry and understanding the value chain.

A marker of how far we have come and how organisations like Science Foundation Ireland and IRCSET have transformed the landscape was the large turnout of some 700 attendees at the IRCSET Symposium: “Over 10 years ago, we wouldn’t be all sitting in the RDS, an event like this could probably have been held in someone’s living room,” he added.