Hi-tech and Innovation will save Ireland, model for EU

Hi-tech and innovation will save Ireland and the rest of the European Union from the current economic and financial turmoils.

It’s EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn’s core of the speech – Investment in Research and Innovation. The Path to Economic Recovery – she held at the Dublin City University.

“Ireland is going through a period of great difficulty, a period of unprecedented challenges”, she told the audience in Dublin. “But Ireland will come through. Ireland is blessed with enduring, fundamental attributes that will help safeguard its economic future”.

What are these fundamental attributes Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn sees as so positive they will undoubtefully lead Ireland out of the maze? “In the year to date, Ireland had the second largest goods trade surplus in the entire EU. One third of exports were in high tech areas, such as information technology and life sciences. And Irish exports are growing – in the third quarter of this year, overall exports showed an annual rise of around 10 per cent In 2008, it was in absolute terms the 11th largest global exporter of services. Again, about one third of these were in high-technology sectors, such as computer services, much higher than the EU average of 17 per cent”.

Also, an EU Commission’s recent R&D Investment Scoreboard showed that the 16 Irish-based companies in the top 1400 global investors in R&D actually increased their R&D investment by 13% in 2009. An effort that seems to be giving back: a survey just released by the EU Commission shows 57% of Irish companies had innovation activity between 2006 and 2008 – the fifth best figure in the EU.

All these factors combine to continue make Ireland as the right place for hi-tech investment and place it well in the race for a place as a global innovation hub.

Ireland will be a model for the whole European Union, also claimed the Commissioner: “Against the backdrop of the serious economic and financial crisis, and the implementation of austerity measures in many countries, I am more convinced than ever that innovation is the key to a stable European economy, to growth and job creation”.

Research and innovation are included in the Europe 2020 Strategy the EU Commission proposed in March 2010, an ambitious agenda aimed at getting Europe out of the current economic crisis and to transform it into a smart, sustainable and socially–inclusive economy. One of the seven chapters of the strategy – called flags – aims at building a balanced economic development in Europe, leveraging on the world’s most advanced manufacturing sector, capable of incorporating new innovative technologies, such as nano and bio-tech, into its products and processes, and a strong, vibrant services sector, with room for big businesses, SMEs and start-ups.

Nor is innovation limited to the private sector; it must happen too in our public sector, in our hospitals and our schools, and in government itself.

“We are being ambitious – we need innovation in every walk of life, not just in the laboratory or the factory. Not just in the most prosperous regions, but in cities and rural areas across the whole European Union. Not just research-driven innovation, but innovation in business models, management structures and processes, design and marketing”.

The first pillar of the Innovation Union is reform of higher education. The synergies produced by world-class universities, research organisations and international companies can develop into a growing innovation eco-system where local start –ups and SMEs can thrive.

Ireland is well placed to capitalize on this type of innovation. Last month Ireland was ranked globally as the number one destination for jobs created by foreign inward investment, as international companies continue to make investment that is of high value, requires high skill levels and a sophisticated and open business environment.

“We need to create the conditions to grow the research base alongside manufacturing. Ireland needs to foster its own indigenous companies. Why should there not be an Irish Nokia, Apple or Google? There is no trade-off between attracting and keeping big multinational companies and helping Ireland’s own companies to grow. Indeed, the presence of a big international player can often create an ecosystem of start-ups and SMEs around it, where innovation can thrive”.

These considerations are all addressed in the Innovation Union Flagship. Marie Geoghan-Quinn is determined to ensure the EU’s Framework Programme for Research will continue to provide the much-needed investment in research on which innovation is based. Fudning processes must be made simpler and quicker. As in the EU patent system.

“Our innovators often pay ten times more to patent their ideas in Europe, compared to their competitors. This amounts to a tax on innovation, and the burden falls particularly hard on our SMEs”.

To free up the markets for innovative goods and services, the EU needs to systematically screen the regulatory frameworks concerned and then propose any necessary adaptations. We should also review Europe’s standardization system in order to speed up the setting of standards in key sectors that underpin innovation, such as Information and Communication Technology.

We need to remove obstacles to the cross-border flow of people, ideas and funding. This open circulation of information, and based on this, open innovation, are goals of the Innovation Union Flagship. We need to foster more open innovation. We must embrace new ways of sharing knowledge – knowledge and know-how is more evenly distributed around the world. One step we have already taken is to encourage open access to publications and data from publicly funded research.

Cooperation between the world of research and the world of business must be enhanced, obstacles removed and incentives put in place. The EU Commission is thinking to adopt simpler and cheaper management of intellectual protection systems, to reduce costs for researchers and companies.



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