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News : Innovation Last Updated: Sep 30, 2012 - 3:04 PM

Global Irish Economic Forum:  Cowen says 2 out of 3 jobs depend on exports to the EU; Asks for help on establishing 'European Silicon Valley' in Ireland
By Finfacts Team
Sep 18, 2009 - 4:18 PM

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Taoiseach Brian Cowen arriving at Farmleigh House, Dublin, Friday, Sept 18, 2009
Global Irish Economic Forum: Taoiseach Brian Cowen said today that  2 out of every 3 jobs in this country depend on exports to the EU. He said: "We must ratify this referendum for jobs, for exports, for foreign direct investment. This will help underpin our economic recovery." He asked for help on how a 'European Silicon Valley’ can be established in Ireland. Cowen was speaking at the opening session of the first meeting of business representatives, at Farmleigh House, Dublin, from the Irish diaspora and a likely bigger local contingent that may number 150 or more.

"We have already made significant corrections in 2009, including the imposition of a pension levy on public service wages of 7.5% on average," he said. "We will take the further difficult decisions required next December in the 2010 Budget.  And this necessary budgetary action will also help deliver economic recovery."

He said the forum will be considering issues ranging from image to innovation, and from buoyancy to branding.  He said:"We must remind ourselves that it is not just the actions we take to prepare ourselves that are important, it is our attitude as well. We must act with hope rather than despair, courage rather than fear, and we must look ahead rather than behind."

Cowen said the Irish brand forms the basis for part of deliberations, which he said holds a distinct and intrinsic value. "People know us. Our country, her landscape and her culture are known the world over. We must develop and renovate that brand now and use it in order to give us a competitive advantage in a globalised world.  We, ourselves, must portray the positives that others see in us," he said.

On Thursday, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan launched what was termed "a major new marketing campaign promoting Ireland as a destination for foreign direct investment. The campaign, which has been developed by IDA Ireland, is designed to position Ireland as the pre-eminent location for companies who are seeking to invest in future innovation.

Launching the campaign, the Tánaiste said, “This campaign taps into Ireland’s unique selling points built around our talented and highly skilled workforce. It is aimed at opening new eyes to what Ireland has to offer.”

The campaign consists of television, internet, newspaper and poster advertisements. Its theme is Ireland's ability to supply the fresh thinking and creativity which innovation needs to flourish. It stresses the part that the people of Ireland can play in making innovation happen. Ireland, says the campaign's tagline, is the place where "innovation comes naturally."

Speaking at Thursday's event, Barry O'Leary, IDA CEO said that “In today's extremely competitive world, business people are agreed that innovation is the primary source of sustainable competitive advantage. This search has recently led companies including Facebook, Google, Intel and Citi to locate their European headquarters or other major operations centers in Ireland. Ireland's unique innovation ecosystem - - founded on the creativity and skills of its workforce, a knowledge-based economy and pro-business government policy - - has made Ireland a uniquely attractive environment in which to foster innovation.”

The campaign is itself designed to be "innovative, fresh and impactful. Each ad in the series, created by advertising agency McConnells, uses a blackboard as a backdrop to make points about Ireland and innovation. As one headline states, it encourages the viewer to think of Ireland as a 'Thinkpad the size of a whole country'. 'Innovation + people = Ireland' reads another headline.

Finfacts has repeated ad nauseam  in a positive sentiment, that Ireland needs to honestly acknowledge its challenges and address the serious failings that resulted in the crash of the economy. As in 1930, when US President Herbert Hoover, had billboard postings with such messages as 'Wasn't the depression terrible' put alongside railroad tracks, advertising campaigns will not provide credible solutions.

200,000 people have lost their jobs in the past year and aspirations about a so-called 'smart economy' will not provide the necessary jobs in the medium term.

The hard part is accepting the need for radical change in both governance and in the sheltered areas of the economy. Speeches at Farmleigh House are the easy part.

SEE Finfacts articles:

Political and economic reform in conservative Ireland and the promise of an "everlasting boom"

Global Irish Economic Forum: Diaspora "key achievers" due to meet; A gabfest with potential?

Forum website

Building Ireland’s Smart Economy

Minister for Foreign Affiars Micheál Martin arriving at Farmleigh House, Dublin, Friday, Sept 18, 2009
Cowen said today:
"The Ireland we envisage for the future is a smart, high-value, export-led economy. It will have some of the world’s leading research-intensive multinationals, a number of which will be Irish-owned.

It will have thousands of innovative small and medium enterprises.

These companies will be creating the products and services of tomorrow and providing high quality employment for our people.

The country will have smart, efficient and citizen-oriented public services.

It will be energy independent and have high-quality living environments with smart transport solutions.

That is the future that I want us to achieve."

He said central to this is our vision of ‘Ireland as an Innovation Island’ - - a country that is an attractive home for innovative multinationals as well as being an incubation environment for the best entrepreneurs  at home, from Europe and further afield. But also a country where we are innovative right across the spectrum of society.

The Taoiseach said building Ireland’s Smart Economy sets out a blueprint of how we can ensure that we achieve such success again. But the help of expatriates is needed.

He said help is needed to identify opportunities and to shape our strategies to take advantage of them -

  • where are the new economic opportunities for Ireland?
  • what must we do to take advantage of them?
  • how can we best draw on the global Irish community to help us make this transformation?

"We, the Government, are firmly in listening mode, and later this evening and tomorrow, we have convened working groups, each chaired by a Minister, where we are asking you to help us find ways to put Ireland in pole position in the new world economic order -

  • How do we create a ‘European Silicon Valley’ in Ireland. How do we attract the best talent to Ireland and support our home-grown talent?
  • How do we ensure we continue to be a magnet for high value inward investment?
  • How do we make the most of our natural resources and address the challenges faced by our food and agriculture sector?
  • How do we reposition ‘Brand Ireland’ to secure Ireland as a leading tourist destination?
  • How do we ensure our education system produces the thought leaders of the Smart Economy - fostering creativity, innovation, and lateral thinking?
  • What role can our fantastic cultural and artistic reservoir of rich heritage and contemporary talent play in developing our economy?"

It's surely a tragedy of monumental proportions that these questions are only being asked after an avoidable crash.

There can be hope but the first step is move beyond the marketing spoof and the ignorant ahems from self-interested advisers and set in train radical reform. Without that, Cowen's list will remain a set of aspirations.

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