Government-appointed Irish Advisory Council for Science endorses 'smart economy' policy despite evidence of failure
By Finfacts Team
Jan 17, 2011 - 2:20 PM

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The Irish Government's Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, mainly comprising university insiders, recipients of public funding and a State agency head, has unsurprisingly endorsed the Government's 'smart economy' strategy despite the evidence of failure. However, even though the group rubber-stamps the official approach, a new advisory group under the chairmanship of former Intel Ireland general manager, Jim O'Hara, has been asked to recommend research priorities. 

In its year end statement titled 'Staying the Course,' it outlines what can be done to support the research community and the R&D-based enterprise sector but like religion, there is little attention to facts.

“We must maintain our commitment to science and technology as a central element of our enterprise policy,” said Tom McCarthy, Chairman of ACSTI and chief executive of the Irish Management Institute, a training organisation. “In reviewing the status of science, engineering and research in Ireland, the Council sees a need to increase co-ordination and networking of core activities. We warmly welcome the announcement by Government in September 2010 of spending plans with €2.4bn of support for science, technology and innovation over the next six years to create new high-quality jobs. Short-term measures will not suffice.”

It would be strange in Ireland if any sector in receipt of taxpayer funds was to state that it could do more with less. As for reliance on university research as the central core of enterprise policy, maybe Tom McCarthy should have a word or two with Seán O'Driscoll, chief executive of Glen Dimplex, one of Ireland's most successful indigenous companies, who may acquaint him with one our two home truths on developing export markets.

McCarthy uses the term, "high-quality jobs," beloved of the other chairborne 'experts' in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. 

The word 'jobs' also appears here in an aspirational piece that is no substitute for hard facts: "Exchange of personnel between industry and academic institutions throughout their career is often a key factor in the success of such interactions. Out of these exchanges can flow excellent research, relevant skills and expertise, and valuable commercial knowledge, leading to jobs and export growth for Ireland. Strong relationships between the technical and scientific leaders of research centres and industrial directors, operating at the same levels within their organisations, can lead to durable research collaborations and bring significant benefits in research and commercial environments."

The Council also endorses the view that the single most important element in improving mathematics learning is the quality of mathematics teachers and it says that “Ireland has benefited greatly from, and contributed to, international relations and the internationalisation of research.”

Even though this group like the Innovation Taskforce is more into to hope and religion than facts, an example of how serious the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O'Keeffe, relies on the group is provided by the launch in Nov 2010 of the fourth advisory group on the 'smart economy' strategy since Dec 2008 to advice on research priorities.

Last Friday, it was announced that the latest Irish high tech hope, Norkom, was to be acquired by a bigger overseas company.

Staying the Course - Advisory Science Council End of Year Statement 2010 (pdf)

Finfacts article: Innovation: Ireland's 'smart economy' strategy, universities and free-lunch entrepreneurship

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